The No. 1 seeds are far from locks this season with plenty of dark horses having a real chance to be the next Cinderella story. Let’s review the NCAAB odds and predict this year’s Final Four.
No. 1 is No Guarantee This Year
This was the year that the college basketball decision makers put on their collective thinking caps and came up with a rule change that shortened the shot clock from 35 to 30 seconds. That’s one change that was universally hailed as a good thing and it has made for more possessions and as a result more action. Whether or not it has had a direct correlation to the lack of a true, ostensibly invincible, frontrunner as in prior years is a topic for another day.
For instance, this season’s top-ten teams combined for 74 losses, the most since the Associated Press began its polling almost 70 years ago. Digging a little deeper we find that top-five teams were upset on 37 occasions and 21 of those losses came against unranked teams which tied for the most ever in one season. And finally, number one ranked teams were defeated an historic seven times during the college basketball regular season. So as you reflect back on those legendary Kentucky, Kansas, Duke and North Carolina teams from years gone by you will see no resemblance to those powerhouses in this year’s Big Dance.
The public and the pundits will dismiss the Big East regular season champs Villanova as an also-ran because they lost their conference tournament final to the gritty Seton Hall Pirates 69-67. But this team is built for the long haul and let’s face facts; there are chinks in the armors of every team in the NCAA Tournament. Therefore, if you are looking for an excuse as to why one team won’t go the distance you will be able to make a case against all 68 teams this year. The Wildcats went 25-8 (21-10 ATS) and play a suffocating brand of defense ranking 20th in the nation in points allowed. The ’Cats will most certainly need to get more aggressive on the glass but after averaging 77 PPG (83rd) they can hang and bang with the best.
National Champion Odds: Villanova +1400 at Bovada
Everyone wants to be on the dark horse but no one really knows which pony to back. As the tournament unfolds we watch the Cinderella team that captures the imagination right up until the time they bow in the Sweet 16 or the Elite Eight. Well, if we are looking for the team that fits that glass slipper this year I suggest you take a flier on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. Here’s a team that possesses one of the most efficient offenses in the country but unfortunately has a defense that is middling at best surrendering 70.6 points per game. Yes, I know they were blown out in the conference tournament by eventual ACC tournament champ North Carolina but it was that same Tar Heels team that fell to the Irish 80-76 a little over a month ago. The fact is the Irish will not face the Heels in their bracket unless they get to the Elite Eight but by that time NC will be done in by Indiana.
National Champion Odds: Notre Dame +12500 at 5Dimes
As I have waxed prosaic on the vulnerabilities and deficiencies of the No. 1 seeds I am hereby reversing course when it comes to the Oregon Ducks. If you are a chalk eater, then the Ducks are for you as the NCAA Tournament Odds for Oregon to win the National Championship sit at +2300 which ain’t too bad considering the return on the other No. 1’s are under 10-1. The Ducks had the best regular season record in the Pac-12 and went on to crush Utah in the conference championship game by the score of 88-57. Oregon compiled a record of 27-7 straight up and 17-14 ATS and boasts a hidden gem by the name of Chris Boucher who was a basketball neophyte at age 19 but has blossomed into a big time player. If you are jonesing for a No. 1 seed with a healthy return on your investment then you can do no better than Oregon.
National Championship Odds: Oregon +2500 at YouWager
The University of Virginia may be the top seed in the Midwest but that won’t mean a thing when Michigan State represents at the Final Four. The Spartans have a legendary coach in Tom Izzo and the Big 10 Conference tournament champs look poised to make a big run in the Big Dance. This latest itineration of Izzo’s squad is averaging over 80 points per game on offense and has the 17th ranked defense allowing only 63.4 PPG. The team can match up physically to any team in the nation and transitions equally as well. MSU could very easily be hoisting the National Championship trophy this year.
National Championship Odds: Michigan State +825 at Heritage