NCAA Tournament Betting: Last Four In, First Four Out

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, March 7, 2014 5:00 AM GMT

We are now one week away from Selection Sunday, so here are our last four in, first four out for the NCAA Tournament as of March 7th, a few days before conference tourneys hit full swing.

We are currently one week removed from Selection Sunday for the 2014 NCAA Tournament on March 16th, and while a lot can still happen between now and then in regards to who is going to the Big Dance and who is more likely NIT bound, some elements of surprise get eliminated as the big date draws closer. Thus, now is a good time to update our educated guesses on our NCAA Basketball picks to make the NCAA Tournament.

More specifically, we are attempting to predict both who the last four teams in shall be and who will be the first four teams eliminated from the NCAA Tournament. Keep in mind that conference winners get automatic bids to the Big Dance, and just about the only remaining variable at this latter stage is if there are some upsets in the conference tournaments where teams that won those tournaments would not have made the NCAA Tournament otherwise, as those schools would take away some bids from other at-large bubble teams.

Therefore, one conference tournament upset could knock out the last of our last four teams in and two upsets could cut these bids in half, while at the same time increasing our odds of being correct on the first four teams out.

Those are the challenges on the NCAA Basketball odds of making these predictions before the conclusion of the conference tournaments, and in fact even before the major conference tournaments have begun. But then again, have these challenges ever stopped us before?

So with that in mind, here are our predictions as of March 7th for the last four teams selected for the NCAA Tournament field, immediately followed by our selections of the first four teams out of the Big Dance.

Last Four In
Providence Friars: While the top two teams in the Big East, Villanova and Creighton, are getting most of the publicity this season, and understandably so, a three-game winning streak by Providence culminating with a double overtime win over Marquette now has the Friars up to third in the conference, which is ranked third in the country as a whole according to the Pomeroy Ratings. Granted the Friars have a tough game left at Creighton Saturday to end the season, but finishing in the top four of the third ranked conference in the country should be enough to get Providence in. A win at Creighton would punch the Friars’ ticket to the Big Dance right now, but even if they lose that game, and they will certainly be underdogs, they should still be in good shape as long as they win at least one game in the Big East Tournament.

Tennessee Volunteers: We have been higher on Tennessee than a lot of other people this year as we simply feel that its 19-11 record is extremely deceptive. After all, 10 of the 11 losses by the Volunteers have been by single-digits including nine-point losses to the top two teams in the country in Florida and undefeated Wichita State, and despite facing one of the toughest schedules in the nation, Tennessee is ranked 14th in the country in offensive efficiency and 39th in defensive efficiency. Furthermore, ever since an overtime loss at Texas A&M, the Vols have played like a team determined to go Dancing over the last three games, beating Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Auburn by seven, 38 and 28 points respectively!

Nebraska Cornhuskers: The Cornhuskers showed some nice potential earlier in the season by hanging close with some of the premier teams in the Big Ten, and they have now won seven of their last eight games to incredibly move up to fourth in the conference behind only Michigan, Wisconsin and Michigan State, now ahead of the likes of Ohio State and Iowa! The most recent win on the road 70-60 at Indiana may have been the game that punched the Huskers’ ticket as they needed a good road win to go along with their incredible play at home, where they are 14-1 for the whole season with the lone loss being by one point to Michigan.

Georgetown Hoyas: Our call for the very last team in was a very close call between Georgetown and Dayton, so close in fact that our call came down to the superiority of the Big East over the Atlantic 10. That is not to say that the Atlantic 10 is bad, as it is in fact the highest ranked mid-major conference in the country per Pomeroy, but it is still not a major and our feeling is that the selection committee is more likely to add a fifth Big East Team (assuming Providence joins Villanova, Creighton and probably Xavier) than it is to add a sixth Atlantic 10 team (more on that in a bit). Plus remember that Georgetown as a great non-conference win over Michigan State and two other nice wins out of conference vs. VCU and Kansas State. But the ultimate win for the Hoyas for Dancing purposes may have been beating Creighton in their last game Tuesday.

First Four Out
Dayton Flyers: The poor Flyers may be victims of a numbers game in an incredibly loaded Atlantic 10 this season that already seemingly has five teams in the NCAA Tournament. We doubt that any mid-major conference deserves to get six teams in the tournament, and four Atlantic 10 teams are locks to get a bids in Saint Louis, VCU, Massachusetts and George Washington, and the fifth team with an excellent chance right now looks like St. Joseph’s, which is 21-8 on the year. Yes, Dayton has won eight of its last nine games as of this writing, but that loss coming vs. St. Joseph’s also plays into the numbers game that has the Flyers as out first team out.

Pittsburgh Panthers: My how the mighty have fallen! We felt that the Panthers were overrated when they were highly ranked earlier in the season, and we were proven to be correct when they dropped through and eventually out of the rankings. However, we then believed that they crossed over to underrated status when they became an unranked team, but we now think we missed the boat there as the Panthers have only continued their descent even further. Pittsburgh may still be 22-8 overall, but the committee likes to factor in recent form and the Panthers have none, at least not good form anyway. Pittsburgh is 2-4 in the last six games with three of the losses coming at home. One of those was an acceptable loss to Syracuse, but the other two were bad home losses to Florida State and NC State, and even the two wins were unimpressive by seven and four points respectively over the likes of Boston College and Notre Dame with the latter coming in overtime.

Florida State Seminoles: Florida State is ranked behind Pittsburgh both on the Pomeroy Ratings and in the ACC standings, so if we have Pittsburgh out, then we have no choice but to toss out the Seminoles too despite their current three-game winning streak. Besides, their win at Pittsburgh has lost a lot of luster in light of how the Panthers have played lately and the other two wins were nothing special over Georgia Tech and Boston College. Yes they might score some brownie points if they end the year with a home win over Syracuse on Sunday, but remember that the Orange are also slumping right now with Jerami Grant still out, so even a win there will not help the Seminoles as much as it would have earlier on when Syracuse was peaking and at full strength.

Arkansas Razorbacks: The SEC is probably the weakest of the major conferences this season with a large separation between the Big Two of Florida and Kentucky and the rest of the conference, and while Arkansas did beat Kentucky twice, the Razorbacks were rather erratic vs. good competition this year with the only other win vs. a Pomeroy Top 50 team all year coming vs. SMU at home way back in the third game of the season, before anyone had any idea jusy hpw good the Mustangs were going to be. We simply do not feel that the SEC is good enough to get four teams in this year and Tennessee has simply played better vs. a tougher schedule than Arkansas has thanks to the Volunteers facing a stronger non-conference schedule.