NCAA Hoops Thoughts As We Head to the Final Four

Auriemma
Auriemma's Huskies could meet another unbeaten team in the finals but is anyone watching?

The NCAA Final Four is now set and waiting to play on Saturday night in Dallas are Florida, UConn, Wisconsin and Kentucky. The Gators will play the Huskies and the irony here is that UConn is the last team defeat the Gators. Should they and Wisconsin both advance, the Gators would be playing the only other team to beat them in the 2013-2014 season.

As fantastic a run the Kentucky Wildcats are on, it’s hard to think the Wisconsin Badgers aren’t on a more amazing one. Consider for a second that this really isn’t one of Head Coach Bo Ryan’s best defensive units and that star player Frank Kaminsky was nothing but a bench-sitter most of the team last year. When the Badgers and Wildcats hook up on Saturday it will be the ultimate in college basketball contrasts.

Kentucky is dominated by freshmen who were McDonald’s All-Americans and the best players from their respective states. Wisconsin is made up of ‘really good’ players but nothing like what the Wildcats will bring to the court. I’ll give you my Final Fur breakdown later this week but rest assured, both games promise to be enticing and entertaining matchups.

The Women’s’ Game Continues to Suffer

Every year I hear how women’s’ college basketball needs just the right situation to capture the attention of basketball fans who could otherwise care less. This year appears to be offering exactly what some seem to think it needs in what could be a match-up of unbeaten teams in the National Championship game.

Assuming Notre Dame and UConn advance to the finals, both the Irish and the Huskies will do so with totally unblemished records. Yet, there is very little talk about it and frankly that’s a shame but the women’s’ game has yet to make the proper adjustments to even give it a chance.

I’ve argued for a long time that the women’s’ game needs to change when it plays its’ tournament so as not to be completely hidden behind the men’s’ games. Still they have yet to make the proper moves to gain any attention. The men’s’ game has already started toying with the idea of starting later so as not to be put on the back burner while college football gets the bulk of the attention.

I strongly encourage the women’s’ game to take steps to get itself out from underneath the shadow of the monster that is the men’s’ game and even a battle between two unbeaten teams can’t help that.

Wiggins Heads to the Pros

In what has to be the least surprising announcement in recent basketball history, Kansas’ Freshman Andrew Wiggins has made it clear he will be entering the NBA Draft this summer. The 6’8″ swingman will more than likely be chosen among the top three selections. With his teammate Joel Embiid already in the draft, only Jabari Parker’s entrance would change the order of the three might go.

Wiggins, Embiid and perhaps Parker entering the draft after one year of college ball again has to raise questions about whether the current rule really accomplishes anything. Part of me would love to see these kids have to fall in line with the NFL rule of being out of high school for three years before entering the draft but I also understand the games are very different.

If a young man coming out of high school is good enough to enter the NBA then he shouldn’t be held out but I do believe there has to be an out for some of these kids who chose to enter the draft but don’t get selected. I’m not sure how this process would or should work but something has to change in my opinion.

Kentucky Short Chalk in Elite Eight Matchup with Michigan

The NCAA Tournament continues its path toward the final four with two more Elite Eight games on Sunday. In one of those games, the Kentucky Wildcats meet the Michigan Wolverines.

Kentucky was the preseason AP No. 1 pick but has not lived up to its label of best recruiting class of all time in college basketball.

However, the Wildcats seem to have awoken from their season long snooze and are a team that cannot be overlooked. Kentucky could very well be lifting the national championship trophy in just 8 days.

Fresh from defeating Louisville the defending national champions for a second time this season, Kentucky is small chalk on Bovada and sportsbook.com in their matchup against the talented Michigan Wolverines.

Kentucky has been inconsistent this season with his squad laden with freshmen. However, with wins over talented teams such as Louisville and the previously unbeaten Wichita State Shockers, the Wildcats are a legitimate threat to win and move on today.

