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March Madness 2018 Brackets: Favorites, Sleepers and Cinderellas

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2018

Jalen Brunson is a dominating player who can take over down the stretch.
Jalen Brunson is a dominating player who can take over down the stretch.Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Who wouldn't want to have a bracket that brought home the money and the glory?

The NCAA men's tournament is arguably the second-biggest event on the annual sporting calendar after the Super Bowl, and much of that is tied up into filling out brackets and doing a better job of predicting the results than your buddy in the next cubicle.

Whether you are trying to be the smartest person in your office or bring home the cash in a major pool, the NCAA tournament represents an opportunity for a devoted sports fan to lose oneself in nonstop basketball action. There's nothing like the first two rounds of the tournament, as the games follow each other in a sensational rhythm.

One of the keys to coming out ahead with bracket selections is finding the right favorites, sleepers and Cinderellas to back in the tournament.

Right off the hop, we believe that Virginia and Villanova are the two No. 1 seeds that have the best chance of making it to the Final Four. Virginia was a unanimous No. 1 team in the AP and the coaches polls, and after dominating the ACC in the regular season, the Cavaliers also won the ACC tournament.

Virginia is the No. 1 team in the South Region, while Villanova is the No. 1 team in the East Region. Head coach Jay Wright's Wildcats won the title two years ago, and they have won 30 or more games four years in a row. They also have one of the nation's top players in Jalen Brunson, who averaged 19.4 points per game and shot 53.1 percent from the field.

Virginia has been known for its defense under head coach Tony Bennett for several seasons, but this year's team has stepped it up quite a bit. The Cavaliers are the top defensive team in the nation, and they also get the job done with clutch offensive performances. Virginia is not going to light up the scoreboard very often, but Kyle Guy (14.1 points per game) knows how to execute during the most important possessions.

As far as tournament sleepers are concerned, seventh-seeded Nevada may be a dangerous team in the South Region, while eighth-seeded Seton Hall appears to be a threat in the Midwest Region.

Caleb Martin can fill it up for the Nevada Wolf Pack.
Caleb Martin can fill it up for the Nevada Wolf Pack.L.E. Baskow/Associated Press

Nevada comes into the tournament with a 27-7 record, and the Wolf Pack defeated Boise State twice and Rhode Island this season. Head coach Eric Musselman's team is led by forward Caleb Martin, who is averaging 19.1 points per game. Guard Jordan Caroline is doing an excellent job in support, averaging 17.9 points per game.

Nevada takes on Texas in its first tournament game. The Wolf Pack are a high-powered offensive team that wants to outscore opponents. However, Nevada does not like to get involved in physical battles because it tends to wear down.

Nevada has a chance to outscore Texas, but it must find a way to neutralize big man Mohamed Bamba.

Seton Hall is a veteran team that enters the tournament with a 21-11 record. The Pirates have two victories over Butler, as well as wins over Texas Tech, Louisville and Creighton.

Swingman Desi Rodriguez is the Pirates' leading scorer, averaging 17.8 points per game. Guard Myles Powell is chipping in with 15.4 points per night.

Seton Hall will meet NC State in its first game. The Pirates want to play tough, hard-nosed basketball and establish their physical presence. They want to avoid a fast-paced game at all costs. The Pirates should be able to win the opening game by executing well down the stretch.

Clayton Custer will try to help Loyola-Chicago advance past Miami.
Clayton Custer will try to help Loyola-Chicago advance past Miami.Tom Gannam/Associated Press

Our top Cinderella team is Loyola-Chicago. The Ramblers won the NCAA tournament in 1963, and they also had an excellent team in 1985 led by Alfredrick Hughes.

Head coach Porter Moser's team has a 28-5 record, and it's most notable win came on the road at Florida. Guard Clayton Custer leads the team with an average of 13.4 points per night, while Marques Townes and Donte Ingram are both scoring over 11.0 points per game.

Loyola is meeting Miami in the first round of the tournament. Look for Loyola to come up with the victory here.

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