MARCH MADNESS VEGAS PREDICTIONS
The 2017-18 college basketball season is nearing its end as teams finish regular season conference play and ready for their conference tournaments. It has been an interesting season thus far without a clearly dominant team in the nation. Villanova (23-2) and Virginia (23-2) have been the two teams that have laid claim to the No. 1 ranking for more weeks than anyone, but both suffered upset losses in the past week or so.
Michigan State (24-3) and Purdue (23-4) have been the class of the Big Ten with Ohio State (22-5) not far behind. Surprising Cincinnati is 23-2 and for real and the Big 12 is a mess. Texas Tech is 21-4 and in first place in the conference that has just beaten each other up all season. Who are the favorites to make this year’s Final Four and win a coveted national title? Here’s a look at how Vegas sees it.
SWEET SIXTEEN PREDICTIONS
One thing that is almost certain in the NCAA tournament is the upset. At some point, one of the favorites is going to fall, but there are a handful of teams that appear to be locks to make this year’s Sweet Sixteen. Villanova, Virginia, and Michigan State and Purdue appear to be headed there. All are experienced and deep. Virginia is the best defensive team in the country, possibly even the best in the last decade. The Cavaliers are allowing opponents only 52.7 points per game.
Purdue is huge up front and Michigan State, winners of their last nine (including one over the Boilermakers), are as talented as any team in the country. After the top four, Xavier will challenge Villanova for the Big East tournament crown. Trevon Bluiett, who seems like he has been playing for seven years, leads a deep, experienced Musketeers team that has a 60 percent chance of making the Sweet Sixteen.
Bluebloods like Duke, last year’s national champion North Carolina, and Arizona are also among the favorites to get the Sweet Sixteen. Of the traditional powerhouse teams that might not be among the remaining 16 teams is Kentucky. The Wildcats are just 17-9 and have just a 19 percent chance of advancing to Sweet Sixteen and that is if they even get into the tournament. Schools that could surprise and wind up in the Sweet Sixteen include Clemson (37%), Tennessee (40%), St. Mary’s (30%), and Rhode Island (27%).
As far as Final Four picks, the heavy favorites are Villanova and Michigan State. The Wildcats have won the past four straight Big East championships and were the national champions in 2016. The Spartans have been to seven Final Fours and have one national title (2000) since Tom Izzo became the head coach in 1995.
Virginia (31%), Purdue (35%), Duke (32%), and Cincinnati (28%) are the other favorites to join Villanova and Michigan State in this year’s Final Four. Currently, the Wildcats and Spartans are +500 co-favorites to win it all. Michigan State opened the season as a +400 favorite alongside Duke, which has an 11 percent chance to win the school’s sixth national championship. The Spartans have been a tough bet all season though as they are 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games.
Below is our predictions from months back.
The West Coast Conference could have as many as three tournament qualifiers this year. Perennial power Gonzaga (19-4, 9-1) is a definite. Saint Mary’s (21-2, 10-0) has beaten the Bulldogs once already this season and appears to be a lock. BYU is 18-5 and two of the losses are to Saint Mary’s. The Cougars still have two games remaining with Gonzaga. Their performance in those two games could decide their tournament fate.
The Atlantic 10 is not as strong as in year’s past. Rhode Island (10-0) is unbeaten in conference play and is 18-3 overall. VCU is just 14-8. If Rhode Island fails to win the conference tournament, the A-10 may get two teams. The Rams have a win over Seton Hall and losses to Virginia and Alabama. The only other mid-major conference that might put two teams in the tournament is Conference USA where Middle Tennessee (16-5, 8-1) is the favorite, Old Dominion (16-4, 7-1) is close behind, and Western Kentucky (15-6, 7-1) has a win over Purdue.
March Madness Bracketology Predictions
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