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Perhaps the most iconic image in sports that isn't of on-field action or a trophy is the March Madness tournament bracket. Even a blank tournament bracket is associated with the event each year, as 68 teams try to claim the honor of being the best in college basketball. And with the brackets so close to being released, this primer on what to expect when the brackets do come out could just be what gets you ready for college basketball's biggest event.
Number One Seeds
This season, the list of teams that are occupying the list of contenders for a number one seed is pretty short, thanks to some power conferences experiencing a bit of parity. On the short list of teams that could come away with a one seed are squads like Duke (roughly +200 to win the championship), Virginia (+700), Gonzaga (+650), Kentucky (+800), Tennessee (+1000), North Carolina (+1200), Michigan (+1200) and Michigan State (+1400).
With multiple ACC, Big Ten and SEC teams on that list, the teams in those leagues that perform the best in their conference tournaments will give themselves a huge leg up in determining the top seeds. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the fact that Kansas isn't on that short list, as their streak of winning the Big 12 regular season title is likely to come to an end in 2019. Kansas could still easily score a top-two seed if they perform well in the Big 12 tournament, but it's unlikely that they could finish in the top seed line with seven regular-season losses, and they sit around +3500 to win the title as a result.
In fact, if there was a team that was poised to leap into the one-seed discussion from the Big 12, it would be Texas Tech. Having won 25 of their first 30 games on the season, the Red Raiders are in prime position to get the top seed in the conference tournament. And at around +2500 to win the national championship, they are seen as a better option than Kansas to have success in this year's tournament.
Upsets are an inevitability in the NCAA Tournament; just ask last year's Virginia Cavaliers. But before the brackets are released, the key is to identify teams that are good enough to make those upsets happen, to determine where those upsets might occur in the first and second rounds. The thought of watching a lot of Sun Belt basketball to find some upset candidates might not be alluring, so we've come up with a few teams that could shock some people come tournament time.
Wofford, currently around +15000 to win the title, would be far from a Cinderella story in this year's NCAA Tournament, as they are projected to be in the top half of seeding. But their round two opponent may want to be on guard this year if they get past the first round. They would be likely to tangle with a top-four seed in the second round of play, where they have enough talent to be a thorn in the side of a title contender.
Utah State is another team that could be in for some postseason success this year, as they are red hot as the tournament approaches. The Aggies capped off a run of 13 wins out of 14 games with a win at home over a Nevada squad that has been highly ranked all season long. As a result, Utah State leaped over the Wolfpack in the Mountain West Conference standings, and will have a chance to ride a favorable draw to the conference championship game. There, another win over Nevada would potentially boost their seeding. But no matter where they are seeded, it's clear that the Aggies aren't a team most squads would want to play this March.