March Madness 2018 bracket: Advanced computer simulation predicts surprising NCAA Tournament upsets


March Madness is officially here! You can pick your 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket based on mascots, based on your limited knowledge of most of the teams … or you can trust science that has been proven to work. That’ll give you a big edge in your NCAA Tournament pool.

The past two years, SportsLine’s computer simulation has nailed some massive upsets, including huge wins by No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin, No. 13 seed Hawaii, No. 12 seed Middle Tennessee State and No. 11 seed Xavier. Getting those picks right could literally make or break your March Madness bracket.

Overall, their model has called a stellar nine out of 12 upsets by double-digit seeds in the first round over the past two years and went 27-5 straight up in the first round last year. You shouldn’t even think about making a pick without seeing what it has to say.

They ran thousands of simulations this year to come up with the perfect 2018 NCAA Tournament bracket, and find out which teams will pull off the biggest upsets.

What they found: No. 7 seed Arkansas falls to 10th-seeded Butler in the first round. The Bulldogs take this matchup outright in over 62 percent of simulations.

The Bulldogs struggled down the stretch, losing six of their final nine games overall, but only two of those games were by more than 10 points. We’ve also seen how dangerous Butler can be this season with wins against Villanova (101-93) and Ohio State (67-66).

And Butler gets an ideal first-round matchup against an Arkansas team that has an extremely porous defense. Butler’s offense, which averages almost 80 points, will look to exploit a Razorbacks defense that gives up more than 75 points. Arkansas is fresh off allowing 84 points to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament semifinals. 

Butler’s offense is led by senior forward Kelan Martin, who is averaging 20.8 points and 6.2 rebounds. Plus, the Bulldogs know how to win close games, evident in their winning record (4-3) in games decided by five points or fewer this season.

Back Butler, a program that has won at least one game in its past six NCAA Tournament appearances, to knock off Arkansas.

Another huge curveball: No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin pulls off a shocking upset of No. 3 seed Texas Tech. The Lumberjacks are used to busting March Madness brackets. In 2016, Stephen F. Austin’s 14-point victory over third-seeded West Virginia matched the record for the biggest victory ever for a No. 14 seed over a No. 3 seed.

That didn’t happen by accident, either. There has been at least one 14 vs. 3 upset in four of the past five NCAA Tournaments. And the Lumberjacks are loaded with players who have experienced the pressures of playing in March. SFA has advanced to the second round in two of its past three trips to the Big Dance.

Meanwhile, Texas Tech, which lost four of five games to end the regular season, struggled to find a way to win down the stretch. To make matters worse, Texas Tech star Keenan Evans was forced to miss the Big 12 Tournament due to a foot injury.

Evans will face a difficult task jumping back into game action against a Lumberjacks defense that leads the nation in defensive turnover rate. This is a 2018 NCAA Tournament upset pick you need to be all over.

SportsLine’s model also has one region where you need to pick the Nos. 11, 12 and 13 seeds, and another region with a No. 4 seed in the Final Four. Nailing those picks could literally make or break your bracket.

So what’s the optimal NCAA Tournament 2018 bracket? And which underdogs shock college basketball? Visit SportsLine to see the optimized NCAA Tournament bracket, and see which underdogs to lock in now, all from the model that nailed nine of 12 upsets by double-digit seeds the last two years.

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