The 2015-16 college basketball season has been an absolute mess, thanks to an increasingly emerging group of ambitious students eager to prove their worth and rain blows on your so-called NCAAB betting favorites. Outside the otherworldly quartet of Buddy Hield, Denzel Valentine, Ben Simmons and Melo Trimble, everyone else has been a mere mortal. Outside the ridiculously impressive trio of Oklahoma, North Carolina and Villanova, it’s really difficult to have a lock on other top seeds for the annual NCAA Tournament.
In fact, going by the wackiness of the college basketball season so far, I dare say confidently that this year’s Championship Fortnight and NCAA Tournament will truly be something special, riddled with teams going bananas on each other for a memorably fruity season. But before we get to Selection Sunday, roughly six weeks from now, let’s touch base with our NCAA basketball predictions, highlighting who you should root for/against in regards to the March Madness and the 2016 college basketball national championship.
Updated 2016 Odds to Win the College Hoops National Championship
NORTH CAROLINA: +500
MICHIGAN STATE: +1000
ARIZONA STATE: +50000
NC STATE: +50000
OLE MISS: +50000
Keep in mind that we are approaching the mid-way point of the conference games, so a few things may or may not change in case of some surprise liquid runs in the remaining games.
ACC March Madness Betting Analysis
• Tournament Locks: North Carolina, Miami, Louisville, Virginia
• In Strong Contention: Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Duke
• Bubble Teams: Clemson, Florida State, Syracuse
As predicted in our preseason projections, the Tar Heels are a bonafide team to contend for the national championship, something that has been affirmed by their stellar run so far. Louisville and Miami are worthy dark horses, Duke—as always—can be a threat once in the tournament due to the Coach K factor (though their bench is simply too weak to trust), and Virginia’s defense also makes them a considerable dark horse pick (provided the offense can get hotter down the stretch.
Clemson, Florida State and Syracuse have all been too wobbly, making ACC’s bubble quite weak, but if either or all of the three teams can end the season strongly, they’d have a shot at sneaking into the tournament.
Big 12 March Madness Betting Analysis
• Tournament Locks: Kansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Iowa State
• In Strong Contention: Baylor, Texas
• Bubble Teams: Kansas State, Texas Tech
Welcome to the 2015 version of Dracula! Nothing reigns supreme in the Big 12 than cannibalism and bloodbaths. Ending the month of January, the Big 12 had five ranked teams, including three in the top 10 (Oklahoma, Kansas and West Virginia). Not to forget, the conference also bragged of having some of the top college basketball players, including Georges Niang of Iowa State (19.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG), Kansas’ Perry Ellis (16.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG), Baylor’s Rico Gathers (12.3 PPG, 10.7 RPG). And then, of course, there is Oklahoma’s anomaly of a player in Buddy Hield, who is averaging an incredible 26 PPG, while shooting over 50 percent from both the field and beyond the arc, along with over 91 percent from the free throw line; while racking up 5-plus rebounds per game and 2-plus assists per game. The top-heavy nature of this conference means the bloodbath with continue long into the end of the season. Just about the only sure pick here is that Kansas will almost certainly fail to win the conference title. Everything else here will be malleable, with the likes of Baylor, Texas, Kansas State, and Texas Tech all having chances of climbing up or falling down in the ranks.
Big East March Madness Betting Analysis
• Tournament Locks: Villanova, Xavier, Providence
• In Strong Contention: None
• Bubble Teams: Butler, Seton Hall, Georgetown, Creighton, Marquette
In the Big East, you are either a Big bEast or a Big fEast, no in-betweens exist here. And as such, Villanova Providence and Xavier have ruled the East, making them sure picks to reach the Tournament, possibly all as top three seeds. For the rest, Georgetown has cooled down, just like Butler. Marquette and Creighton are dark-horses in the conference, but could sneak into the Tourney if they can get quality wins down the season.
