Bing Predicts: First round of March Madness 2018

Written by:
March 15, 2018
Lauren Rakes // Getty Images

Bing Predicts: First round of March Madness 2018

With the First Four in the books, the madness can officially get underway. Technically, Tuesday’s tipoff between Radford and LIU Brooklyn was the actual start to the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. But should that really count as the beginning of the year’s greatest sporting event if we can still fiddle with our brackets for another 40 hours or so?

Once the ball is in the air on Thursday, though, all picks are set in stone. To help you figure out whether you’ve made the right calls are not, Stacker turned to the data experts at Bing Predicts. With the help of web activity data and social sentiment — as well as historical player, team and game stats — Bing has predicted the outcome of each NCAA tournament game. Bing has assigned a percentage value to indicate the level of confidence in each pick, giving you a good idea as to who will be cutting the nets down when all is said and done.

We’ll move through each region to give you the analysis and prediction for each game, beginning with the South region.

Note: Also included with game predictions is the opening line for each game, courtesy of Vegas Insider.

No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers vs. No. 16 UMBC Retrievers

Bing Predicts Winner: Virginia (87 percent)

Region: South

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina

Opening line: UVA -23

Tipoff time: 9:20 p.m. ET (Friday)

Virginia’s title hopes took a shot before the tournament even began with the news that freshman De’Andre Hunter would miss the entire NCAA tournament with a broken wrist. Hunter won the ACC sixth man of the year award and ranked fourth on the team in points (9.2) and rebounds (3.5) per game.

His absence won’t affect the outcome against UMBC, though. The Retrievers are making their second-ever appearance in the Big Dance and are led by senior guard Jairus Lyles, who averages 20.2 points per game.

No. 8 Creighton Bluejays vs. No. 9 Kansas State Wildcats

Bing Predicts Winner: Creighton (56 percent)

Region: South

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina

Opening line: CREI -2

Tipoff time: 6:50 p.m. ET (Friday)

Creighton ranks 18th in the country in offensive rating (114.5 points per 100 possessions) on the season, thanks in large part to senior guard (and former Kansas State Wildcat) Marcus Foster. Foster leads the team in scoring at 20.3 points per game. He previously averaged 14.1 points in 62 games at Kansas State during his first two college seasons before getting kicked off the team in March 2015. That decision proved to be a wake-up call for Foster, who has thrived in two seasons as a Bluejay.

Kansas State’s defense will have its work cut out for it, though, as the Wildcats rank 141st in defensive rating (101.5). They hold opponents to 33.2 percent shooting on 3-point attempts (88th nationally), and they’ll need to defend the perimeter to slow down Creighton, which shoots 37.6 percent as a team. Bing gives the Bluejays the edge and sends them to the round of 32 to face Virginia.

No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats vs. No. 12 Davidson Wildcats

Bing Predicts Winner: Kentucky (59 percent)

Region: South

Location: Boise, Idaho

Opening line: UK -6

Tipoff time: 7:10 p.m. ET (Thursday)

Good luck to the people who fill out brackets based on mascots. In the battle of the Wildcats, Davidson looks like a tough task for Kentucky. The Atlantic 10 champions live and die by 6-foot-8 senior forward Peyton Aldridge, who leads the team in points (21.5) and rebounds (7.8) per game. He also makes 39.4 percent of his 3-point attempts, with a team-high 76 makes.

Davidson lacks depth — mostly using a seven-man rotation — and will need to stay out of foul trouble in order to pull off the upset. Kentucky is loaded with talent, particularly freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has scored in double figures in seven straight games and tallied 29 points against Tennessee in the SEC title game. Aldridge will need to be nearly perfect for Davidson to move on, and Bing likes Kentucky to avoid getting bounced early.

No. 4 Arizona Wildcats vs. No. 13 Buffalo Bulls

Bing Predicts Winner: Arizona (55 percent)

Region: South

Location: Boise, Idaho

Opening line: ARI -9

Tipoff time: 9:40 p.m. ET (Thursday)


Buffalo ranks 25th nationally in offensive rating (113.2) and features four players averaging between 14.6 and 16.9 points per game. The Bulls will need to be efficient on offense, because they’ll likely have trouble slowing down Arizona’s 7-foot-1 big man Deandre Ayton. The Pac-12 player of the year averages 20.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, while shooting 36.4 percent on 3-point attempts.