However, they might have to play without one of their frontcourt players.

Michigan is in the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season after a win against Tennessee in the Sweet 16. Head Coach John Beilein is now 20-5 against the number in NCAA Tournament games for his coaching career.

Kentucky will have a huge advantage on the boards, but Michigan counters that with sharpshooters from 3-point territory.

The current line on topbet and betonline has Kentucky -2 with the point total sitting on 140.5.

John Calipari the Kentucky head coach is 7-1-1 ATS in March Madness. Kentucky lost 78-74 to Michigan State this past November, which was their only game versus a member of the Big Ten.

Michigan defeated Michigan State 2 out of 3 times they have played this season. Kentucky is 6-0 ATS over its past 6 games overall. The OVER has cashed in 6 of the past 8 games the Wolverines have played overall.

Willie Cauley-Stein a sophomore forward for Kentucky injured an ankle against Louisville. He did not return after the first half injury and his status for this game is still unknown.

Cauley-Stein is a big reason the Wildcats have the second best rebounding margin in the nation.

Kentucky starts five freshmen including twins Andrew and Aaron Harrison and Julius Randle one of the nation’s best frontcourt players.

Michigan relies on its outside shot. The Wolverines have hit 32 of their 65 three point shots during their three games thus far in the tournament.

Michigan is 13-0 SU in their past 13 games decided by 9 points or less.

Kentucky might be loaded with freshmen, but they have finally realized what it is to play like a team. The Wildcats will be tough on the boards and will look to shut down the Michigan perimeter offense.

I like the Wildcats less the points to win and move on to their third Final Four in four seasons.

Weekend Ramblings Include the NFL, Miguel Cabrera and March Madness

Jackson
Jackson
This is the gang sign in question regarding Desean Jackson.

If you thought the National Football League was taking the Aaron Hernandez situation seriously then look no further than the Philadelphia Eagles. Yesterday the Eagles released star wide receiver Desean Jackson because of his reported ties to a Los Angeles gang known as the ‘crips.’

While there are many differences between what Jackson is alleged to be involved with and what Hernandez has done, the message the NFL is sending is quite clear. They aren’t going to tolerate this crap. That said, after weeks of trying to trade Jackson, I can guarantee you that someone will take a chance on him.

For the record, Jackson has always been considered a bit of trouble-maker in Philadelphia. Often late to meetings or missing them altogether, Jackson has also been known to have a negative disposition. The clincher however appears to be his ties to known gang leaders who have released rap albums on his own personal record label.

The Eagles essentially grew tired of him and then video appeared of him flashing a ‘crips’ gang sign to Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall in the season opener. It was extremely quick and subtle, but evident nevertheless. While the story of Jackson’s potential gang affiliation goes much further it’s clear that Roger Goodell and the National Football League will monitor him very closely from here on out regardless of what team takes a shot on him.

Cabrera
Need a loan? Miguel Cabrera can help out with his new deal.

Cabrera Cashes In

I’m really surprised by the reaction of people when baseball contract news breaks across our television stations. The stunning reactions to Miguel Cabrera’s new deal should register nothing more than a “ho-hum” these days but still, people go crazy at these monster contracts.

For the record, Cabrera signed a ten-year deal worth $292 million which will keep him in Detroit through his 40th birthday. As Tigers’ General Manager Dave Dombrowski pointed out, what else are you going to do when you have the reigning American League MVP playing at his highest possible level? You lock him up and that’s exactly what the Tigers have done.

If you want to be ticked off at these ridiculous salaries then look in the mirror. You continue to buy the tickets, pay ridiculous amounts of money for beer and food and pay through the teeth for team merchandise. Until baseball gets a salary cap and we the fans say “enough” it’s only going to get worse.

The Elite Eight is Set

After Wisconsin, Arizona, Dayton and Florida joined the Elite Eight on Thursday night, Michigan, Michigan State, UConn and Kentucky made up the other half last night.

