NCAA Tournament bracket 2018: The best team on each of the No. 1-16 seed lines

The 2018 NCAA Tournament field is set and the opening round tips off on Thursday. There's going to be a lot of talk regarding underseeding, overseeding, traditional spots for upsets and the math of filling out your bracket, but in all of those topics is another interesting discussion: who is the best team on each seed line? 

So if you've got your mind set on a No. 12 to beat a No. 5, a No. 3 or No. 4 seed making a run to the Final Four or you want to be the one who gets it right when a No. 16 finally knocks off a No. 1 seed, this is the power rating system for you.  

[Check out SportsLine's Upset Tournament Bracket here. Their computer simulation correctly predicted nine out of 12 double-digit seed upsets in the first round the past two years.]      

No. 16 seeds

UMBC LIU-Brooklyn/Radford Penn NC Central/Texas Southern

Top team: Penn, Midwest Region 

My favorite seeding controversy on Selection Sunday -- pointed out by Matt Norlander on the CBS Sports Eye on College Basketball Podcast -- was outrage over Penn's seeding at No. 16. When considering all the moving parts in sorting the field of 68 the placement of the Ivy League champ may seem insignificant, but upon further review those Penn fans have a point! Penn went 24-8, play have a top-100 defensive efficiency ranking and comparable KenPom and RPI ratings to most of the No. 15 seeds.  

No. 15  seeds

Georgia State Cal State-Fullerton Iona Lipscomb

Top team: Georgia State, South Regional

You don't want to Ron Hunter's team to heat up, with play-making point guard D'Marcus Simonds' ability to get to rim, make you pay at the free-throw line and draw attention to set up his teammates. Hunter's Panthers rely heavily on 3-pointers so they'll need to be locked in to knocked off Cincinnati, but there's enough of a chance to consider to track that game carefully on Friday afternoon. 

No. 14 seeds

Wright State Stephen F. Austin Bucknell Montana

Top team: Bucknell, Midwest Regional

In a weird way, the fact that the Bison dropped the first four games of the season is why you should like them as a sleeper in the NCAA Tournament. Bucknell started the year with Arkansas, North Carolina and Maryland on the schedule, establishing a base line for competition against power conference foes. The team is experienced and is led by both this year's Patriot League player of the year, 6-7 forward Zach Thomas, and last year's player of the year, 6-9 center Nana Fouland. 

No. 13 seeds

Buffalo Marshall Charleston UNC-Greensboro

Top team: UNC Greensboro, West Regional

Guard Francis Alonso is one of the national leaders in 3-pointers made and attempted, but this isn't a mid-major that is going to require great 3-point shooting to be a threat. UNCG's strength is on the defensive end of the floor, with a lot of three-quarter and full-court pressure and enough size at the rim (6-10 big man James Dickey was SoCon Defensive Player of the year) to hold their own in the post. 

No. 12 seeds

Davidson Murray State New Mexico State South Dakota State

Top team: New Mexico State, Midwest Regional 

Chris Jans has done a great job in his first year at New Mexico State, leading the Aggies to wins against Miami, Davidson and Illinois en route to a 28-5 record. The Aggies have a toughness about them that is reflected on the floor by beating teams on the glass (Jemerrio Jones is second nationally averaging 13.2 rebounds per game), and a top-15 defensive efficiency rating. 

No. 11 seeds

Loyola-Chicago St. Bonaventure/UCLA Arizona State/Syracuse San Diego State

Top team: St. Bonaventure, East Regional      

Every season it's important to identify one of the No. 11 seeded teams in Dayton that has a potential to show up in the first round warmed up and knock off their higher seeded opponent. Seniors Jaylen and Matt Mobley not only give the Bonnies the best backcourt in Dayton but one of the best in the East Regional. The health of Courtney Stockard is concerning (currently a game-time decision with a hamstring injury), but I'm picking the Bonnies to win a couple of games either way. 

No. 10 seeds

Texas Butler Oklahoma Providence

Top team:  Butler, East Regional

At its best, the Bulldogs can beat the likes of Villanova and Ohio State. But defeats to some of the Big East's best teams since knocking off the Wildcats on Dec. 30 made Providence, fresh off its Big East Tournament run, look like the pick here. Still, I'm going with my gut and the late-game experience that Kelan Martin can provide. The Big East Player of the Year has takeover ability that few in this entire tournament can match.   

No. 9 seeds

Kansas State Alabama NC State Florida State

Top team: NC State, Midwest Regional

Would you feel confident playing a team that can count two victories against No. 2 seeds among its best moments of the season? The Wolfpack exceeded everyone's expectation for year one with Kevin Keatts at the helm, knocking off Arizona, Duke and North Carolina on the way to a 21-11 record. Omer Yurtseven has developed into an NBA-ready 7-footer and a team of transfers and players leftover from the Mark Gottfried era have bought in to Keatts high-tempo approach with positive results.   

