March Madness officially shifts into high gear with one of sports truly great events. Here are 11 teams to keep an eye on for your NCAA Tournament picks. Join us inside for all our betting tips.
Introduction: What Can Aggies, Buffaloes, Turtles, Moutaineers and Pirates Do For You?
They won’t win it all but these 11 College basketball teams may win you some money along the way and maybe even your Bracket Pool in the end. Santa Claus has his List and I have mine and this is what has come out of the busy, busy Lab this weekend. The Oregon Ducks (27-6 SU, 18-12 ATS) and Dillon Brooks (16.7 ppg) were going to be on this List of the underrated until talk of a #1 Seed (probably in the West Region) cropped up so chirping about a team which may surprise everyone if named a top seed—Joe Lunardi currently has the Ducks as the #2 Seed in the West Region with North Carolina (East), Virginia (South), Kansas (Midwest) and Michigan State (West) tabbed as the four top seeds for the Big Dance—as were the Yale Bulldogs (22-6 SU, 11-6-2 ATS) and Makai Mason and their disciplined style from the Ivy League but the theory is to try to choose teams that are somewhat under the radar and is everything goes right, maybe win 2 games and make it to the Sweet Sixteen and help in Brackets and Yale could win its Round 1 matchup but it’s that (if) Round 2 game against a likely bigger team from a bigger conference that keeps the Bulldogs in the dog house and off the list. Southern Conference stud (Tennessee) Chattanooga (29-5 SU, 16-13 ATS) and Tre McLean (12.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) are also very good but their strength of schedule will also hurt should the Moccasins make it out of the Opening Round (of 64, 68 to 64 is an Invisible Round) and even with so much parity, it’s very hard to see Chattanooga in the Sweet 16. And, the Wichita State Shockers from the MVC are always a team to watch and one sports gamblers and serious Bracket players should already know about, as are the Big 12’s Iowa State Cyclones. So, watch Oregon, Yale, Wichita State and Iowa State too, as well as others like the sexy-nicknamed quarter of the Akron Zips, Dayton Flyers, UALR Trojans and Xavier Musketeers, but these 11 below seem to have dodged the spotlight and all seem like good teams to watch and pull for, back in the Futures market if desired and take in individual games if the spot is right.
And only five of the teams from the list below have any real chance of winning it all if looking at this list from that perspective. They are West Virginia, Kentucky, Texas A&M, Maryland and Seton Hall as if Donald Trump is leading the race for the Republican nomination in the US Presidential race and you can order a Pizza off your SmartPhone by using this thing called an “App” these strange days, maybe the Pirates can swashbuckle the Field, make a dream run by making all opponents walk the plank and shock the world with some National Championship trophy booty. Stranger things have happened.
The #24-ranked California Bears (23-10 SU, 18-14-1 against the NCAA Tournament odds) and Jalen Brown (15.0 ppg) should win their Tourney opener and be a win away from a Sweet Sixteen appearance so (obviously) the route and their potential opponents will be a big thing but tested by conference play this Regular Season in the underappreciated Pac-12, California can hang with the best of them as the 24th national ranking and a 63-62 loss against possible #1 seed Virginia in Charlottesville earlier this year reveals. The Bears are playing good basketball right now and can do it, but a Sweet Sixteen appearance will require a little bit of Luck.
Like Cal, the Colorado Buffaloes (22-11 SU, 19-11 ATS) and Josh Scott (16.1, 8.8 rpg) have sharpened their teeth on the Pac-12 schedule, and also like the Bears, a Sweet 16 appearance would be seemingly miraculous but Colorado could do it, Bracket route-depending. This is a very athletic squad but overall (outside of Conference play), the Buffaloes played a pretty weak schedule with a win over BYU the only thing that stands out. Still, Colorado can win a Round 1 game and maybe a Round 2 game and is not thought of by many pundits. They’re pretty good.
The Connecticut Huskies (23-10 SU, 15-13-1 ATS) always seems to turn it up a notch at this time of year and this season is no different and the team will play in the AAC Tournament Championship Game later today against Memphis (ESPN, 3:15 p.m. ET/12:15 p.m. PT) and the Huskies and Shonn Miller (12.8 ppg) beat Michigan and Seton Hall earlier this year. Like California and Colorado, Connecticut “probably won’t but could “ make the Sweet 16 and any talk of a National Championship this time around is just wasted breath.
Gonzaga (26-7 SU, 15-15-1 ATS) played its way into the NCAA Tournament, earning an Automatic Bid by beating St. Mary’s in the WCC Conference Tournament here in Las Vegas. With the workmanlike Kyle Wiltjer (20.7 ppg) and Domantas Sabonis (17.4 ppg, 11.6 rpg), the Bulldogs provide a tough presence underneath and know the NCAA Tournament like bees know honey. But the Zags are down a tad this season and an early season win against (then) #18 Connecticut is the only real thing to brag about. But with their size, Confidence, Roster and Momentum, Gonzaga can make a Sweet Sixteen run, Region and Route provided.
