SPECIAL TO OUTKICK
The band is warming up for the Big Dance and Sportsbookreview has opinions on each and every bracket. Let’s take a look at the matchups, the prevailing college basketball odds, and which teams look poised for a big run.
Beasts of the East
The Favorite: No. 1 Villanova (30-4, +570) – After a quick glance at SBR odds we see that the 2016 champs are the favorites to do it all over again in 2018. Certainly, they will have the easiest path by virtue of their top seed and could defeat their first-round opponent, either LIU Brooklyn or Radford, in their sleep. After that the Cats will get either Virginia Tech (No. 8) or Alabama (No. 9) in the second round. But a word of caution to all of those who love chalky favorites, the Hokies of Virginia Tech have proven to be giant slayers. A word on them later.
Next Best Thing: No. 2 Purdue (28-6, +1200) – I realize it doesn’t take brass ones to pick the No. 2 seed as the chief threat to the favorite but the Boilermakers are not only athletically gifted, they can tailor their game to any opponent. Purdue lost six games this season and five were by four points or less, which gives you an idea of how competitive this squad was throughout the year. Purdue will get a free pass in the opening round, as they will pummel No. 15 CSU Fullerton, and wait on the winner of the Arkansas/Butler clash.
The Dark Horse: No. 8 Virginia Tech (21-11, +35000) – The Hokies could very well be the Cinderella story of the 2018 tournament. Sure, they have 11 losses on their record but take a look at the giants this team has slayed. In chronological order, then No. 10 North Carolina, then No. 2 Virginia, then No. 15 Clemson, and then No. 5 Duke. Not bad, right? As you can see Tech is capable of beating up the big bullies but whether they can make it a habit is another story. As of this writing, 5Dimes has the Hokies at 350-1 to win the tournament but you can check out the best online sportsbooks and see if another premium book has an even better number.
The Favorite: No. 1 Kansas (27-7, +1350) – Kansas defeated West Virginia to capture the Big 12 championship and appears poised for a deep run in the tournament. Yeah, the Jayhawks look the part but can they play the part? This team reminds me of that great looking girl from 30 yards away that gets a little less hot as she draws closer. I’m not convinced Kansas is the girl for me.
Next Best Thing: No. 3 Michigan State (29-4, +925) – There’s no doubt the Spartans have company in this category as you could certainly make a case for the No. 2 seeded Duke Blue Devils. And the funny thing is that the oddsmakers have installed both Duke and MSU as shorter favorites to win the tournament at +800 and +925 respectively over top seeded Kansas at +1350. Something will give because Michigan State and Duke will most likely knock heads in the Sweet 16 but my money is on the Spartans.
The Dark Horse: No. 12 New Mexico State (28-5, +100000) – New Mexico State won the WAC for the fifth consecutive year and now enters the fray as the No. 12 seed. This could be a good team to plunk a few bucks down on in the opening round as New Mexico State is a five-point underdog to No. 5 Clemson. I can’t see them getting past the top dogs in this region but the Aggies could turn a few heads before they get bounced.
The Favorite: No. 1 Virginia (31-2, +620) – If you want to know how to bet on sports then you might want to ask the chaps who backed the Cavaliers at 100-1 to win the national championship before the season began. Virginia is numero uno in the South and deserve to be so. Their defense is more suffocating than an old woman’s perfume in an elevator. I love the Cavs but the stingy odds are a turn off.
Next Best Thing: No. 2 Cincinnati (30-4, +1575) – The Bearcats won the AAC regular season and tournament championship. There is no doubt they are a big-time threat in this region and own the second-best defense in all the land, trailing only top seeded Virginia. If those two teams meet in the South finals we could see more scoring at a football game.
The Dark Horse: No. 4 Kentucky (24-10, +4400) – The Wildcats may have 10 losses on their record but this is about the here and now not the there and then. Kentucky had a mini-meltdown from the beginning to the middle of February when they lost four straight but since that time have won seven of their last eight games. The Cats have game so don’t overlook them.
The Favorite: No. 1 Xavier (28-5, +2450) – You know that high voice you get when someone asks you how the food is, wanting to be polite while at the same time looking for the nearest napkin in which to spit? That’s how I feel about Xavier if you were to ask me about them. “Fine team, really good, yes definitely deserve a No. 1 seed.” I say don’t believe any of it and don’t you dare bet one thin dime on this overrated band of Musketeers. Should I tell you how I really feel?
Next Best Thing: No. 3 Michigan (28-7, +1500) – You’ll notice the odds on the No. 3 seed are significantly chalkier than the odds on the No. 1 seed. There’s a reason for that because Michigan has been battling the big boys all season long and for the most part coming out on top. The Big Ten tournament champs defeated their nemesis Purdue in the conference finale and proved that they are ready to make some noise in the Big Dance.
The Dark Horse: No. 10 Providence (21-13, +55000) – The Friars defeated Xavier in the conference semifinals only to give another powerhouse in Villanova all they could handle before bowing in overtime in the Big East championship game. This is another Cinderella candidate, dressed as a monk, with nice odds to boot.