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NCAA tournament cheat sheet: Bracket analysis, upset picks and more

(Illustrations by Joe Moore and Daniel Sulzberg)
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The 68-team bracket is set. Now it’s time to get to work.

Virginia, Villanova, Kansas and Xavier received No. 1 seeds. Will the Cavaliers, the top overall seed, break through for their first Final Four appearance since 1984? Which underdogs have the best chance of playing the role of Cinderella? Dive into our NCAA tournament cheat sheet for all the news and analysis you need to dominate your tournament pool.

This post will update. Please check back.

2018 NCAA tournament interactive bracket: Make your picks!

Reading: Tips and analysis | News | Tournament history | Bracket projection

Tips and analysis

The Perfect Bracket to win your March Madness pool

The three best bets to win the 2018 NCAA tournament

The most likely NCAA tournament upsets for the first round

Weak top seeds could lead to upsets before Final Four

The most vulnerable No. 1 and 2 seeds in the bracket

The biggest snubs and suprises from Selection Sunday

Put on your dancing shoes: Dancing mascot GIFs for every NCAA tournament team

Feinstein: What the selection committee got right — and wrong

Brewer: March Madness is the NCAA’s greatest hypocrisy and its best hope of salvation

The Post's Neil Greenberg analyzed NCAA statistics from the past seven March Madness tournaments to give you pointers on how to make a winning bracket. (Video: Monica Akhtar, John Parks, Sarah Hashemi/The Washington Post)


Everyone hated the NCAA tournament selection show on TBS

Is the FBI cleaning up college basketball, or wasting its time?

Virginia Tech reaches NCAA tournament in back-to-back years for first time since ’80s

Virginia basketball is a No. 1 seed in NCAAs for third time under Tony Bennett

Big 12 basketball is deep, and thinks it should roll deep in the NCAA tournament

D.C. colleges will have a season without March Madness for the first time since 1978

Tournament history

One crying moment:

In Kentucky, “We can’t get over that ’92 game, no matter what,” says Cameron Mills, a Lexington native who played hero on the Wildcats’ 1998 national championship team and now works as a radio host in his home town, mingling routinely with the fans.

He’s speaking about “The Shot,” Christian Laettner’s legendary buzzer-beater in the 1992 East Region final that sank Kentucky and propelled Duke to the national title. It’s just one of 15 unforgettable NCAA tournament defeats from across college basketball nation examined by Chuck Culpepper and Patrick Stevens.

Mason Madness: Inside the most unlikely run in NCAA tournament history

Patrick Stevens’s final bracket projection, from Sunday afternoon

Field notes

Last four included: Nevada, Texas, Saint Mary’s, Arizona State
Four just on the outside: Syracuse, Florida State, Louisville, Baylor
Next four on the outside: Marquette, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Penn State
Moving in: Cal State Fullerton, Davidson, Georgia State, Marshall, N.C. Central, Penn, San Diego State, Stephen F. Austin, Texas Southern, UMBC
Moving out: Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Florida State, Hampton, Harvard, New Mexico, Southeastern Louisiana, UC Irvine, UL Lafayette, Vermont, Western Kentucky
Conference call: Southeastern (8), Atlantic Coast (7), Big 12 (7), Big East (6), Big Ten (4), Pac-12 (4), American Athletic (3), Atlantic 10 (3), Mountain West (2), West Coast (2)


Final projection before Sunday’s games


(1) ATLANTIC COAST/Virginia vs. (16) MID-EASTERN ATHLETIC/N.C. Central — SOUTHWESTERN ATHLETIC/Texas Southern winner
(8) Missouri vs. (9) Creighton

Boise, Idaho
(5) Ohio State vs. (12) MOUNTAIN WEST/San Diego State
(4) Texas Tech vs. (13) COLONIAL/Charleston

(3) Tennessee vs. (14) SOUTHERN/UNC Greensboro
(6) Miami vs. (11) Saint Mary’s-Texas winner

(7) Seton Hall vs. (10) St. Bonaventure
(2) AMERICAN ATHLETIC/Cincinnati vs. (15) SUN BELT/Georgia State

Virginia is the clear No. 1 overall seed, and assuming the committee doesn’t try to finagle both Duke and North Carolina into Charlotte, the Cavaliers’ Final Four path should be Charlotte to Atlanta to San Antonio. … Missouri’s SEC tournament showing didn’t do much to suggest it should receive a bump in seeding based on the potential boost from Michael Porter Jr. …

Michael Porter Jr. and Missouri are the biggest mystery of March Madness

San Diego State is the host school in San Diego and ineligible to play there in the first weekend, so it’s off to Boise (or elsewhere) for the Aztecs. Other schools impacted by this rule: Wichita State (subregional) and Creighton (Midwest regional). … Texas Tech is in line for its highest seeding since 1996, when it reached the Sweet 16 as a No. 3. …

Sometimes you can build contingencies into a bracket to make an easy last-second change. They would have flipped seeds had Tennessee won the SEC title while Cincinnati fell in the American final. … If Saint Mary’s is left out, it would match the most wins (28) for a team excluded from the field in tournament history. Coastal Carolina (2010 and 2011) also had 28 victories. …