What we can take from this final grouping of eight remaining teams is that clearly the Big Ten has proven itself to be the nation’s premier conference. With three teams among the final eight, the depth they showed all season has been confirmed.

The SEC brings two teams in Florida and Kentucky while ‘outsiders’ Arizona, Dayton and UConn join the party. The results from Thursday and Friday night also tell us that only two number ones remain in Florida and Arizona.

There’s no question that Dayton is a huge surprise to be here at this point. The 11th seed has knocked off powers Ohio State, Syracuse and Stanford en route to the Elite Eight. We cannot dismiss the UConn Huskies though either who entered the tournament as a seventh-seed and have made their way here somewhat surprisingly.

Iowa State was a very popular pick to make the Final Four and remained that way even after an injury sidelined one of their top players. My Final Four is officially wrecked as the Cyclones and Louisville Cardinals are no longer around so I’ll take the Gators, Badgers, Wolverines and Spartans.

Pitino vs Calipari: Bluegrass Bragging Rights on the Line in Sweet 16 Matchup

The NCAA’s second half of the Sweet 16 plays out tonight to fill the remaining four spots for the Elite Eight this weekend.

Highlighting the four games tonight is the Battle of the Bluegrass State when the Louisville Cardinals meet the Kentucky Wildcats. These two teams have won the past two national championships in college basketball but just one will move on after tonight.

According to information on Bovada, John Calipari has a slight edge of 12-11 straight up on Louisville head coach Rick Pitino. However, 10 of the 11 losses came prior to Calipari becoming the head coach of Kentucky.

Since taking over the Wildcats, Calipari has ruled the roost in the Bluegrass state. The Kentucky coach is 4-1 straight up and 3-1-1 against the spread versus Louisville and Pitino.

The two teams played in December with Kentucky besting Louisville in Lexington. The more athletic and bigger Wildcats were dominating inside outscoring Louisville on second chance points 17-6 and in the paint 18-6. The Wildcats won 73-66.

The size advantage Kentucky has over Louisville remains the same but the Wildcats are a two or three possession underdog in the game.

Topbet and sportsbook.com have the Cardinals -4.5 as the favorite, while betonline has the point total for the over/under sitting on 138.5.

On Bovada, the line opened at .4.5 for Louisville and moved between that and -5.5. However, on most sites, including sportsbook.com, the line has settled at -4.5 on Louisville.

Four of five Wildcats vs. Cardinals games with Pitino and Calipari coaching have stayed on the UNDER in the point total, with an average of 139.5 points scored.

Louisville has now been favored in 48 straight games. This is just the eighth time Kentucky has been a dog this season and the team is 3-3-1 against the number in that role.

Kentucky was the No. 1 team in the country in the preseason, but has not played up to expectation the entire season. In their last game, a winner over previously undefeated Wichita State, the Wildcats started five freshmen.

As the head coach at Louisville, Pitino is 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS in Sweet 16 games.

The UNDER has cashed in 13 of the past 16 games the two teams have played head to head. Kentucky is 8- 3 against the spread in the past 11 games versus Louisville.

The underdog in this matchup has covered the spread in each of the past 5 games.

Kentucky is 5-0 ATS in its past five games.

Pick: The difference in size underneath and the strong play of Julius Randle down low will turn the tide for Kentucky. Take Kentucky plus the 4.5 points.

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Trends for Returnees

The NCAA Tournament has reached the Sweet 16 and there are teams returning for their second consecutive season to this round.

The question for bettors is do the teams perform better on this stage due to experience from last season, or will they once again fall apart under the pressures of March Madness.

Last season 8 of the 16 teams in this round had played in the Sweet 16 the previous year. However, this season just five teams have returned from last season’s round of 16. The returnees include Florida, Arizona, Michigan State, Louisville and Michigan.

Since 1992, according Bovada, teams that return to the Sweet 16 after reaching that round the previous season have a record of 68-46 straight up and 50-62-2 against the spread.

