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Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 14:05 PM

Final Four Consensus Picks

The 2018 NCAA tournament seems wide-open in spite of two-loss Virginia sitting as the top overall seed. Alongside the Cavaliers, Villanova, Kansas, and Xavier are the other number one seeds looking to reach the Final Four in San Antonio on March 31.

Last season, a pair of top seeds made it all the way to the National Championship as North Carolina knocked off Gonzaga. Both squads aren’t number one seeds this season, but both are expected to make another deep run in the tournament. The other two Final Four clubs didn’t even qualify for the Big Dance this season as Oregon and South Carolina fell short of the NCAA tournament.

We polled our college basketball experts to provide their Final Four selections, champion, and sleeper (a team owning a seed of 4 or lower to advance at least two rounds). The West had the most disagreement among our handicappers with Gonzaga, North Carolina, Michigan, and Xavier all receiving Final Four consideration.

However, it was a little more clear-cut in the other three regions as Villanova (East), Virginia (South), Arizona (South), and Duke (Midwest) are expected to make deep runs. handicapper Joe Nelson believes this is the year Duke bounces back with its terrific talent, “Depth and experience are shortcomings for the Blue Devils, but those factors are often overvalued in a do-or-die tournament setting. The size on the squad is unparalleled and this is an excellent shooting and rebounding team that has a star in the frontcourt and in the backcourt. Duke had a few puzzling losses on the season with some injuries and a transition with a freshman-heavy squad, but like last season’s champion North Carolina, the Blue Devils have improved dramatically defensively down the stretch.”

“Outside of the grouping with the Spartans, Duke’s placement in the Midwest regional should offer some promise. Kansas is a highly vulnerable #1 seed despite taking both the regular season and Big XII titles as Duke would be favored in that potential Elite 8 matchup, even in Omaha. 7/10 teams are often dangerous, but a limited Rhode Island squad that had a taxing schedule last week is facing an Oklahoma team that slumped down the stretch as a Duke exit in the opening week would be shocking. Clemson and Auburn are also teams that lost key players and did perform at a high level down the stretch as Duke has a reasonable path in this region even if they will face further travel than usual for the opening games.”

Expert Matt Fargo believes the defending champion Tar Heels can make another run towards San Antono, “The Tar Heels have 10 losses but they have played the toughest schedule in the nation according to the RPI and the West is not overly strong with Xavier, Michigan and Gonzaga being the other teams in the top four. North Carolina is better than all three of those teams and it would not be surprising to see one or even two of those teams get bumped before the Sweet 16.”

Handicapper Marc Lawrence has faith in Michigan State to cut down the nets, “Spartans the only team in the country to rank in the Top 5 in Offensive Field Goal Percentage, Defensive Field Goal Percentage, Rebound Margin, 3-Point Offensive Field Goal Percentage, and Blocked Shots. In addition, Tom Izzo is 22-8 SU and 19-10-1 ATS in NCAA tourney games in which his team enters the event off a season-ending straight-up loss.”

Here are the Final Four picks from our handicappers:

Final Four and Championship Predictions
Handicapper Sleeper East South Midwest West Champion
Alex Smart Alabama Villanova Arizona Duke Gonzaga Duke
Antony Dinero UNC-Wilmington Villanova Arizona Michigan State Xavier Arizona
ASA Houston Purdue Virginia Duke Gonzaga Duke
Ben Burns Charleston Purdue Virginia Michigan State Xavier Virginia
Bill Marzano Tennessee West Virginia Arizona Michigan State Gonzaga Gonzaga
Brian Edwards Florida Villanova Virginia Duke Michigan Michigan
Bruce Marshall Seton Hall Villanova Virginia Michigan State Michigan Michigan
Dave Cokin Arizona Villanova Arizona Duke North Carolina Arizona
Doc's Sports Gonzaga Villanova Virginia Duke Michigan Duke
Don Anthony South Dakota State Villanova Virginia Michigan State North Carolina Virginia
Gary Bart Auburn Villanova Virginia Michigan State Gonzaga Virginia
Jimmy Boyd Arizona Villanova Virginia Duke Michigan Virginia
Joe Nelson Texas Purdue Virginia Duke Gonzaga Duke
Joe Williams N.C. State Villanova Virginia Duke North Carolina Villanova
John Fisher Murray State Purdue Arizona Michigan State Michigan Michigan State
Kevin Rogers New Mexico State Villanova Arizona Kansas Gonzaga Kansas
Kyle Hunter New Mexico State Villanova Arizona Michigan State Gonzaga Villanova
Marc Lawrence Wichita State Villanova Cincinnati Michigan State North Carolina Michigan State
Matt Fargo Nevada Villanova Arizona Duke North Carolina Villanova
Micah Roberts Loyola-Chicago Villanova Arizona Duke North Carolina Duke
Michael Black Loyola-Chicago Texas Tech Kentucky Duke Michigan Texas Tech
Neil the Greek Florida Purdue Arizona Duke Gonzaga Arizona
Scott Rickenbach Kentucky Villanova Virginia Duke North Carolina North Carolina
Stephen Nover Nevada Villanova Arizona Duke Houston Duke
T.J. Pemberton Butler Villanova Kentucky Kansas Xavier Villanova

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