March seemed to start early this season. Upsets seemingly every week, buzzer beaters, eye-popping performances. Now, the real madness is about to begin.

This year’s NCAA tournament could be one of the wildest – and that’s saying something after the past few years of bracket chaos.

To get you ready, here’s a rundown of the top teams, players, games and potential upsets.

Strap in to your favorite chair and let the madness begin.


Virginia: The old cliche of defense wins championships could come true this year. The lockdown Cavaliers are that good on D.

Villanova: Forget about some of the recent early NCAA exits. Jay Wright and the Wildcats have that national-title look again.

Xavier: The Musketeers are dynamic and have one of the best players in the country in Trevon Bluiett.

Kansas: A record 14th straight Big 12 title, a tournament championship to go with it and Devonte Graham. Don’t bet against Bill Self and the Jayhawks.

North Carolina: The defending national champions are poised for another deep run.


Trae Young, Oklahoma: The Sooners struggled down the stretch, but Young is the type of player capable of a Steph Curry-like run.

Deandre Ayton, Arizona: The Bahamian big man has been called a unicorn and a cyborg. He may be the most physically dominating player in the field.

Marvin Bagley III, Duke: So long, so athletic, so good.

Trevon Bluiett, Xavier: A quiet star who does nothing but make big plays and win games.

Jalen Brunson, Villanova: The Bluiett description fits the Wildcats’ guard as well.

Devonte Graham, Kansas: The Jayhawks’ dynamic leader is a big reason the school won the Big 12 again and could make another deep run.


Arkansas vs. Butler, Friday in Detroit. Arkansas has one of the best resumes for beating ranked teams, taking down five this season. The Bulldogs always seem to find a way to go deep in the bracket and have won six straight NCAA tournament openers.

Wichita State vs. Marshall, Friday in San Diego. The Shockers are loaded with talent. Dan D’Antoni’s offense may be more freewheeling and frenetic than his brother Mike’s.

Missouri vs. Florida State, Friday in Nashville, Tennessee. The return of star freshman Michael Porter Jr. adds an extra dose of intrigue.

Kentucky vs. Arizona, Saturday in Boise, Idaho. Get by their opening games and we get the treat of Ayton against the Wildcats’ freshmen, two national powerhouses going head to head early in the bracket. Yes, please.


No. 10 Oklahoma vs. Rhode Island, Midwest Region, Thursday in Pittsburgh. Any team with Trae Young can pull off an upset – he could pull it off by himself.

No. 10 Providence vs. No. 7 Texas A&M, West Region, Thursday in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Friars already took down Xavier in the Big East semifinals. The Aggies have been inconsistent this season, dropping from the program’s highest ranking (No. 5) before going 9-9 through the SEC.

No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 12 New Mexico State, Midwest Region, Friday in San Diego. Both teams are superb defensively, which should mean a low-scoring game – and the potential for an upset.

No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 12 South Dakota State, West Region, Thursday in Boise, Idaho. The Buckeyes will have a 12-day gap between games before facing the Summit League-champion Jackrabbits, who have one of the nation’s best big men in 6-foot-9 forward Mike Daum.

πNo. 6 Houston vs. No. 11 San Diego State, West Region, Thursday in Wichita, Kansas. The Aztecs carry a nine-game winning streak into the NCAA tournament after beating New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference tournament. Houston knocked off Wichita State before losing to Cincinnati by one in the American Athletic Conference title game Sunday.

– Associated Press

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