Both the college football season and NFL football season have ended. That means the next big time sporting event is the NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament. The usual favorites, Duke, Michigan State, and Villanova, are expected to contend for the 2018 Men’s College Basketball title.
However, there are some other teams that could throw a wrench into the Dookies, Spartans, and Wildcats plans. I provide information on all the top contenders as well as laying out a case for the three dogs that could turn the tournament on its head.
Updated 2018 March Madness Odds
Michigan State Spartans 5/1
Sparty has looked like close to an unbeatable team this season. Miles Bridges might be the best player in college basketball while Coach Izzo’s squads always play great team defense. In the past few seasons, Sparty hasn’t shown up, though. In 2016, MSU left after a Round 1 loss to Middle Tennessee State. Last season, Michigan State exited in Round 2.
Villanova Wildcats 6/1
Villanova will always be a contender as long as Jay Wright is their coach. But, this season’s Villanova team could be in for a tough, early exit from the NCAA Tournament. Phil Booth is out indefinitely. During the win over Butler on Feb. 11, Villanova player Eric Paschall suffered a concussion. Paschall is listed as out indefinitely. It doesn’t feel like Nova’s year.
Virginia Cavaliers 7/1
The Virginia Cavaliers have every reason to be the team to beat in the NCAA Tournament. The Cavaliers allow an unbelievable 52.7 points per game. That ranks first in NCAA Basketball. Opponents only shoot 37.7% from the field versus the Cavaliers’ D. Virginia shoots over 46% from the field. That means the Cavaliers not only have a great defense, they’ve also got an excellent offense.
With all of that being written, Virginia could find it tough to take home the NCAA Tournament. The consensus number one team has had moments where their mental lapses have cost them. The defense was terrible in the loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies on Feb. 10.
Duke Blue Devils 8/1
The Blue Devils might be the team to back. There’s no doubt that when Duke’s young players are at their best, the Dookies are almost impossible to beat. Arguably the best coach in college basketball history, Coach Mike Krzyzewski, fields a contender year in and year out.
Duke’s offense is unbelievable. It averages 88.8 points per game, tops in college hoops, from 50% shooting from the field. Duke shoots around 39% from the three-point line. It should be very difficult to score with the Devils once the NCAA Tournament comes around.
The key for Duke, like it is every season, is how well the Devils play man-to-man defense. The D hasn’t gelled just yet. Once it does, watch out!
Purdue Boilermakers 10/1
Purdue checks off all the boxes to be an NCAA Tournament contender. The Boilermakers are led by an excellent guard in Carsen Edwards. Edwards averages 17 points per game. He also dishes 3 assists and grabs 4 boards per. Edwards isn’t the lone reason Purdue deserves some consideration as a team that could win the NCAA Tournament.
Purdue center Isaac Haas is one of the top centers in college basketball. Haas is 7′ 2″. He weighs 290 pounds. He shoots a blistering 60.9% from the field while averaging 15 points and over 5 boards per. He’s got 35 blocks on the season.
With a devastating inside-outside game, the Purdue Boilermakers might be ready to grab the College Basketball National Championship. If you’re looking to make a future wager, don’t sleep on Purdue.
Arizona Wildcats 14/1
Definitely, don’t sleep on the Arizona Wildcats. Coach Sean Miller is considered the best college basketball coach in the nation to never make it to the Final Four. He might have the best team he’s ever had at Arizona. Truth be told, the Wildcats can spend a lot of time watching their best player, 7′ 1″ center DeAndre Ayton, dominate. That’s led to Zona losses.
However, AZ looked terrific in their beat down of USC in Tucson last week. To me, it was as good of a win as I’ve seen from the Arizona Wildcats this season. When everything’s clicking, Zona has at least 4 players that they can lean on: Ayton, Allonzo Trier, Dusan Ristic, and Rawle Alkins. That’s a lot of firepower heading into March Madness.
Ohio State Buckeyes 14/1
The Ohio State Buckeyes might be the best team in the loaded Big Ten. Yes, Ohio State might be better than either Michigan State or Purdue. The Buckeyes are in first place in the Big Ten. Could Ohio State really get into the Final Four for the first time in over a decade?
I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t know. Ohio State leads the Big Ten, but there’s nothing remarkable about them. I’m not sure if they can step it up when they must. At the odds, it’s tough to back the Buckeyes.
Cincinnati Bearcats 16/1
Cincinnati deserves some attention. The Bearcats boast an unbelievable defense. Opponents average less than 56 points per game versus the Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincy holds their opponents to 36% shooting from the field. Opposing squads shoot only 30% from three. That means Cincinnati’s defense is legit.
The Bearcats average 76 points per game. They beat their opponents by over 20 points per on average. It’s rare to find a team that can speed it up on offense while forcing opposing squads to slow it down on defense. Because Cincinnati is the best team in college basketball at doing that, they deserve a ton of respect as we head into March.
Xavier Musketeers 18/1
Xavier could step it up during the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers have an excellent guard in Trevor Bluiett. Bluiett averages close to 20 points per. He also leads the Musketeers in rebounds per with 5.7. That’s one of the reasons it’s difficult to back Xavier. Without the requisite inside-outside game, Xavier will only go as far as Bluiett takes them. That could be all the way to the Final Four. Or, it could only be to Round 2.
Top 20/1 or Higher Odds Dogs
North Carolina Tar Heels 20/1
North Carolina appears to be rounding into top form. UNC won its fourth straight after beating Notre Dame 83 to 66 on Feb. 12. The Tar Heels had beaten Duke and NC State prior to taking down the Irish. The win over Notre Dame was the Tar Heels’ fourth victory straight up and against the spread. Make no mistake, the defending NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament Champions have what it takes to repeat this season. As long as point guard Joel Berry II stays healthy, the Tar Heels should continue to play well. That’s bad news for North Carolina’s opponents.
Gonzaga Bulldogs 25/1
Like North Carolina, the team that the Heels beat in last season’s NCAA Tournament, has started to put it all together. The Gonzaga Bulldogs marched into St. Mary’s on Feb. 10 and dominated the Gaels 78 to 65. That was Gonzaga’s seventh straight win. Gonzaga averages close to 86 points per game, making the Zags one of the highest-scoring teams in college basketball.
Defensively, the Zags have improved. They must continue to improve defending the three-point line to have a real shot at winning the National Championship, though. I believe they will. At 25 to 1, they’re worth a look.
There’s a chance Kentucky doesn’t even garner a bid to the NCAA Tournament. That’s how badly Kentucky is playing right now. The Wildcats lost their fourth straight on Feb. 14, a 66 to 76 loss to the Auburn Tigers.
The thing is, I can’t help but feel that John Calipari turns things around. The Wildcats have a ton of talent. Calipari hasn’t figured out exactly how to get that talent to play together just yet. Yes, Coach Cal is running out of time. Coach Cal’s pulled off miracles before, though. So, consider Kentucky if you want to take a big shot.