Kentucky (25-8 SU, 17-16 ATS) got so much spotlight last season that other College Basketball teams had to use Flashlights and this year Jamal Murray (20.2 ppg), Marcus Lee (6.3 rpg) and the Wildcats have gone under the radar as they haven’t seemed to be stocked with five NBA-ready guys in their starting lineup. But this is a very, very dangerous team and one on which some money can be made it seems. The SEC is a brutal Conference, although maybe not as strong as the Big 12, ACC and Pac-12 presently, but the top dogs will still bite your ass. And bite it hard. And Kentucky is one of those teams and have been playing well and know how to win. This team could make the Sweet Sixteen Elite 8 and maybe even the Final Four if everything goes right. But making it to the Semifinals or NCAA Championship game seem unlikely this campaign, though it can be done. Still, watch (and use) the Cats (16/1 to win National Championship, William Hill).
Like Kentucky, it seems that Maryland (25-8 SU, 15-16-1 ATS) and Merlo Trimble (14.4 pg, 5.1 apg) can get to the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight (Region, Route dependent) and maybe even the Final Four but winning four games in the Tourney by the Terrapins seems unlikely, although this team can play with anyone and have been tested by the rigors of Big Ten play this Regular Season. Maryland almost knocked off #2 Michigan state in the Conference title tilt on Saturday and play the kind of basketball that should suit them well in March. But the Terps will have to believe, be hot-shooting and have the right path to get as far as they can. And they can. Although not talked about much in that light this season, like aforementioned Kentucky (16/1 to win National Championship, William Hill), Maryland (25/1 to win National Championship, Paddy Power) could dribble through the minefield and shock and win it all.
Northern Iowa Panthers
Like Gonzaga, Northern Iowa (22-12 SU, 19-13-1 ATS) and Wes Washpun (14.3 ppg, 5.2 apg) won its way into the Big Dance by defeating Evansville in the MVC Championship Game and this is a talented team which can win 2 straight and maybe get to the Sweet 16 if everything goes their way. And if you’re not yet impressed with Northern Iowa (500/1 to win National Championship, at Pinnacle), remember they beat (then) #1 North Carolina, 73-71, at Home in Cedar Falls in the the third game of the season (Nov. 21). Can you hear me now?
Seton Hall Pirates
Seton Hall (23-9 SU, 15-17-1 ATS) is sneaky good and sneaky good is good this time of year. The Pirates and Isaiah Whitehead (18.4 ppg, 5.0 apg) won the Big East Tournament , defeating (national ranking) #5 Xavier on Friday and #3 Villanova on Saturday, 69-67. The Pirates have also beaten Georgia and Wichita State and the big question now is, how far can Seton Hall (80/1 to win National Championship, Paddy Power) go and does it have any real chance at becoming Men’s Division I Basketball champions this year and the answer is surprisingly “yes”. But of course this team will need to be in the right Region and not run into a school like Kansas, Michigan State, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Oklahoma or Baylor too soon.
Texas A&M Aggies
Texas A&M (26-7 SU, 15-11-2 ATS) and Jalen Jones (15.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg) are facing Kentucky in the SEC Tournament championship game right now (50-50, 2H, 13:00) and like Kentucky, Maryland and Seton Hall, the Aggies are a team I’m really high on heading into this Tourney and one which could definitely make a run at a shock title if it can beat a Michigan State or a Kansas in the right spot. It will be hard, but this former Big 12 school can hang with the best of them and is worth looking into in the NCAA Future Book National Championship market before it all tips off (66/1 to win National Championship, William Hill). So get out a pen and write this one down and use the Aggies through your own Bracket if you believe and if the path isn’t too perilous. This team can hang and if forced to pick just one from this List to win it all, the Aggies and the sweet 66/1 odds would be my choice. Write this one down buttercup.
St. Joseph’s Hawks
St. Joseph’s (26-7 SU, 22-10-1 ATS) and Isaiah Miles (18.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg) just won the A-10 Conference title over an underrated VCU squad and are in the running for NCAA Basketball Point Spread Champion—something sports bettors can probably appreciate more. A win against Virginia Tech may not make the Hawks résumé glow, and the odds reveal that St. Joseph’s (400/1 to win National Championship, William Hill) is a real longshot to win the championship but this is a team that can win two games and make the Sweet Sixteen and maybe help in some people’s Brackets. An Elite Eight appearance would probably be this team’s threshold.
West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia (26-8 SU, 20-11 ATS) and Jaysean Paige (13.3 ppg) and Devin Williams (13.1 ppg) will give St. Joe’s a run for their money in the ATS Champion race and Head Coach Bob Huggins has a team built to win it all, so remember that when making your NCAA Tournament picks as this school has toughened itself by playing the in the hardest Conference (Big 12) in College Hoops this campaign. West Virginia (28/1 to win National Championship, William Hill) can score with the best of them (79.2 ppg, #40) and plays solid Defense (66.6 ppg, #54) and can scoring from a number of places.
NCAA TOURNAMENT MID-RANGE ODDS PICKS: Kentucky 16/1, Maryland 25/1, West Virginia 28/1
NCAA TOURNAMENT LONGSHOT PICKS: Texas A&M 66/1 , Seton Hall 80/1, St. Joseph’s 400/1
NCAA TOURNAMENT's 11 BEST BRACKET-BUILDING TEAMS: Connecticut, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Kentucky, Maryland, Seton Hall, St. Joseph’s, Texas A&M, UALR, West Virginia, Wichita State