Big Ten March Madness Betting Analysis
• Tournament Locks: Iowa, Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana
• In Strong Contention: Michigan, Purdue
• Bubble Teams: Ohio State, Wisconsin
The Cyclones are blowing wild here and are easily the crop of the conference, but Maryland and Michigan State aren’t far-off behind. The Terps are riding hot on the punishing trio of Melo Trimble, Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon and highly-prized recruit Diamond Stone, and could come up real big as the season approaches its end. Not to forget, the Terps are pure money at home—so far—having gone over 420 minutes without losing at home, though the pair of early-season losses to Michigan State and North Carolina could cost them a high tournament lock. Tom Izzo’s Spartans are equally dangerous, led by Denzel Valentine who is flirting with a triple-double season performance (18.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG and 6.6 APG, as of January 31st), but the team will need to sort its depth concerns. Michigan State and Purdue did well in non-conference play, but are ish-ish in conference play (so don’t take them too seriously if they do make the Tourney), while both Ohio State and Wisconsin are talented enough to surprise us down the stretch.
Pac-12 March Madness Betting Analysis
• Tournament Locks: Oregon, Arizona, USC
• In Strong Contention: Utah, California
• Bubble Teams: Colorado, Oregon State, Stanford, Washington, UCLA
Despite not getting much love in the NCAAB lines, the Pac-12 has a serious chance to surprise us in the tourney. Oregon has tons of talent and will, something the Ducks proved when they took down Arizona 83-75 last week, putting an end to Arizona’s nation-best 49-game home win streak. The Wildcats are still total class despite that loss, while USC, Utah and Cal are interesting options. The Buff beat Oregon earlier and for that sole reason, I’d pick them for Last Four In. Other than that, it is a pretty bubble-heavy conference here, so you might want to hold your breath a little longer before locking up your other Pac-12 picks.
SEC March Madness Betting Analysis
• Tournament Locks: Texas A&M, Kentucky
• In Strong Contention: South Carolina, LSU, Florida,
• Bubble Teams: Vanderbilt, Georgia
Who would have guessed John Calipari and his Kentucky team would be so crestfallen by the start of February? Honestly, I did think the Wildcats would somehow survive with their young team, going by what Calipari has done over the years. As it turns out, I should have trusted the writings on the wall—Kentucky sent all its five starters from last year’s super team to the NBA and lost two key reserves as well—and gone against Kentucky in my preseason picks. If you want to do yourself a solid one, avoid the ‘Cats at all costs in the NCAAB odds. This is a team that has one of the worst ATS records this season and has suffered some pretty bad SU losses as well, including at UCLA (-6.5), Ohio State (-9.5), LSU (-3) and Auburn (-11.5). That, however, isn’t to say that the Wildcats won’t make it to the Tourney, given the way the rest of the SEC is struggling. LSU, even with the talent of Ben Simmons, has been just as disappointing, paving the way for the rise of the Aggies. For the remaining teams, everything is too circumstantial, which should make the SEC play-out rather fascinating.
All the Rest
• Tournament Locks: 22 one-bid conference champs
• In Strong Contention: Dayton, St. Mary’s, Wichita State, Gonzaga
• Bubble Teams: UConn, Cincinnati, Tulsa, Monmouth (if MAAC loss), George Washington, VCU, St. Bonaventure, Temple, San Diego State, St. Joe’s, Boise State
Final Remarks and 2016 NCAA Tournament Picks
Based on the above analysis, here are my NCAA Tournament picks for the top-4 seeds:
No. 1 Seeds
1. Oklahoma, 2. North Carolina, 3. Villanova, 4. Iowa
No. 2 Seeds
5. Kansas, 6. Xavier, 7. Oregon, 8. Texas A&M
No. 3 Seeds
9. Iowa State, 10. Maryland, 11. Michigan State, 12. West Virginia
No. 4 Seeds
13. Virginia, 14. Providence, 15. Miami, 16. Purdue
And for good measure, here my last 10 picks? Colorado, Gonzaga, Butler, Clemson, Georgetown, Oregon State, Syracuse, Florida State, UCLA, VCU.
All in all, there is still a lot of time for things to change, but for now, this is how we stand today. Make sure you check up with us in the future for further updates and picks.