NCAA Tournament 2019 bracket picks and best predictions from proven computer model  03/21/2019 12:21:00   CBS Sports Staff

The 2019 NCAA Tournament field is officially set. Fairleigh Dickinson, Belmont, North Dakota State, and Arizona State all won their First Four games and will head to March Madness 2019 starting on Thursday. The East Region of the 2019 NCAA bracket looks like a potential minefield this year, with No. 1 overall seed Duke, Big Ten Tournament champ Michigan State, and SEC regular season champ LSU. The same region also features teams like Maryland, the fourth-youngest team in Division I, and Virginia Tech, which notched three straight NCAA Tournament bids for the first time in school history. Every region is prone to upsets in the wildest event in sports, and anyone filling out a 2019 March Madness bracket will try to sort the true title contenders from teams that should be on upset alert. Before you fill out your 2019 NCAA Tournament bracket ahead of Thursday's 12:15 p.m. ET lock, consult the March Madness predictions and picks from the proven computer model at SportsLine.

Their proven projection model has simulated every game in the tournament 10,000 times. It absolutely crushed its March Madness picks last year, finishing in the top five percent of all CBS Sports brackets and calling Villanova to win it all.

It knows how to spot an upset as well. The same model has produced brackets that have nailed 12 of the 18 first-round upsets by double-digit seeds the last three years. It also nailed some massive upsets last year, including huge wins by No. 13 seed Buffalo over No. 4 seed Arizona, No. 11 seed Loyola-Chicago over No. 6 seed Miami, and No. 10 seed Butler over No. 7 seed Arkansas.

There's simply no reason to rely on luck when there's proven technology to help you dominate your 2019 NCAA Tournament pools. Now, the model has simulated every possible matchup in the 2019 NCAA Tournament and revealed its optimal bracket. You can only see it over at SportsLine.

If you're looking for a pick that will give you a huge edge in your 2019 March Madness bracket, SportsLine's model says you should back No. 5 Marquette with confidence. Look for the Golden Eagles to bounce back from a tough end of the season to make a Sweet 16 run.

Sixteen years after Dwyane Wade led Marquette to the Final Four with a miraculous NCAA Tournament performance, the Golden Eagles have another superstar guard they'll be leaning on heavily. Markus Howard was the 2018-19 Big East Player of the Year after averaging 25.0 points per game and will be key to Marquette's success in the NCAA Tournament 2019. 

Howard dropped 53 points in an overtime win against Creighton on Jan. 9 and also had 45-point performances in wins over Buffalo and Kansas State, both tournament teams. He's a one-man scoring machine who hit at least five 3-pointers in eight games this season. During his incredible three-year career in Milwaukee, Howard is shooting 43.6 percent from beyond the arc.

On Thursday, Howard will face fellow superstar guard Ja Morant of Murray State. Morant is expected to be a top-five pick in the NBA Draft, but the model gives Howard and his supporting staff an edge because of their superior shooting. The Golden Eagles advance in a strong 77 percent of SportsLine's simulations.

Another curveball: the No. 9 seed Baylor Bears win the always-tough-to-predict 8 vs. 9 matchup against Syracuse. The zone defense of Syracuse is iconic and can be tough to prepare for on short notice, but Baylor has had several days to gameplan for Jim Boeheim's 2-3. And Baylor already has an enormous built-in advantage over the zone to capitalize on. 

Rebounding out of a zone defense is extremely difficult because you don't have the benefit of knowing who you're supposed to be putting a body on while the shot goes up. That's a major reason why Syracuse ranks just 310th in the nation out of 347 Division I schools in defensive rebounding percentage at 69.4. 

On the other side, the Bears are 10th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage at 36.6 and have a strong opportunity to extend possessions and dominate second-chance points on Thursday. Mark Vital leads Baylor with 3.5 offensive boards per game, and the high-energy guard will be vital to Baylor out-lasting Syracuse in the first round to set up a date with 1-seed Gonzaga. Plus, Syracuse will be without Frank Howard, its starting point guard who was averaging 23 points per game. Howard is suspended for violating an athletic department policy, giving Baylor even more of an edge.

So who else makes a deep run in the NCAA Tournament? Visit SportsLine now to see which No. 3 seed reaches the Final Four, and see who wins every single game, all from the model that has nailed 12 of the 18 double-digit upsets in the first round the last three years.

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