A look at the best to come in the NCAA Tournament

FILE - In this Friday, March 9, 2018, file photo, Virginia guard De'Andre Hunter (12) pulls down a rebound next to Clemson guard Shelton Mitchell (4) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the semifinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in New York. Hunter, the ACC's sixth man of the year, will miss the NCAA tournament with a broken left wrist. The school says Hunter suffered the injury during the ACC tournament, but did not say how. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)

March seemed to start early this season. Upsets seemingly every week, buzzer beaters, eye-popping performances.

Now that March is actually here, the real madness about to begin.

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

To get you ready, we’ve got 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 may have 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.

Arizona State vs. Syracuse, Wednesday in Dayton. The Pac-12’s highest-scoring offense against the Orange’s zone. Hard to imagine a better First Four game.

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. The return of star freshman Michael Porter Jr. adds an extra dose of intrigue.

Kentucky vs. Arizona, Saturday in Boise. 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 is capable of pulling off an upset – he could pull it off by himself.

No. 10 Providence vs. No. 7 Texas A&M, West Region, Thursday in Charlotte. The Friars already have one massive upset in March, taking 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. 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.

No. 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.


Every year, some teams get the benefit of playing close to home, while others are forced to make long treks. Some of the longest and shortest this year:

College of Charleston vs. Auburn in San Diego. Pretty much the entire length of the country, about 2,500 miles.

Clemson vs. New Mexico State in San Diego. Maybe the Tigers can hitch a ride from the Cougars.

Cal-State Fullerton in Detroit. Nearly 2,000 miles or about 32 hours by car, for any fans thinking of driving. Better start now.

Michigan State vs. Bucknell in Detroit. It will be a quick 90-minute ride for the Spartans.

North Carolina vs. Lipscomb, Charlotte. The Tar Heels are 33-1 playing the NCAA Tournament in their home state and the ride to Charlotte is only about three hours.

More AP college basketball: https://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25