If it feels like half of the Big East belongs in the range of a 7-10 seed, well, that’s because it’s pretty much true. Seton Hall, Butler, Creighton and Providence all land in that range. … St. Bonaventure should be safe even with a loss in the Atlantic 10 semifinals


(1) BIG EAST/Villanova vs. (16) BIG WEST/Cal State Fullerton — NORTHEAST/LIU Brooklyn winner
(8) Alabama vs. (9) Virginia Tech

(5) WEST COAST/Gonzaga vs. (12) MID-AMERICAN/Buffalo
(4) West Virginia vs. (13) CONFERENCE USA/Marshall

(3) BIG TEN/Michigan vs. (14) PATRIOT/Bucknell
(6) Florida vs. Arizona State-Nevada winner

(7) Rhode Island vs. (10) Southern Cal
(2) Duke vs. (15) AMERICA EAST/UMBC

Villanova’s long-assumed regional path of Pittsburgh then Boston is almost certainly going to come to fruition. … Alabama is this year what Vanderbilt was last year — a 15-loss team that did enough against high-end competition to land in an 8-vs.-9 game. … UCLA didn’t really mess up, aside from a loss at Oregon State. It should be safely in the field. …

It’s tough to imagine Gonzaga landing anything better than a No. 5 seed, but it’s also hard to argue it into something lower than a No. 6. Maybe the committee will find a way, though … West Virginia vs. Marshall is the sort of matchup that will fire up the conspiracy theorists. The in-state rivals didn’t meet this season. …

Michigan gets bumped from the Detroit subregional by Purdue and Xavier. … The committee has shown it loves high-end wins and plenty of them. So while it’s true that Arizona State did its best work before winter actually began, those games count, too. …

UMBC, back in the tournament for the first time in a decade, is also a candidate to get shipped to Charlotte to face North Carolina.


(1) BIG 12/Kansas vs. (16) BIG SOUTH/Radford
(8) Butler vs. (9) UCLA

San Diego
(5) Clemson vs. (12) WESTERN ATHLETIC/New Mexico State
(4) Auburn vs. (13) SOUTHERN/UNC Greensboro

San Diego
(3) PAC-12/Arizona vs. (14) BIG SKY/Montana
(6) Houston vs. (11) MISSOURI VALLEY/Loyola Chicago

(7) Texas A&M vs. (10) Kansas State
(2) Purdue vs. (15) METRO ATLANTIC/Iona

Kansas earned its opening week home cooking after sweeping the Big 12 regular season and tournament titles. The Jayhawks won’t have to go too far for a regional in Omaha, either. … Auburn and Clemson are used to  the thought of meeting in meaningful football games. Basketball games? Not so much. …

Here’s guessing Arizona played its way onto the three line with its run through the Pac-12 tournament. … Houston seems like a team firmly on the No. 6 line. It probably gained a seed with its defeat of Wichita State in the AAC semifinals. … Loyola Chicago is making its first NCAA trip since 1985 and will be a handful. …

Texas A&M is a great example of how uninspiring things get after the No. 7 line or so. The Aggies lost 10 of their last 19, but the numbers warrant this placement. … Whether the Big Ten tournament was held a week early or not, Purdue would have ended up as the No. 2 seed in the Midwest if it lost in the conference title game.


(1) Xavier vs. (16) IVY/Penn
(8) N.C. State vs. (9) Oklahoma

Boise, Idaho
(5) Wichita State vs. (12) SUMMIT/South Dakota State
(4) SOUTHEASTERN/Kentucky vs. (13) OHIO VALLEY/Murray State

(3) Michigan State vs. (14) SOUTHLAND/Stephen F. Austin
(6) Arkansas vs. (11) ATLANTIC 10/Davidson

(7) Texas Christian vs. (10) Providence
(2) North Carolina vs. (15) ATLANTIC SUN/Lipscomb

Xavier might have lost its No. 1 seed had North Carolina won the ACC tournament. At the end of the day, though, it’s hard to imagine a No. 1 seed with 10 losses, no matter how many high-end wins it stacked up. … I really don’t think Oklahoma is in danger of missing the field. No, the Sooners shouldn’t be trusted to win a game, but the numbers warrant a spot as a No. 9 seed, a No. 10 at the worst. …

Wichita State and Kentucky switched when the Wildcats won the SEC title game. That was another contingency built into the bracket. …
Michigan State isn’t a sure thing as a No. 3 seed. The numbers don’t help the Spartans a ton, and they could end up like the 2014 Louisville team so many people assumed would be a No. 2 seed and instead ended up a No. 4. … Nevada was bumped to Dayton in the projection when Rhode Island lost to Davidson in the A-10 final. …

Providence is another No. 10 seed you could argue should be a line or two higher. The Friars would have surely made that jump with a Big East tournament title victory, but some questionable losses still weigh down their resume a bit. … On paper, North Carolina should have bumped Duke out of Charlotte for the first weekend. … Lipscomb is making its first NCAA tournament appearance.