No. 8 seeds

Creighton Virginia Tech Seton Hall Missouri

Top team: Missouri, West Regional

I don't expect Michael Porter Jr. to be able to replicate the kind of play he's showcased in high school and AAU circuit play, but even glimpses of his potential could be enough to put a solid Missouri team over the top. MPJ was the tiebreaker here between the Tigers and Creighton, and while I do think Marcus Foster is going to be a beast against his old team (Kansas State) in the First Round, I'm giving the edge to Mizzou. 

No. 7 seeds

Nevada Arkansas Rhode Island Texas A&M

Top team: Nevada, South Regional

We haven't had a plethora of at-large bids coming from the Mountain West in recent years, but Eric Musselman's Nevada team broke that trend as one of the 25 best teams in the country. Nevada shoots the three-pointer well, doesn't turn the ball over often and plays at a fast pace with an almost positionless rotation of mostly 6-7 wing players. It's beautiful basketball and a real threat to Cincinnati if they can get by Texas in the First Round. 

No. 6 seeds

Miami Florida TCU Houston

Top team: Houston, West Regional

Senior Rob Gray was a playing like a man possessed in the American Athletic Conference tournament, and it makes me think the high-energy 6-1 guard could uncork a memorable performance in his final games playing for the Cougars. After beating Wichita State and falling one play short against Cincinnati in the AAC title game, Houston looks ready to make a Sweet 16 run in the NCAA Tournament. 

No. 5 seeds

Kentucky West Virginia Clemson Ohio State

Top team: Kentucky, South Regional 

I don't think, like John Calipari asserts, that the NCAA Tournament selection committee is out to get him or this Kentucky program. But I do believe that the seed does not match the quality of team currently on the floor for the Wildcats. But since the games in November and December (and in Kentucky's case, January and early February) matter as much as the ones in March, I understand their position in the field. But as Kentucky showed in the SEC Tournament final, it's absolutely on the same level as many of the teams above it in the committee's ranking. 

No. 4 seeds

Arizona Wichita State Auburn Gonzaga

Top team: Arizona, South Regional

There just isn't another No. 4 seed with an individual who can take the game over like Deandre Ayton. We are watching the 7-1 freshman flourish before our eyes and something tells me back-to-back 30-point,  double-digit rebound performances is only the beginning of a postseason run that could continue well into the second week. No other No. 4 seed is playing its best basketball right now, and no other No. 4 seed has the Final Four look of Arizona heading into the tournament. 

No. 3 seeds

Tennessee Texas Tech Michigan State Michigan

Top team: Michigan State, Midwest Regional 

There have been moments during Michigan State's season where the Spartans haven't played very well for long stretches of games, but won anyway because they two of the best players in the country on the court in key possessions that decided the outcome. Miles Bridges and Jarren Jackson could miss handfuls of shots throughout the game but then turn around make the winning plays at both ends of the court. Whether its Bridges with a big shot, Jackson defending the rim on defense or either player getting it done attacking the basket there's just not many teams (and no No. 3 seeds) that have that luxury of two future lottery picks in the lineup. 

No. 2 seeds

Cincinnati Purdue Duke North Carolina

Top team: Duke, Midwest Regional

Duke, however, does have the luxury of multiple lottery picks in the lineup. But you can't point to mock drafts to explain why Duke the best No. 2 seed. The Blue Devils have a switch, and when it gets flipped they look like no-nonsense national champion picks. The "playing with fire" Duke did during second half comebacks at the beginning of the season planted the seed for storming back against UNC in the regular season finale and provided proof for this young team that when they commit on the defensive end they can be unbeatable.   

No. 1 seeds

Virginia Villanova Kansas Xavier

Top team: Villanova, East Regional      

There's two picks here that make sense: Virginia or Villanova. They have been the cut-above best teams in the country for most of the year, and when it comes to picking a favorite between the two the choice is stylistic. I, for one, favor the team that gets buckets. Villanova is No. 1 in offensive efficiency, No. 1 in effective field goal percentage, shoots a ton of threes and makes them at a 39.8 percent clip. And while the rotation isn't that deep (something that exposed a little bit with Phil Booth's absence from the lineup), Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are two of this year's superstars in college basketball. I've got Villanova as my title pick with Bridges as the Most Outstanding Player in what would be Jay Wright's second title in three seasons. 

CBS Sports Writer

Chip Patterson has spent his young career covering college sports from the Old North State. He's been writing and talking about football and basketball for CBS Sports since 2010. You may have heard him... Full Bio

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