Conference Championship Week is hard upon us and the NCAA basketball odds to earn automatic bids are out as we look who will win each of the Power 6 titles.
Watching the conference tournaments take shape this weekend as the regular season came to a close, I was struck by the thought that after a year in which so many upsets took place, maybe college basketball would return to some semblance of normalcy now that March has arrived.
One of the many little voices in my head answered back, "Don't bet on it," quickly rebutting that notion.
If there is a usual suspect in the old Power 6 conferences to bet on, it would have to be the Kansas Jayhawks who enter the Big 12 Conference ranked No. 1 in the nation and coming off their 12th-straight regular season crown. The NCAA basketball odds have Bill Self's squad pegged as the chalkiest of conference winners at -125, in part because the Jayhawks will be practically playing at home with the tourney held in Kansas City.
Kansas closed on an 11-game win streak, 10 of those against Big 12 foes and another vs. Kentucky. The Jayhawks should reach the finals after taking down Baylor (10/1) in the semis, and all signs point to a third matchup against Oklahoma (5/2). I don't really like the chalk, but I do like Kansas to head into the NCAA's on a lucky 13-game win streak and with the top No. 1 seed.
Virginia Draws The Chalk In ACC
North Carolina scored a nice 76-72 win at Duke on Saturday to claim the regular season ACC title, but it is runner-up Virginia showing up as the favorite on the college basketball odds. The Cavaliers are fetching +200 at The Greek with the Tar Heels close behind (+250).
Duke, by virtue of its public following, is priced at +300 as the No. 5 seed with Miami (FL), tied with Virginia for 2nd-place, +350 as the 3-seed. Notre Dame, seeded fourth, is +1200.
I do believe we'll see a third UNC-Duke battle in the semifinals, but it's the clash between the Cavs and Hurricanes that is most intriguing. That winner is going to take it all, and I like Miami to pull off a mild upset.
X-Men Prevail In Big East, SEC Wide Open
Like Kansas in the Big 12, Villanova is the prohibitive favorite in the Big East with the Wildcats sitting on -125 line to take down the league crown and a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Men's Tournament that would go with that honor. I like what Jay Wright's guys have done, but they've burned me too many times in the past to put any money on them.
Xavier (+200) is going to get past Seton Hall (+800) in the semifinals and then sail past Providence (+800) in the championship tilt.
Everyone loves Kentucky to finally get it in gear and win another SEC Championship. The college basketball odds certainly do with the Wildcats +130 at BetOnline. It wouldn't surprise me, but I'm more inclined to bet either Vanderbilt (+300) or Texas A&M (+450) and am definitely more interested in seeing their third matchup of the year which would come in the semifinals. I'm going with my heart with this free NCAA basketball pick with a play on my beloved Aggies.
Ducks Team To Beat In Pac-12, Spartans Lead Big Ten
It was a wild in the Pac 12 this season, but Oregon closed pretty strong to claim the regular season title. The Ducks are +350 to win the league tourney, putting them second behind Arizona (+200 at Bet365). Those two should meet in the semifinals, and as dangerous as the Wildcats can be in any bracket, my money is on Oregon to win that contest before meeting Utah (+350) in the championship game.
I get why Michigan State is the favorite to win the Big Ten, the Spartans paying off at +135. Tom Izzo has a very strong group that can play on both ends of the court, but it's Indiana that closed stronger and has a slightly easier path to the Big Ten Championship. The Hoosiers (+350) finished by playing five ranked teams in their final seven games, the only loss at East Lansing, and my money will be on Indiana avenging that setback to cut down the nets in Indianapolis this Sunday.