What separates these teams usually is the line. Topbet says that in those same games, teams that were favored by 7 points or more are an impressive 37-3 SU but just 23-17 ATS.

If the teams are priced at something less, a favorite by 6 points or fewer or even a dog, the teams fall off dramatically at 31-43 straight up and 27-45-2 against the spread, according to betonline data.

Looking in depth, even more you find that returnees to the Sweet 16 struggle even more when they arrive off a victory that was 9 points or less. Those teams in Sweet 16 games are 28-25 SU, while a paltry 19-32-2 ATS.

As would be expected, the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds have fared better than the rest as returnees in the Sweet 16. Data on sportsbook.com shows that the two top seeds are 50-17 SU combined. However, they fall off when covering the number, as they are just 32-35 against the number.

Faring the worst have been the No. 3 returning seeds, with a record of just 7-8 straight up and an even worse 4-11 against the spread.

At the same time, teams that are No. 4 seeds or lower and are returnees have finished 11-21 SU, while just  14-16-2. When the same teams are coming off a win of 10 points or more they fall to 3-15 SU and only 5-12-1 ATS for their Sweet 16 games.

The numbers get even lower when a returnee in the Sweet 16 plays an opponent of top quality that has a .830 or better winning percentage, they drop to 12-21 straight up and 13-19-1 against the spread.

Even worse, if the returnee won fewer than 30 games and played the same top quality opponents their record in the Sweet 16 was 6-18 straight up and 6-17-1 against the spread.

Teams returning to the Sweet 16 should hope their win in the previous round was not a blowout. Returnees to the last 16 who won their previous tournament game by 15 points or more are a disastrous 0-9 straight up and 1-8 against the spread in their Sweet 16 games.

Teams that fall into that latest category are Michigan State and Arizona. Hopefully for them and their supporters, they will become the exception and not the rule.

Experience helps in the Sweet 16 as seen in the past and that should be the same this season as well.

Tournament Bringing Great Action But I Still Have Complaints

Final Four
Final Four
Fans are getting pushed further and further away from the action in college basketball's premier tournament.

Every single March I go through this seemingly futile attempt to convince people that the NCAA Tournament is not without flaws. Let me say however that teams like Dayton, Harvard and Stephen F. Austin are everything that we love about the tournament. There’s nothing quite like seeing these young men who basked in anonymity all season celebrating their moments in the sun.

The complaints I have really have nothing to do with the teams or the match-ups at all. What bothers me still are too many timeouts, horrible seating for fans and the age old problem of inconsistent officiating.

timeout
Enough with all the timeouts in college basketball. It's making the games harder to watch.

Enough with the timeouts

One of the biggest turn-offs for me in terms of watching basketball over the last fifteen years has been fact that it takes nearly 20 minutes to half an hour to play the final two to three minutes. It started in the NBA and has moved to the college game now in suffering detail.

If you’ve watched any of the closer tournament games this year then you know the pattern. The team that is trailing will score a field goal then call timeout. They will then come out of the timeout, foul and hope to repeat the same process following the opponent’s free throw attempts.

Obviously it stands as good time management if a coach can hang on to his plethora of timeouts until the end of the half or end of the game but let’s not forget teams are also charged with ‘television timeouts’ as well. These occur following the 16, 12, 8 and four minute marks of each half and regardless of the flow of the game, as soon as there’s a whistle following one of those benchmarks. In my opinion they are nothing more then momentum stoppers but hey, we gotta have commercials right?

Binoculars from the front row

Nothing really bothers me more about the Final Four than the seating arrangements for fans of the teams playing. You don’t see it as much during the earlier round games but it is changing for the worse. Tune into a game today and get a load of the media tables that run along each sideline. As the tournament progresses, you will see the tables grow in depth.

