For the second week running, the Villanova Wildcats are the No.1 team in the country. Fortunately or unfortunately, that’s just about the only thing that stayed constant in the world of college basketball betting, as the rest of the league maintained the season-long theme of big upsets and a conundrum of bubbles in the conference standings, once again leaving us with a skewed outlook in the national rankings. As we rev up towards Selection Sunday, we expect a ton of stories to continue unraveling in the NCAAB odds, some of which we predict below in this week’s edition of top 2016 March Madness betting lines predictions.
Who are the Top March Madness Betting Predictions This Week
Texas Will Claim at least a No. 5 Seed in the Tourney
Shaka Smart’s debut season continues to look better by the day, as we wind down the stretch of the season. Coming into play Tuesday night, No. 10 West Virginia was tied for first place in the Big 12 with Kansas, so many bettors expected them to cruise past the No. 24 Texas, who just earned their way into the top-25 of the AP Poll after staring from the sidelines for most of the season and were sitting two games behind WVU in conference play. The win expected for WVU on Tuesday didn’t happen, which wasn’t actually surprising for us, as the Longhorns used the same formula they’d used to upset WVU on the road a month ago to complete the double over the Mountaineers. After committing just eight turnovers to deliver an upset win over the Mountaineers in Morgantown, the Longhorns committed seven turnovers on Tuesday night to claim an 85-78 win.
That victory means Texas (17-9, 8-5) now has several quality wins in its résumé, including two wins over West Virginia, a road win over Baylor, and a home win over Iowa State. Not to forget, this Texas team suffered a very respectable 63-60 loss to #3 Oklahoma on the road last week, a game they’d have actually won if luck was on their side. At the moment, Texas is trending towards a No. 6 or even No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament, and if they can topple Baylor, Kansas or Oklahoma at home in the coming weeks, they’d surely be a top five or better seed—something that is very possible, going by how they’ve played so far.
Wichita State Loses First Tourney Game against Non-conference Opponent
Three years ago, the Shockers shocked the NCAAB odds by reaching the Final Four, drawing a lot of praises from the public. Last year, they were at the thick of things once again the Tourney, as the dynamic combo of Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet knocked the Kansas Jayhawks out of the NCAA Tournament. With Baker and VanVleet returning for their senior seasons, there was a lot of hope that this year would even be a better season for Wichita State, something that saw the Shockers ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press preseason poll. That, however, was short-lived, as Wichita State lost four of its first six games (against non-conference opponents), leading to the team being bundled out of the top-25 rankings. Excuses were made about VanVleet missing four games with a hamstring injury, but the Shockers did lose to Tulsa and Seton Hall with him in the lineup, so that argument doesn’t really hold water.
Knee-deep into Conference play, the Shockers have now steadied their play and are 19-7 on the season, including a conference-best 12-2 mark in the Missouri Valley. The hopes are once again evident, now that Wichita State looks poised to claim another easy regular-season conference title. What many people forget is that 5 of Wichita’s 7 losses so far have come against non-conference opposition, meaning the Shockers are good at dominating its weak conference opponents but poor when going against teams from outside its conference. And with the precedence already set from the start of the regular season, my money is on Wichita State winning the Missouri Valley Conference title, but losing the very first game it will play against a non-conference opponent.
Butler Will Earn a Tournament Bid
Thanks to Butler’s 88-75 victory over Creighton on Tuesday, the Bulldogs remain right on track to finish above the NCAA tournament cut-off line. In addition to the win over fellow bubble-team Creighton, the Bulldogs have quality wins over other bubble teams like Cincinnati and Seton Hall, along with a victory over Big Ten powerhouse Purdue. And as far as bad losses go, Butler’s only bad loss came at the hands of the streaky Marquette. With games left against first-place Villanova this weekend, followed by conference tilts against Georgetown, Seton Hall and Marquette, I fancy Butler’s chances of winning at least two of these four games to clinch a bid in the March Madness.
Vanderbilt Will Miss a Tournament Bid
After impressively winning eight of its final 10 league games last season to reach the NIT, there was a renewed sense of hope that Vandy would be due for a big 2015-16 campaign. But looking at Vandy right now, the season has been nothing more than an utter disaster, summarized best by the way the Commodores blew up a 16-point second-half lead to fall 75-74 at Mississippi State on a buzzer-beating corner 3-pointer by Quinndary Weatherspoon.
That loss dropped the Commodores to 15-11 overall (and 7-6 in the SEC), which doesn’t bode well for their Tournament bid. Yes, Vandy has three decent home wins against Texas A&M, Florida and Alabama, but such wins cannot make up for the team’s slew of bad defeats against the likes of Arkansas, Ole Miss and now Mississippi State. To claim a Tourney spot, the Commodores may need to win as many of four of their last five regular season games, which doesn’t look that likely, as Vandy has a tough stretch of games that includes a home tilt against Kentucky and road trips to Florida and Texas A&M. With that, my bet is on losing at least 2 or 3 of its final 5 games, leading to them missing out on a Tourney bid.
SMU Mustangs Will Win the American Regular Season Title
By now, I believe you all know that SMU will not be playing in the NCAA Tournament because of a postseason ban that was sanctioned on them by the NCAA. That ban hasn’t, however, stopped SMU from playing well and striving to claim the American Conference regular season title. Down to seven scholarship players and playing without coach Larry Brown, who received a nine-game suspension at the start of the season has done nothing to slow down SMU, either. The Mustangs, seemingly looking to prove a point, won its first nine games under associate coach Tim Jankovich, as Brown served his suspension.
That hot start to the season continued when the 75-year-old coach returned from suspension and the Mustangs were the lone team in Division I to stay undefeated through 18 games this year, a feat that saw them rank in the top 10 of the AP poll for the first time in over 30 years. SMU dropped a couple of games after that, but have since used their strong offensive balance to get back into solid winning ways, including the crucial weekend win over Gonzaga that put an end to the Bulldogs’ six-game winning streak.
As things stand now, SMU’s 21-3 record ranks best in the American standings, but they are placed second in the conference because their 9-3 league record trails Temple’s 10-3 conference mark. Given the way they’ve been playing, I have no doubt that SMU will get the better of Temple down the stretch to win the regular-season conference title, even if they can’t play in the postseason.