Buffalo’s tallest player who averages more than 15 minutes per game ins 6-foot-8 junior Nick Perkins. The team’s leading rebounder, though, is 6-foot-3 guard CJ Massinburg, so he and the rest of the Buffalo backcourt will need to be active on the glass.

This will be a clash in styles, as Buffalo ranks 20th in the nation in pace (74.1 possessions per 40 minutes) while Arizona ranks 224th (68.7). The Wildcats’ size advantage — with Ayton and fellow 7-footer Dusan Ristic — gives them the edge in terms of being able to set the tempo. Buffalo will likely be able to exploit Arizona’s so-so defense, but the Wildcats’ frontcourt should carry them to the next round.

No. 6 Miami Hurricanes vs. No. 11 Loyola (Chicago) Ramblers

Bing Predicts Winner: Miami (61 percent)

Region: South

Location: Dallas, Texas

Opening line: MIA -2.5

Tipoff time: 3:10 p.m. ET (Thursday)

Loyola features one of the toughest defenses in the country, ranking 11th in defensive rating (94.1). The Ramblers do a particularly good job at defending without fouling, allowing the 18th-lowest free throw attempt rate nationally. Miami ranks 294th in free throw attempt rate, so the Hurricanes will need to try and get to the line often by attacking the rim as much as possible.

On offense, Miami is paced by freshman guard Lonnie Walker IV, who leads the team with 11.5 points per game. That’s the lowest scoring average among tournament teams’ leading scorers, meaning Loyola won’t be able to just key in on Walker to stymie the Hurricanes’ offense. Miami’s third-leading scorer, Bruce Brown Jr., has been out since late January with an injured left foot and will miss Thursday’s game.

Miami isn’t the biggest team, though Loyola only has one rotation player taller than 6-foot-7. It won’t be easy for the Hurricanes, but Bing likes Miami to advance to the next round in what should be a tight one.

No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers vs. No. 14 Wright State Raiders

Bing Predicts Winner: Tennessee (79 percent)

Region: South

Location: Dallas, Texas

Opening line: TEN -13.5

Tipoff time: 12:40 p.m. ET (Thursday)

Nobody expected anything out of Tennessee this year, a team that was picked to finish 13th in the SEC in the preseason. Led by SEC player of the year Grant Williams, the Volunteers are one of the best teams in the country, returning to the NCAA tournament after a three-year hiatus.

Tennessee ranks 42nd nationally in 3-point shooting (38.4 percent), though the Vols will have their work cut out against Wright State. The Raiders rank seventh in the country in defensive rating (93.2). Tennessee’s ability to connect on 3-pointers — combined with a 33.5 percent offensive rebounding rate (43rd nationally) — presents a particularly difficult challenge for Wright State, though. Bing expects the Vols to be able to avoid the upset and move on to the second round.

No. 7 Nevada Wolfpack vs. No. 10 Texas Longhorns

Bing Predicts Winner: Nevada (86 percent)

Region: South

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Opening line: NEV -1

Tipoff time: 4:30 p.m. ET (Friday)

The 7-10 game is usually an even one, but Bing sees this one as a lopsided matchup in favor of the Wolfpack. Nevada is 17th in offensive rating (115.9), 21st in 3-point shooting percentage (39.8 percent) and has the second-lowest turnover rate (12.3 percent). Texas grades out well on defense with a 98.6 rating (62nd nationally) but ranks a woeful 292nd (98.6) in offensive rating, making it difficult to imagine the Longhorns being able to keep up with the Wolfpack’s offensive attack, which is led by juniors Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline.

Texas will need 6-foot-11 freshman forward Mohamed Bamba to take over. The Longhorns possess a huge size advantage, as Nevada’s tallest rotation player is listed at 6-foot-7. If the Wolfpack can contain Bamba and 6-foot-9 forward Dylan Osetkowski, then Nevada should be able to advance.

No. 2 Cincinnati Bearcats vs. No. 15 Georgia State Panthers

Bing Predicts Winner: Cincinnati (91 percent)

Region: South

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Opening line: CIN -14

Tipoff time: 2:00 p.m. ET (Friday)

Georgia State returns to the Big Dance after missing out the last two seasons. The Panthers pulled off a stunning upset back in 2015 as a No. 14 seed against Baylor, thanks to a game-winning 3-pointer by R.J. Hunter that sent dad and head coach Ron Hunter tumbling out of his seat.