The meaning of a ‘front row seat’ at the NCAA Tournament is not what you would expect in the regular season or anything close to what you’d see in the NBA. Quite frankly, it’s a joke.

When the Final Four rolls around you’ll notice the fan sections are placed behind the baskets and are typically a good 30 feet from the court. There has to be room for cheerleaders and cameramen of course so where does that leave the people that make the game great? As far from the court as possible.

Officiating is still suffering

I’ve watched a lot of basketball this week and I forget what game it was but the officials went to the replay four times in the final minute of the game. They didn’t do this to see who the ball went off of or whether a ball was goal tended, they didn’t to get the exact time on the clock following a foul or ball going out of bounds.

So my question is why don’t they do this every time then? Isn’t the time in the other 39 minutes of the game just as important as the final minute? If I’m the coach who has the lead in the game I couldn’t be more pissed off about this. Nine times out of ten, more time is added to the clock rather than taken away. Granted these may be tenths of seconds but it’s still added time.

This is yet another example of where the game needs to be addressed.

Gators tangle with Pitt, Louisville meets Billikens

Two of the best teams in the nation will take the court today, as the No. 1 overall seed the Florida Gators play the Pittsburgh Panthers and the Louisville Cardinals tangle with the Saint Louis Billikens

The No. 9 seeded Pitt Panthers are 26-9 SU and 13-15-4 ATS. The Panthers took Colorado apart on Thursday by 29 points moving to 6-2 against the number over their last eight games.

Pitt scored 77 points and held Colorado to just 48, which kept the game UNDER on a point total of 126. However, it was just the third time over the last 10 games that Pitt has finished UNDER. Pitts this season had 19 of 32 games finish OVER.

Florida started sluggish in their first game against Albany. Nevertheless, the Gators won by 12 and did not cover the favorite spread of 21.5 points.

The Gators are 33-2 SU and 15-13-2 ATS. Florida has not lost since December 2. The UNDER has been quite profitable with Florida at 20-10-1, but the game on Thursday, versus Albany finished OVER by one point.

The current line on Bovada, topbet and betonline has Florida by 6 points. I like the Gators in this matchup, with the OVER paying out as well.

In another big game on Saturday, the No. 4 seeded Louisville Cardinals meet the No. 5 seeded Saint Louis Billikens. The current line on sportsbook.com and Bovada has Louisville favored by 9 points with the over/under total sitting on 133.5.

The season for Saint Louis appeared done when it trailed North Carolina State by double digits with under five minutes left in regulation. However, the Billikens turned up the defensive pressure and found their offense late to take an overtime win 83-80 over the Wolfpack.

Over its past 10 games played, Saint Louis is a disappointing 1-8-1 against the spread. Most of the time, they were laying points in those matchups but not today.

The UNDER has chased for Saint Louis in 19 of its 30 games this season, nevertheless, three of the past four have gone to the OVER.

Louisville has won 30 games this season and lost just 5, while against the spread the Cardinals are 19-14. They had their hands full in their opening game against Manhattan but pulled it out late 71-64.

The Cardinals are 6-0 SU and 5-1 ATS over their past 6 games played. The Cardinals have one of the nation’s best offense, but surprisingly the UNDER has cashed in 5 of the past 7 games Louisville has played.

Saint Louis has had its problems of late, but really are not 9 points inferior to Louisville. However, the Cardinals are a very popular team with the public, which always makes the price go up.

The bookmaker must offset large amounts of expected risk on Louisville by offering their opponent at a number that is higher.

Both teams Louisville 61.1 and Saints Louis 62.4 give up few points. The point spread might be a tough call with a 9-point spread, but the UNDER looks good today.

NCAA Tournament Starts With Typcial Flare

Flyers
Flyers
Dayton scored the very first upset of the tournament with a win over Ohio State.

It was the very first game of the day. The 12:15pm tip from the South Regional in Buffalo featured the Ohio State Buckeyes and a team from within Ohio as well in the Dayton Flyers. It did not disappoint.

