Taking overall performance, offensive and defensive efficiency as well as Pomeroy ratings into account, here is the 14-team shortlist which will produce the 2018 NCAA Tournament champion. The list includes surprising names such as Texas Tech and Wichita State, alongside heavy favorites like Virginia, Villanova and Duke, as well as the defending champions, North Carolina.
Cincinnati Bearcats: #8 on the final AP Poll; won the American conference and the tournament; have won their last 7 games; #4 on the Pomeroy ratings; a #2 seed, starting off against Georgia State. Gary Clark is their top scorer (13 points per game). Best result under head coach Mick Cronin is Sweet Sixteen in 2012.
Clemson Tigers: #19 on the final AP Poll; tied for 3rd in the ACC; lost in the tournament semis to Virginia; #19 on the Pomeroy ratings; a #5 seed starting off against New Mexico State. Marcquise Reed with 15.9 points per game is their top scorer. Under Brad Brownell have yet to reach the round of 32.
Duke Blue Devils: #5 on the final AP poll; 2nd in the ACC; lost in the tournament semis to North Carolina; #3 on the Pomeroy ratings; a #2 seed starting off against Iona. Marvin Bagley with 21.1 points per game is their top scorer. They’ve won 5 national championships with Mike Krzyzewski at the helm.
Gonzaga Bulldogs: #6 on the final AP poll; won the WCC and the tournament; #8 on the Pomeroy ratings; a #4 seed kicking off against UNC Greensboro. Top scorer is Jonathan Williams with 13.5 points per game. Made the championship game last season under Mark Few, which was also the school’s first Final Four.
Kansas Jayhawks: #9 on the final AP Poll; won the Big 12 and the tournament; #9 on the Pomeroy ratings; a #1 seed starting out against Penn. Devonte’ Graham is their top scorer with 17.3 points a game. Won the national title under Bill Self in 2008.
Michigan Wolverines: #7 on the final AP Poll; 4th in the Big Ten, but won the tournament and on a 8-win streak; #10 on the Pomeroy ratings; #3 seed starting out against Montana. Top scorer is Moritz Wagner (14.5 points per game). Best finish under John Beilein is losing in the championship game in 2013.
Michigan State Spartans: #4 on the final AP Poll; won the Big Ten regular season, lost to Michigan in the conference tournament semifinal; #6 on the Pomeroy ratings; a #3 seed starting against Bucknell. Miles Bridges with 16.9 points per game is leading scorer. Won the national title under Tom Izzo back in 2000.
North Carolina Tar Heels: #12 on the final AP Poll; 3rd in the ACC, lost in the tournament final to Virginia; #7 on the Pomeroy ratings; a #2 seed starting against Lipscomb. Luke Maye with 17.2 points a night is their leading scorer. Won the national title 3 times under Roy Williams.
Purdue Boilermakers: #10 on the final AP Poll; tied for 2nd in the Big Ten, lost in tournament final to Michigan; a #2 seed starting against Cal State Fullerton. Carsen Edwards (18.5 points a game) is their leading scorer. Best finish with Matt Painter is a Sweet Sixteen (3 times).
Tennessee Volunteers: #13 on the final AP Poll; tied for the SEC regular season title, lost to Kentucky in tournament final; a #3 seed starting against Wright State. Grant Williams (15.3 points a game) is their top scorer. First NCAA tournament under Rick Barnes.
Texas Tech Red Raiders: #14 on the final AP Poll; tied for second in the Big 12, lost to West Virginia in the semifinal; a #3 seed starting against Stephen F. Austin. Top scorer is Keenan Evans (17.5 points per game). First NCAA Tournament with Chris Beard.
Villanova Wildcats: #2 on the final AP Poll; 2nd in the Big East, winning the tournament; a #1 seed starting against a First Four #16 seed; #2 on Pomeroy ratings. Top scorer is Jalen Brunson (19.4 points per game). Won the national title in 2016 under Jay Wright.
Virginia Cavaliers: #1 on the final AP Poll; Won ACC league and tournament; a #1 seed starting against UMBC; #1 on Pomeroy ratings. Kyle Guy is the top scorer with 14.1 points per game. Elite Eight in 2016 is their best finish under Tony Bennett.
Wichita State: #1 on the final AP Poll; 2nd in the American conference, lost in tournament semis to Houston; #20 on Pomeroy ratings. Landry Shamet (15 points per game) is their top scorer. Made the Final Four in 2013 under Gregg Marshall. #4 seed in tournament, start against Marshall
Xavier Musketeers: #3 on the final AP Poll; won the Big East league, lost to Providence in semis; #14 on Pomeroy ratings; #1 seed in tournament starting against a #16 seed First Four team. Trevon Blueitt is top scorer with 19.5 per game. Elite Eight in 2017 is best season under Chris Mack.