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NCAA Tournament’s top 12 teams are most likely Final Four candidates

Top-three seeds make up 75 percent of the national semifinalists over the last three years.

Marvin Bagley III could lead Duke back to

Marvin Bagley III could lead Duke back to the Final Four for the first time since 2015. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Streeter Lecka

Picking the correct upsets during the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is a rush. But, let’s face it, it’s much more gratifying to accurately predict the Final Four.

That generally means avoiding too many risky picks. In each of the last three years, three of the national semifinalists were top-three seeds — the others were No. 7 (2015 and ’17) and No. 10 (2016). Six of 12 Final Four teams in that time were top seeds.

By all means, feel free to take a chance on one surprise team advancing to San Antonio in two weeks. For the other three slots, it’s wise to stick to the 1-3 seeds. Read on for a little on what makes each special.

Top seeds

Virginia: The Cavaliers have won 23 of their last 24, with the only loss in overtime. As the top defensive team in the country, they’ll be hard to beat.

Villanova: Juniors Jalen Brunson (19.4 ppg) and Mikal Bridges (18 ppg) power the nation’s top-scoring offense. Both were contributors for Nova’s 2016 NCAA title team.

Kansas: Senior point guard Devonte’ Graham (17.3 ppg, 7.5 apg) directs the Jayhawks, who reached the Elite Eight the last two years.

Xavier: When Musketeers senior Trevon Bluiett heats up from outside, watch out. He makes 42.3 percent of his 7.2 3-point attempts per game.

Second seeds

North Carolina: The Tar Heels are a force on the glass, averaging an NCAA-best 42.5 rebounds. Junior Luke Maye (17.2 ppg, 10.1 rpg) leads the way in that department.

Duke: Freshman Marvin Bagley III (21.1 ppg, 11.5 rpg) will be an NBA lottery pick in June, and the Blue Devils are a perennial threat.

Purdue: No team in the field of 68 is more accurate from long distance than the Boilermakers, who sink 42 percent of their 3-point attempts.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats rank second in the country in scoring margin, with an average of 17.4 points. They can score and play defense.

Third seeds

Michigan State: No team swats more shots than the Spartans, who average 7.4 blocks. Freshman Jaren Jackson Jr. contributes 3.2 blocks on his own.

Tennessee: The surprising Vols tied for the SEC regular-season title. They also hold a win over Purdue.

Michigan: The Wolverines’ current nine-game win streak includes winning the Big Ten Tournament.

Texas Tech: Senior Keenan Evans (17.5 ppg) is the Red Raiders’ Wooden Award finalist.

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