The Flyers pulled out a 60-59 victory in dramatic fashion as they scored with about four seconds remaining and then had to survive an Aaron Craft drive to the hoop where his desperation shot failed. This was only the second time in eleven trips to the tournament that Thad Matta and the Buckeyes exited in the first (NCAA calls it second) round.

While there was no joy in Columbus, this was the perfect start to another NCAA Tournament.

Amaker
Tommay Amaker and Harvard pulled a first round upset for the second straight year.

It didn’t stop there though as we got our first 12 vs. 5 upset in the very first of those four games. 12-seed Harvard upset fifth seeded Cincinnati 61-57 to advance. This outcome was not overly surprising to many because the Crimson entered with tournament experience and have a seasoned, veteran coach in Tommy Amaker.

How rare is it to see Harvard in the NCAA Tournament? Put it this way, Harvard has seen more graduates go on to become president of the United States than they have seen go on the National Basketball Association.

Also in usual day one fashion, we saw a number one seed flirt with disaster. The Florida Gators got all they could handle from Albany before finally pulling away and winning 67-55. As you know, there has never been a number one seed that has gone down to a 16-seed and it appears that we aren’t going to see it here either.

The rest of the early action featured massive blowouts including Pitt’s huge win over Colorado by the score of 77-48. This was an 8-9 match-up and these are typically supposed to be among the most even games. This was so bad that at one point, the Panthers only outscored the Buffaloes 31-30 in the second half. That means the halftime score was 46-18.

That my friends is ugly.

Not to be outdone was Wisconsin. The Badgers found themselves down early in the game to American who appeared to be quite ready for the aggressive Badgers. Wisconsin took advantage of the home crowd in Milwaukee and blitzed the Eagles 43-13 in the second half to win 75-35. If Wisconsin can play defensively this way throughout the tourney then they have as good of a shot as anyone.

The competition will ramp up significantly however.

Looking Ahead to Today

I love the Nebraska-Baylor Match-up. This features the 11th seeded Huskers and the sixth-seeded Bears. Baylor really picked things up towards the end of the season while Nebraska pushed all of the top teams in the Big Ten. I expect this game to much closer than some expect.

Eighth seeded Gonzaga takes on ninth seed Oklahoma State and believe you’ll see a much more competitive game than the Pitt-Colorado eight-nine game. Many people think the Cowboys have Final Four talent while this ‘Zags team has flown under the radar compared to more recent teams.

Although there’s already been a 12-5 upset, there could be another one in the works for today. Stephen F. Austin has not lost a game since November and goes up against fifth seeded VCU. This isn’t one of Shaka Smart’s best teams but it’s still a very good one. That said, I really like how SFA plays. They are very deliberate offensively and play very well on the defensive end as well.

NCAA Tournament Props Focus on Conference Wins

The NCAA Tournament begins in earnest on Thursday with a 16-game lineup and many public and sharp money bettors will be looking into all the props odds makers on betonline, Bovada, topbet and sportsbook.com have on offer.

Many of the props have an emphasis on how some top-seeded team will make out, as well as the number of collective wins the 10 conferences represented would have by tournament end.

One problem some bookmakers had was the need to readjust some numbers that had been preset when the NCAA selection committee seeded certain teams very far from where odds makers fell they should be.

Despite there being a number of questionable decisions made by the selection committee over 53 props were available to the public as early as Monday.

For example, how is it that odds makers have given a ninth seed, the Pittsburgh Panthers the role of a 6-point favorite over the Colorado Buffaloes, when Colorado is ranked higher at No. 8.

UMass was slotted in as the No. 6 seed in their region, when the Kentucky Wildcats were given a No. 8 seed. UMass did not win the conference tourney or the regular season title, but were given the No. 6 seed. Iowa State won the Big 10 tourney and was put into a No. 3 seed, but Michigan State just a No. 4.

