The NCAA Tournament officially tips off Tonight in Dayton with two of the First Four games. Join Teddy & Pauly in these game previews as well as an in-depth look at the East and West Regions in Tuesday’s SportsBIT show.
Bettors Hammering Duke
Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils were the preseason favorites to cut down the nets in Phoenix. The year didn’t go quite as planned with some injuries and eight total losses, but the Dukies are surging into the Big Dance after winning the ACC Tournament – beating three ranked teams along the way. The various sportsbooks have re-installed Duke as the NCAA Tournament favorite and bettors are jumping all over the Blue Devils even though they are the No. 2 seed in the East. Defending national champion Villanova is the No. 1 in the East and the top overall seed in the Big Dance – the first defending champion to be the latter since Florida in 2007. Those Gators did repeat. Teddy & Pauly believe the Wildcats will return to the Final Four. Looking for a first-round upset in the East? Consider No. 14 New Mexico State over No. 3 Baylor, which finished the season just 5-6.
First Final Four For Zags?
Out West, one-loss Gonzaga is a No. 1 seed for the second time in school history as the Zags look for their first-ever Final Four trip. No Pac-12 team has won the national championship this century, but Teddy & Pauly believe West No. 2 Arizona will reach the Final Four – even though the Wildcats were beaten rather soundly by Gonzaga in the regular seasons. The Pac-12 was very deep at the top this year and Arizona was that league’s tournament champion. A first-round upset pick: No. 10 VCU over No. 7 Saint Mary’s.
The four final teams to get at-large bids and four small-conference champions as usual comprise the First Four in Dayton this year. An interesting matchup Tuesday features No. 11 Wake Forest vs. No. 11 Kansas State. The ACC and Big 12 were rated as the top two conferences this year so that game could be an early “tell” which was the best. Wake is a terrific offensive team behind ACC Player of the Year runner-up John Collins but can’t defend a lick. K-State wins with defense but struggles at the free-throw line.
Weather Playing Havoc
Winter storm Stella, which is hitting the Midwest and Northeastern portions of the USA hard and led to thousands of canceled flights, is causing travel nightmares for some NCAA Tournament teams. Providence was leaving Monday, a day early, for Dayton for its Wednesday night matchup against Southern California in the First Four. Villanova left Philadelphia on Monday afternoon for Buffalo to get ahead of the storm that's projected to last three days. This is a common theme to schools from or playing in affected areas.