The elder Hunter has his team back in the field, and this time his team is led by a different go-to scorer in sophomore guard D’Marcus Simonds, who 21.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. He’ll have a tough time getting anything against Cincinnati’s defense, though, which leads the nation with a 86.0 defensive rating. The Bearcats also rank 37th in offensive rating (112.1), so it’ll take a near-miracle for Georgia State to pull off another stunner.

No. 1 Xavier Musketeers vs. No. 16 Texas Southern Tigers

Bing Predicts Winner: Xavier (96 percent)

Region: West

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Opening line: XAV -21.5

Tipoff time: 7:20 p.m. ET (Friday)

Texas Southern picked up its first-ever tournament win against North Carolina in the First Four, and that’s where the fun will come to an end. The Tigers faced a murderers’ row of a non-conference schedule, so they won’t be caught off guard by Xavier’s superior talent. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to keep up with Trevon Bluiett, J.P. Macura and company, so expect the Musketeers to have no trouble moving on to the next round.

No. 8 Missouri Tigers vs. No. 9 Florida State Seminoles

Bing Predicts Winner: Florida State (67 percent)

Region: West

Location: Nashville, Tennessee

Opening line: MIZZ -1

Tipoff time: 9:50 p.m. ET (Friday)

Bing disagrees with Las Vegas in this one, giving the edge to the Seminoles. The obvious X-factor in this one is Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr., one of the nation’s most sought-after high school prospects last year who’s missed basically the entire season with a back injury suffered in the season opener. He returned for the Tigers’ SEC tournament loss against Georgia, shooting 5-for-17 with 12 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes.

If Porter Jr. can contribute effective minutes against Florida State, the Tigers can be dangerous. But there’s a concern that his presence will have the Tigers out of sync. Missouri has an 18.2 percent turnover rate on the season — 31st-highest in the country — and the Tigers ranked a lowly 274th in steal rate (7.6 percent).  Florida State has an experienced squad, led by junior guard Terrance Mann and seniors Phil Cofer and Braian Angola, so expect the Seminoles to be the more composed side.

No. 5 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. No. 12 South Dakota State Jackrabbits

Bing Predicts Winner: Ohio State (69 percent)

Region: West

Location: Boise, Idaho

Opening line: OSU -8.5

Tipoff time: 4:00 p.m. ET (Thursday)

South Dakota State has one of the nation’s best players in 6-foot-9 junior forward Mike Daum, who averages 23.8 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Daum makes 42.1 percent of his 3-point shots, averaging 6.4 attempts per contest. The matchup between Daum and Ohio State junior forward Keita Bates-Diop will be among the most enticing of the first round.

Bates-Diop won the Big Ten player of the year award and is perhaps the most improved player in the country. Ohio State ranks 52nd and 42nd in offensive and defensive rating, respectively, while South Dakota State is 10th in offensive rating. If Bates-Diop can cancel out Daum, then the rest of the Ohio State lineup should be able to outplay the Jackrabbits.

No. 4 Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. No. 13 UNC Greensboro Spartans

Bing Predicts Winner: Gonzaga (51 percent)

Region: West

Location: Boise, Idaho

Opening line: GON -12

Tipoff time: 1:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)

Gonzaga returns to the tournament as a No. 4 seed after falling just short in the national title game a season ago. The Bulldogs have five players averaging double digits, led by senior forward Johnathan Williams’ 13.5 points per game. The Zags’ most dangerous weapon, though, is 6-foot-10 sophomore forward Killian Tillie. He’s averaging 13.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game and has shot 50 percent (45-for-90) on 3-point attempts this season.

UNC Greensboro doesn’t have the size to matchup with Tillie, Williams or 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Rui Hachimura, but the Spartans can really defend. They rank fifth nationally in defensive rating (91.4) and 16th in steal rate (11.3 percent). Sophomore forward James Dickey is the only regular listed taller than 6-foot-8, and he protects the rim well, averaging 2.2 blocks per game. The Spartans allow the 17th-lowest offensive rebound rate (23 percent) to their opponents, and they’ll be tested against Gonzaga’s size.

