March Madness 2018: Dates, Predictions, TV Schedule and Bracket Analysis

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2018

Tony Bennett and the Virginia Cavaliers are the top seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Tony Bennett and the Virginia Cavaliers are the top seed in the NCAA Tournament.Steve Helber/Associated Press

Can anybody stop Virginia in the NCAA tournament?

If you listen to the litany of college basketball experts around the nation, this year's tournament is more wide open than any in recent memory.

That may or may not be the case. Virginia comes into the tournament as the overall No. 1 seed and the unanimous No. 1 team in both the AP and coaches' poll. 

The Cavaliers also won the ACC Tournament after capturing the regular-season title by a whopping four games. Virginia has remarkable defensive power and has been more consistent than any team in the nation. While this may be a wide-open tournament, it may be quite difficult for anyone to get the best of head coach Tony Bennett's team.

Virginia is the No. 1 seed in the South, and the Cavaliers will face 16th-seed Maryland-Baltimore County.

Now that the 68-team field has been announced, the First Four games will be played March 13 and 14. 

The fun begins March 11, when the NCAA makes its announcement on the 68 teams that will have a chance to play for glory this year.

Here's a look at the time and dates for each region:

All games will be broadcast on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV. The games can also be live streamed at NCAA.com.

The Villanova Wildcats have been at or near the top of the rankings for the majority of the season. While head coach Jay Wright’s team had some slip-ups during the regular season, the Wildcats are very talented and capable of winning their second national championship in the last three years.

Villanova comes into the tournament with a five-game winning streak after having earned the Big East Conference tournament title with a 76-66 overtime victory over the Providence Friars.

The Wildcats are led by USA Today Player of the Year Jalen Brunson, who is averaging 19.4 points per game and is connecting on 53.1 percent of his shots from the field. Brunson gets excellent support from Mikal Bridges, who is averaging 18.0 points and collecting 5.4 rebounds per night, and is shooting 52.1 percent.

Donte DiVincenzo has been a clutch performer throughout his career, and he is scoring 13.1 points per game.

"What Jalen does isn’t always appreciated publicly," Wright said, per Lindsay Schnell of USA Today. "What he’s trying to do is be the best leader and best example of a Villanova player to our young guys that he can be — and trusting that doing that is going to make him the best version of himself."

Villanova will face the winner of LIU-Brooklyn-Radford First Four game.

Michigan State may not be a top seed in the NCAA tournament, but the Spartans are among the most talented teams in the nation.

Michigan State won the Big Ten regular-season title, but could not sustain that roll in the Big Ten conference tournament as the Spartans lost to the Michigan Wolverines in the semifinal round. Michigan State is the No. 3 seed in the Midwest bracket.

Since the conference tournament was held a week earlier than usual, the Spartans will be well-rested when they play their first-round game. Head coach Tom Izzo said he thinks his team is capable of taking advantage of the rest it had.

"I don’t think we’ve peaked yet. I don’t think we’re playing our best ball," Izzo said Friday on WBBL-FM (107.3) in Grand Rapids (h/t Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press). "But I think we’re capable of it. And that’s kind of what this week is for."

Miles Bridges leads Michigan State with an average of 16.9 points per game, and he gets plenty of support from Nick Ward and Cassius Winston. Those two are averaging 12.6 points per game each, while Joshua Langford is scoring 11.7 points per night.

The Spartans will face Bucknell in the first round.

Analysis

The idea when looking at your bracket is to pick the most winners and the championship team.

The idea is not to be the smartest player in the room with the most upset picks in an effort to show off your considerable basketball knowledge.

So don't look at the South region and try to figure out the team that is going to beat Virginia. That's not going to happen. The top-seeded Cavaliers are going to be one of the last teams standing.

The same holds for the Villanova Wildcats in the East region. Villanova has excellent guard play and one of the best coaches in the country in Wright. They are not going to hit a road block in their their first four games of the tournament.

The Midwest Region is another story. We have full respect for the Kansas Jayhawks as the No. 1 seed, but Michigan State will get its revenge over Bill Self's team after getting knocked out of the tournament a year ago.

Xavier is the top seed in the West region, and the Musketeers are clearly a tough team that knows how to compete. However, look for fourth-seeded Gonzaga to get through and make an appearance in San Antonio for the championship weekend.

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