We have arrived at the main bracket of 64 teams in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, so here is a final look at our predictions for the Final Four and Championship, future odds included.
The First Four of the NCAA Tournament has now concluded, which means that today marks the beginning of the Free NCAA Brackets Contest at SBR, so do not miss the 11:00am ET deadline to enter! More importantly, we are taking one final look at our Final Four and predicted NCAA Basketball Champion, as the selection committee forced us to make one change from our original selections.
Three of the four teams we originally had in our Final Four are still good to go, but we must amend the fourth participant because the committee placed two of our selections Louisville and Duke in the same Midwest Region.
You will see which of those two teams is our choice in a minute, but more importantly, we had to go in an entirely different direction in the West Region, where Gonzaga is the number one seed. We feel that the West is the weakest of the four regions and our selection of a low seed to advance out of it and proceed to the Final Four bears that out. We think this is the region that will make a lot of brackets if picked correctly, as we see Gonzaga being the first one-seed out.
So without further ado, here are our final official Final Four, Championship Game and National Champion selections. The odds provided are to win the NCAA National Championship, courtesy of 5 Dimes.
Florida Gators (+700): We are not backing down from our original selection of the Gators winning the national championship despite them losing 66-63 to Mississippi in the SEC Championship Game. Even with that loss, Florida remains second in the country in defensive efficiency and fifth in offensive efficiency. To give you an idea of how remarkable that is, no other team in the country is even in the top 10 in both categories. Florida has also changed its culture, as while it is still a very good three-point shooting team ranking 23rd in the country in that department, it no longer relies entirely on it like it used to as it is ranked an amazing eighth in two-point shooting and this is the best Florida defense in recent memory. The oddsmakers have certainly taken notice as the Gators are actually the favorites to win the South Region on the future odds despite being the three-seeds.
Louisville Cardinals (+475): We also still have Louisville as Florida’s opponent in the National Championship Game, so the Cardinals obviously get the nod over Duke in the Midwest Region. And why not? Louisville has only further strengthened its position since we first made our original Final Four selections a few weeks ago, bullying it way to a Big East Conference Championship by winning every Big East Tournament Game by double-digits, culminating with a 17-point win over the Syracuse Orange in the Final! The Cardinals dominated despite playing in a powerful conference that ranked second as a whole on the Pomeroy Ratings, and they did it with aggressive, suffocating defense, leading the entire nation in defensive efficiency and ranking second in defensive turnover percentage. That great defense did cover up some offensive weaknesses though, and we think that will be Louisville’s downfall it does indeed get matched up with a Florida team that can shoot over the defense.
Indiana Hoosiers (+550): Indiana had a surprising early exit in the Big Ten Tournament, losing to the Wisconsin Badgers for the second time this season. That did not prevent the selection committee from still giving the Hoosiers a number one seed though, and we agree that they have done enough over their full body of work to merit advancement to the Final Four. Indiana leads the country in offensive efficiency while ranking eighth in effective field goal percentage, a figure enhanced by ranking second in three-point shooting at a blistering 41.1 percent, although they are just fine thank you on two-point attempts also at 52.2 percent. Of course it helps to have not one but two Player of the Year candidates on the same team in Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. Perhaps most importantly, the Hoosiers play defense too, ranking 19th in efficiency at that end of the floor and an identical 19th in effective field goal percentage allowed.
Pittsburgh Panthers (+5500): We decided to go bombs away in the West by picking the eighth-seeded Panthers to advance to Atlanta, and the Panthers could actually have a fairly easy path in a weak region if they do get by Gonzaga in the third round (round of 32 this Saturday) as we expect. Believe it of not, Pittsburgh is one of only four teams in the entire country ranked in the top 20 in both offensive efficiency (9th) and defensive efficiency (17th) and the Panthers are actually ranked ninth in the country overall on the Pomeroy Ratings! That bears repeating, as a team that is only seeded eighth in its own region is ranked ninth in the entire country on Pomeroy. That alone gives Pittsburgh sick value at 55/1 to win the national title, and at the very least it can set up some great hedging opportunities should Pitt continue advancing.
Florida over Indiana
Louisville over Pittsburgh