Bing expects the Bulldogs to have their hands full, and sees this as the closest matchup of the first round. Expect Gonzaga to eke out a victory, but it should be a close one.

No. 6 Houston Cougars vs. No. 11 San Diego State Aztecs

Bing Predicts Winner: Houston (88 percent)

Region: West

Location: Wichita, Kansas

Opening line: HOU -3.5

Tipoff time: 7:20 p.m. ET (Thursday)

San Diego State enters the tournament on a nine-game winning streak. The Aztecs have held opponents under 60 points four times during that stretch, and rank 30th nationally in defensive rating (96.6).

Houston, though, is among the most balanced teams in the country, ranking 26th in offensive rating (113.2) and 16th in defensive rating (94.9). Senior guard Rob Gray leads the team with 18.5 points per game, while junior guard Corey Davis Jr. is second at 13.5. Davis is a 44 percent shooter from 3-point land — third in the country among players with at least 100 made threes. The Aztecs have been on a roll, but Bing expects Houston to advance without much trouble.

No. 3 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 14 Montana Grizzlies

Bing Predicts Winner: Michigan (80 percent)

Region: West

Location: Wichita, Kansas

Opening line: MICH -12

Tipoff time: 9:50 p.m. ET (Thursday)

Michigan enters the tournament on a nine-game winning streak but haven’t played since March 4’s Big Ten championship game. The Wolverines lean heavily on a trio of upperclassmen: junior forward Moritz Wagner, senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and junior guard Charles Matthews. Those three account for nearly 54 percent of Michigan’s points and over 51 percent of all shot attempts.

Montana has been strong defensively this season, ranking 29th in defensive rating (96.6). That’s seven spots lower than Michigan (96.0), though. The Wolverines are particularly adept at avoiding miscues, as they have the fourth-lowest turnover rate (12.3 percent) in the country. If Michigan can keep up its clean play, it should have no issues moving on to the second round.

No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies vs. No. 10 Providence Friars

Bing Predicts Winner: Providence (53 percent)

Region: West

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina

Opening line: TAMU -3.5

Tipoff time: 12:15 p.m. ET (Friday)

Texas A&M doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well (32.7 percent on 3-pointers) but does a lot of damage on the offensive glass. The Aggies rank 26th nationally in offensive rebounding rate (34.4 percent) thanks to its huge frontline, comprised of forwards Tyler Davis (6-foot-10), Robert Williams (6-foot-10) and DJ Hogg (6-foot-9). Texas A&M also ranks 10th in block rate (15.2 percent), led by Williams’ 2.6 blocks per game.

Bing gives the edge to the Friars, though, likely due to Providence’s perceived advantage in the backcourt. Senior guard Kyron Cartwright has scored in double figures seven straight games, while senior guard Jalen Lindsey has shot 39.4 percent on 3-point attempts. Expect a close game that the Friars pull out in the end.

No. 2 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. No. 15 Lipscomb Bisons

Bing Predicts Winner: North Carolina (83 percent)

Region: West

Location: Charlotte, North Carolina

Opening line: UNC -19.5

Tipoff time: 2:45 p.m. ET (Friday)

Lipscomb is making its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance. The Bisons gained active membership in the NCAA after moving from the NAIA in 2003. They enter the tournament on an eight-game winning streak after knocking off Florida Gulf Coast in the Atlantic Sun championship game.

Their reward is a date with the defending national champion Tar Heels. Expect North Carolina to overmatch Lipscomb with its superior athleticism and physicality, as forwards Luke Maye and Theo Pinson should dominate in the rebounding department.

No. 1 Villanova Wildcats vs. No. 16 Radford Highlanders

Bing Predicts Winner: Villanova (92 percent)

Region: East

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Opening line: VILL -23.5

Tipoff time: 6:45 p.m. ET (Thursday)

Radford notched its first-ever NCAA tournament win in the First Four on Tuesday, knocking off LIU Brooklyn, 71-61. That will stand as the season’s highlight, as the Highlanders will be no match for the Big East champions. Villanova is among the favorites to win the national championship and should cruise to the second round with ease.