On the power ratings for Bovada, UMass has been rated as No. 47 meaning there are theoretically speaking 46 teams that if they played the Minutemen would be favored at a neutral site. One of the 46 teams, at No. 30 is SMU and they were not even selected to the Big Dance.

The prop thus far that is getting a large amount of action is the UNDER on tournament wins for the Atlantic 10 conference. The line opened at 4 UNDER -125. Thus far as of Wednesday night, it had been bet up as much as UNDER -250.

That prop has been hit hard on many sportsbooks, as sentiment is not too high for the success of the teams from the Atlantic 10.

Another popular prop thus far is the UNDER on Wichita State in tournament wins at 2.5.

The toughest decisions in the prop making were for the Big Ten total wins since the conference is considered the best in the nation.

Six Big 10 teams were selected while seven were taken from the Big 12. However, the Big 10 has more teams that look to have a better chance of going deeper into the tournament than the Big 12 teams.

Michigan State is one of those teams. The team is once against healthy, playing as it did earlier in the season and coach Tom Izzo knows how to get the best out of his players during tournament time.

Another selection committee decision that has odds makers rolling their eyes was putting Michigan State at No. 4 after they completely dominated Michigan in the Big 10 conference championship, and then placing Michigan at No. 2.

All this questioning of the seeds will stop when the first game tips off Thursday afternoon to officially begin March Madness 2014.

Odds Halved for Louisville to Repeat as National Champions

The NCAA Tournament starts Tuesday with the First Four. On Sunday night, a new list of futures odds for the NCAA Tournament championship were released. Skyrocketing up the board were the Louisville Cardinals.

The odds for the Cardinals were cut by more than half, which was more of a result of the brackets and regions than on any betting action driving the price down for the Cardinals.

Upon the brackets and regions being unveiled Sunday night, the odds for Louisville were set at 15 to 1 to be a repeat Champion.

By early on Monday, the squad under the tutelage of legendary coach Rick Pitino was moved to 7 to 1, where that currently sit on Bovada and topbet as the third pick with Arizona to repeat as champions.

Odds makers on betonline and sportsbook.com said the change in odds did not have anything to do with a large money bet.

Many of the odds being used were ones used during the course of the season, but once the odds are put into brackets then it is easier to see how teams matchup against one another. Louisville has played very well during the last two months of the regular season and the season ending conference tournament.

The top two shortest odds remain the Florida Gators at 9 to 2 and the Michigan State Spartans at 5 to 1. Both teams saw slight adjustments upward since the odds were opened on Sunday night.

Five Tips to Think About

  1. The Big 12 has the most teams in the Big Dance with seven, but the Big Ten is the toughest conference. Rating the conferences has the Big Ten at top followed by the Big 12, the Big East, Pac-12, ACC, the SEC and the AAC.
  2. Over the last 20 years, only on three occasions did a pair of teams hold the No. 1 and 2 spots in the polls for eight consecutive weeks during the regular season. All of those six teams reached the Final Four and produced the eventual national champion those three seasons. This season they happen to be Syracuse and Arizona.
  3. Only two schools are ranked in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Louisville the defending champions and Wichita State the only undefeated team in the nation. The seeding has Louisville very low at No. 4 and they could meet in the Sweet 16 against the Shockers.
  4. Of the past 16 national champions, 5 lost their conference season ending tournaments – Kentucky, North Carolina (twice), Syracuse and Maryland. Pay attention to Villanova.
  5. San Diego State a No. 4 seed is attempting to establish a new reputation for the Mountain West Conference. No team from the conference has reached the Elite Eight and teams from the MWC are 3-9 during the last two tournaments. Since the conference was formed 15 years ago it representatives in the Big Dance are a combined 17-38.

Top Five Odds for National Champion

Florida 9 to 2

Michigan State 5 to 1

Arizona 7 to 1

Louisville 7 to 1

Kansas 10 to 1