No. 8 Virginia Tech Hokies vs. No. 9 Alabama Crimson Tide

Bing Predicts Winner: Virginia Tech (64 percent)

Region: East

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Opening line: VT -2

Tipoff time: 9:20 p.m. ET (Thursday)

Bing likes Virginia Tech in this matchup despite the recent play of Alabama freshman guard Collin Sexton. Sexton has averaged 25.5 points per contest in four games during March, shooting 51.7 percent from the field in the process. The Tide’s hopes hinge solely on Sexton’s shoulders, as he is the engine that drives the team’s offense.

Virginia Tech has an answer for Sexton in the form of junior guard Justin Robinson. Robinson leads the Hokies with 13.8 points and 5.6 assists per game, making 40 percent of his 3-point attempts. Unlike Alabama, Virginia Tech has a more balanced approach on offense, with five players averaging 10 or more points per game.

Alabama lives and dies with Sexton, and the team was not particularly efficient on offense this season, ranking 225th in offensive rating (102.9) compared to Virginia Tech ranking 31st (112.7). If Sexton stays hot, the Tide will have a chance, but Bing still favors the Hokies in this one.

No. 5 West Virginia Mountaineers vs. No. 12 Murray State Racers

Bing Predicts Winner: West Virginia (53 percent)

Region: East

Location: San Diego, California

Opening line: WVU -10.5

Tipoff time: 4:00 p.m. ET (Friday)

Murray State ranks 244th nationally in pace (68.2 possessions per 40 minutes), and West Virginia will try to speed the Racers up with its full-court press. The Mountaineers rank second nationally in turnover ratio (5.2) and 13th in steal rate (11.4 percent), living up to their “Press Virginia” moniker.

Murray State is efficient offensively, though, with a 115.8 rating (15th nationally). Senior guard Jonathan Stark is the Racers’ go-to guy, as he leads the team with 21.8 points per game. Stark and second-leading scorer Terrell Miller Jr. shoot a combined 40.3 percent on 3-point attempts, which will test West Virginia’s perimeter defense. How Stark plays against West Virginia’s Javon Carter be a key factor in this one.


No. 4 Wichita State Shockers vs. No. 13 Marshall Thundering Herd

Bing Predicts Winner: Wichita State (79 percent)

Region: East

Location: San Diego, California

Opening line: WICH -12

Tipoff time: 1:30 p.m. ET (Friday)

Marshall is making its first NCAA tournament appearance in over 30 years. The Thundering Herd feature a three-headed monster on offense comprised of juniors Jon Elmore, C.J. Burks and Ajdin Penava, who combine to average nearly 59 points per game. The trio has scored almost 70 percent of Marshall’s total points on the season.

Wichita State is more balanced offensively, and the Shockers rank seventh in offensive rating (117.8). Wichita State ranks second in total rebounding percentage (57 percent) and third in assist rate (63.8 percent), so Bing expects the Shockers to take care of business in the first round.

No. 6 Florida Gators vs. No. 11 St. Bonaventure Bonnies

Bing Predicts Winner: St. Bonaventure (52 percent)

Region: East

Location: Dallas, Texas

Opening line: FLA -5.5

Tipoff time: 9:57 p.m. ET (Thursday)

After knocking off UCLA in the First Four on Tuesday, Bing likes the Bonnies to upset Florida and move on to the second round. Senior guard Jaylen Adams — St. Bonaventure’s leading scorer — had a miserable, 2-for-16 shooting night against UCLA but hit the go-ahead jump shot with just under a minute to play to give the Bonnies the lead for good.

Both teams feature strong backcourts, with St. Bonaventure leaning on Adams and senior Matt Mobley and Florida boasting a quartet of quality guards that all average over 10 points per game: juniors Jalen Hudson and KeVaughn Allen, and seniors Egor Koulechov and Chris Chiozza. Expect Adams to bounce back from his rough performance on Tuesday and lead the Bonnies to the win.

No. 3 Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. No. 14 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

Bing Predicts Winner: Texas Tech (65 percent)

Region: East

Location: Dallas, Texas

Opening line: TTU -11.5

Tipoff time: 7:27 p.m. ET (Thursday)


After dealing with a foot injury suffered in mid-February, Texas Tech senior guard Keenan Evans appeared to get back on track in the Big 12 tournament, scoring 38 points in two games. If he can carry that form into Thursday’s game, the Red Raiders should be in good shape. Texas Tech ranks 10th nationally in defensive rating (94.0), setting the program up for its first NCAA tournament win since 2005.

No. 7 Arkansas Razorbacks vs. No. 10 Butler Bulldogs

Bing Predicts Winner: Butler (55 percent)

Region: East

Location: Detroit, Michigan

Opening line: BUT -1

Tipoff time: 3:10 p.m. ET (Friday)

Bing and Las Vegas agree on this one, each favoring Butler to advance to the second round. The Bulldogs rank 58th in offensive rating (110.7) and 157th in defensive rating (101.9), though they enter the tournament having lost six of their last nine games.

Arkansas is not good defensively, ranking 239th nationally in defensive rating (104.7). The Razorbacks don’t force enough turnovers, with the 12th-worst steal rate (6.6 percent) in the country. Butler doesn’t fare well in that category either (7.2 percent), and both teams rank in the top 35 for lowest turnover rate. Don’t expect many mistakes in this one, as it should be a close game throughout.

No. 2 Purdue Boilermakers vs. No. 15 Cal State Fullerton Titans

Bing Predicts Winner: Purdue (95 percent)

Region: East

Location: Detroit, Michigan

Opening line: PUR -21

Tipoff time: 12:40 p.m. ET (Friday)

Cal State Fullerton will be making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008 and third in program history. The Titans’ first came in 1978, when the team made a surprise run to the Elite Eight. Don’t expect a similar outcome this year, as Bing assigns this game its second-highest confidence score of the first round.

No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks vs. No. 16 Pennsylvania Quakers

Bing Predicts Winner: Kansas (85 percent)

Region: Midwest

Location: Wichita, Kansas

Opening line: KU -15.5

Tipoff time: 2:00 p.m. ET (Thursday)

There has been plenty of buzz surrounding this matchup, with many thinking Penn has the best chance at becoming the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 seed. Bing isn’t exactly buying the hype, though it does give Kansas its lowest confidence score among the four 16-1 matchups. Similarly, Las Vegas gave this game the smallest line among the 16-1 games, and that line has since dropped to Kansas -13.5 in some places.

Maybe Penn can hang around for a while, but don’t expect history to be made on Thursday. Penn faced one blueblood program this season when it played Villanova on Nov. 29 and lost by 28. That was a long time ago, but the point remains that the talent gap between the Jayhawks and Quakers will be vast.

No. 8 Seton Hall Pirates vs. No. 9 North Carolina State Wolfpack

Bing Predicts Winner: North Carolina State (73 percent)

Region: Midwest

Location: Wichita, Kansas

Opening line: SH -2

Tipoff time: 4:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)

Bing sees this as the biggest mismatch of the four 8-9 games, despite Vegas favoring the Pirates. Led by senior center Angel Delgado, Seton Hall ranks 38th in offensive rebound rate (33.7 percent), as Delgado averages 11.6 boards per game — fifth in the country. If the Wolfpack’s 7-foot center Omer Yurtseven can keep Delgado in check, then North Carolina State’s guards should be able to carry the team into the next round.

No. 5 Clemson Tigers vs. No. 12 New Mexico State Aggies

Bing Predicts Winner: Clemson (62 percent)

Region: Midwest

Location: San Diego, California

Opening line: Clemson -5.5

Tipoff time: 9:57 p.m. ET (Friday)

New Mexico State ranks third nationally in defensive rating (90.7) and allowed opponents to shoot just 30.8 percent on 3-point attempts. That should give Clemson some trouble, as the Tigers shoot a good-not-great 36.6 percent on threes. The Aggies lean on senior guard Zach Lofton, who averages 19.8 points per game.

Lofton has taken a winding path to get to this point. After high school, he played a season at San Jacinto College (JC) before transferring to a four-year school, Illinois State. He played the 2013-14 season there, then transferred to Minnesota. While sitting out his transfer year, he was kicked out of the program for “failing to meet the expectations and obligations of the team.” He then went to Texas Southern, where he redshirted for one year before averaging a team-high 16.8 points per game in 2016-17. Lofton finally went to New Mexico State as a grad transfer, making it four schools (plus one junior college) in six years.

If the Tigers can limit Lofton’s damage, they should be in good shape. Clemson is much more balanced offensively and should be able to advance as long as Lofton doesn’t get too hot from the floor.

No. 4 Auburn Tigers vs. No. 13 Charleston Cougars

Bing Predicts Winner: Auburn (65 percent)

Region: Midwest

Location: San Diego, California

Opening line: AUB -11

Tipoff time: 7:27 p.m. ET (Friday)


Auburn ranks 23rd in offensive rating (113.4), while Charleston ranks 35th (112.2), so this game could turn into a shootout. Charleston’s trio of sophomore guard Grant Riler, senior guard Joe Chealey and junior forward Jarrell Brantly all average between 17 and 18.7 points per game, while shooting a combined 37.5 percent on 3-point attempts and 82.2 percent from the free throw line.


The Tigers have the advantage in the paint, particularly on the defensive end. Auburn ranks eighth nationally in blocked shot percentage (15.5 percent), led by Anfernee McLemore’s 2.7 blocks per game. If the Tigers can contest shots at the rim, they should avoid a first-round upset.

No. 6 TCU Horned Frogs vs. No. 11 Syracuse Orange

Bing Predicts Winner: TCU (62 percent)

Region: Midwest

Location: Detroit, Michigan

Opening line: TCU -3.5

Tipoff time: 9:40 p.m. ET (Friday)

TCU has one of the most efficient offenses in the country, ranking 14th in offensive rating (115.8). The Horned Frogs rank 17th in 3-point field goal percentage (40 percent) but don’t defend the 3-point well, allowing opponents to shoot 37.9 percent.

Syracuse, though, is a poor shooting team, making just 32.2 percent of its 3-point attempts (315th nationally). The Orange hold teams to just 32.9 percent from beyond the arc, but the Horned Frogs have so many sharpshooters that they should be able to exploit Syracuse’s zone. TCU’s top four leaders in 3-pointers made — Desmond Bane, Kouat Noi, Kenrich Williams and Jaylen Fischer — shoot a combined 43.8 percent (189-for-432) on 3-point attempts. Barring an off night from all four, TCU should move on to the second round.

No. 3 Michigan State Spartans vs. No. 14 Bucknell Bison

Bing Predicts Winner: Michigan State (76 percent)

Region: Midwest

Location: Detroit, Michigan

Opening line: MSU -14

Tipoff time: 7:10 p.m. ET (Friday)

Bucknell is making its second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance and fourth in eight years. That’s a remarkable accomplishment for the program, one that advanced to the round of 32 in back-to-back years from 2005 to 2006. Still, the Bison should be no match for the Spartans, who will have the talent advantage across the board.

One player to watch is Bucknell senior forward Zach Thomas. At 6-foot-7, Thomas leads the Bison in points (20.3) and rebounds (9.2) per game, while making 37.3 percent of his 3-point attempts. He’ll need to go off for Bucknell to have any chance in this one.

No. 7 Rhode Island Rams vs. No. 10 Oklahoma Sooners

Bing Predicts Winner: Rhode Island (89 percent)

Region: Midwest

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Opening line: URI -1.5

Tipoff time: 12:15 p.m. ET (Thursday)

Bing is extremely confident in Rhode Island to move past the Sooners, despite the Rams opening as just 1.5-point favorites. Rhode Island leans on senior guards Jared Terrell and E.C. Matthews, the only players who average in double figures.

For Oklahoma, everyone knows the story is freshman guard Trae Young. Young amazingly leads the nation in points (27.4) and assists (8.8) per game, yet still is viewed by some as overrated. He’s been marred in a shooting slump since the start of February, going 25-for-98 (25.5 percent) on 3-point attempts in his last 10 games. He’ll need to rediscover his early season form for the Sooners advance.

No. 2 Duke Blue Devils vs. No. 15 Iona Gaels

Bing Predicts Winner: Duke (93 percent)

Region: Midwest

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Opening line: DUKE -20.5

Tipoff time: 2:45 p.m ET (Thursday)

Iona has made the tournament a school-record three straight years and five of the last seven, a fantastic feat for the program. The Gaels have five players averaging in double figures — led by junior guard Rickey McGill (13.5 points per game) — but none of them will be able to stop Duke freshman forward Marvin Bagley. Expect the Blue Devils to cruise.

Trending Now