NCAA Tournament Favorites and Potential Bracket Busters
The NCAA Tournament bracket is out and the tournament fully gets underway on Thursday afternoon. Here are our thoughts on the favorites, who we like and who we don't like, and some picks in some of the potential Bracket Busting games with some lower seeds.
The No. 1’s/Favorites & Odds
No. 1 seed Houston 6-1 - The No. 1 team in the country and the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region could pull off a Cinderella story if they can get to the Final Four, which will be played in their backyard in… Houston. The home-court advantage would be big but point guard Marcus Sasser is dealing with a groin injury that knocked him out of the AAC tourney on Saturday. If he’s going to miss a lot of time it’s hard to see Houston pulling this off and groin injuries are generally very bad news for basketball players. Additionally, Houston didn’t look great while losing by 10 to Memphis in the AAC title game on Sunday.
No. 1 seed Alabama 7-1 - The Tide is still dealing with the offcourt distraction of the death of Jamea Harris and Brandon Miller’s role in it. Miller is a force to be reckoned with and had 23 points and 12 boards in Bama’s SEC Title Game win over Texas A&M. The distractions haven’t slowed them down yet and Bama is ranked No. 4 in the country and is the No. 1 seed in the South Region. A lot of experts have them going to the Final Four.
No. 1 seed Kansas 10-1 - The Jayhawks are the No. 1 seed in the West Region and coach Bill Self is expected to rejoin the team this week after missing the Big 12 Tournament after going to the hospital last Wednesday with chest tightness and balance concerns. That could be a distraction for Kansas, who was blown out 76-56 without their coach in the Big 12 Final by Texas.
No. 1 seed Purdue 10-1 - The Boilers are the No. 1 seed in the East Region and won the Big 10 Tournament but have hit some stumbling blocks along the way. They went 2-4 during a stretch from Feb. 4 to Feb. 25 when they lost twice to Indiana and once to Northwestern and Maryland. But they regrouped to win their final five games of the season and took out Rutgers, Ohio State and Penn State on their way to winning their conference tournament. They’ve never reached the Final Four after being named a No. 1 seed three previous times.
No. 2 seed Texas 12-1 - Won the Big 12 Tourney after blowing out Kansas.
No. 2 seed UCLA 12-1 - Won 12 straight before losing to Arizona in the Pac 12 Tourney.
No. 2 seed Arizona 12-1 - Lost to UCLA on March 4 before beating Stanford, Arizona State and UCLA to win the Pac 12 Tourney.
No. 3 seed Gonzaga 15-1 - On a nine-game winning streak after losing to St. Mary’s on Feb. 4. Got revenge on St. Mary’s in the WCC title game in a 26-point blowout.
No. 4 seed UConn 15-1 - Won six straight before losing Big East semifinal game to Shaka Smart and Marquette.
No. 2 seed Marquette 20-1 - Currently on a nine-game winning streak after beating St. John’s, UConn and Xavier to win the Big East Tournament. Fun sleeper pick.
No. 5 seed Duke 22-1 - Easily beat Virginia in the ACC title game and have peaked at the right time by winning nine straight. Suddenly on a lot of expert’s lists to win it all.
No. 3 seed Baylor 25-1 Reeling after two straight losses to Iowa State, including getting knocked out of Big 12 Tourney on Thursday. Have lost four of their last six games.
Our favorite two teams from these two groups are No. 1 seed Alabama and No. 5 team Marquette. Alabama looks nearly unbeatable as long as Miller is playing well and Marquette is sneaky at 28-6 on the season and Shaka Smart knows how to coach in the Big Dance. Putting Marquette in the Final Four of your bracket is not a crazy idea, nor is picking Bama to win it all.
Favorites We Don’t Like
Houston and Duke. The groin injury too Sasser is extremely concerning and they’re likely going to have to go through Indiana and Texas to get into the Elite 8. Although Duke won the ACC tournament and has looked much better of late, they didn’t look good throughout the season and the ACC simply isn’t that strong. Oral Roberts will be trying to shock the world in the first round and it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see it happen. And if they get through that one a strong Tennessee should be awaiting them in Round 2. And if they get through that Purdue will probably take them out in the Sweet 16.
Potential Bracket Busters & Picks
We’re not saying these teams are going to have a legit shot at winning it all, although St. Mary’s, Texas A&M and Indiana all have the talent to do so.
No. 5 seed St. Mary’s vs. No. 12 seed VCU (St. Mary’s -5.5) - We think St. Mary’s is being overlooked after getting blown out by Gonzaga in their conference tourney on March 7 but they won 26 games and were a Top 20 team for most of the season. Look for them to get by VCU easily and present a problem for UConn if it happens. And we are aware that many experts are picking VCU to upset St. Mary's in this one.
Pick: St. Mary’s -5.5
No. 7 seed Texas A&M 43-1 vs. No. 10 seed Penn State (A&M -3.5) - No. 18 A&M beat Alabama on March 4, went 25-9 in the SEC and got into the SEC Tournament Final before falling to the Tide on Sunday. They should have been higher than a No. 7 seed and are going to present problems in the first two rounds. They’re a legit Sweet 16 threat, although a second-round matchup with No. 2 seeded Texas won’t be a picnic. But they should handle the Nittany Lions, who haven’t been in the Big Dance since 2011 and snuck into the tournament with a nice Big 10 Tourney run last weekend, in Round 1.
Pick: Texas A&M -3.5
No. 4 seed Indiana 48-1 vs. No. 13 Kent State (Indiana -5.5) - Indiana should cruise through this one and will catch the winner of Miami-Drake in the second round. They should also win that game after beating No. 1 seeded Purdue twice this season and Trayce Jackson-Davis is one of the top players in the country. And if Indiana cruises to the Sweet 16 they could face Houston and pull off a big upset, especially if their point guard (Sasser) still isn’t healthy. Indiana is our favorite deep sleeper to win it all.
Pick: Indiana -5.5
No. 12 seed Oral Roberts vs. No. 5 seed Duke (Duke -6.5) - Oral Roberts has 30 wins and went on a Sweet 16 run in 2021 as a No. 15 seed. They’ll get the No. 5 Blue Devils in Round 1 and Duke looks overrated to many of us. For the record, four double-digit seeds have made the Sweet 16 in the last two years, Oral Roberts is good and Duke looks vulnerable. We’re taking Oral Roberts over Duke in at least some of our brackets and love taking them and the 6.5 points here. The line could change though, as we’re probably not alone in our love of ORU in this one.
Pick: Oral Roberts +6.5
No. 12 seed Drake vs. No. 5 seed Miami (Miami -2.5) - Miami is only a 2.5 favorite over Drake, who has covered the spread in eight of their last 10 games and gone 9-1 in their last 10 overall. Drake is 27-7 on the season and while Miami went 25-7, the ACC is simply overrated these days. We’re going to have Drake in several of our bracket entries and like taking them and the points.
Pick: Drake +2.5
No. 12 seed Charleston vs. No. 5 seed San Diego State (San Diego State -5) - Charleston scores nearly 81 points per game and has both size and speed. San Diego State won’t be an easy win but it’s doable, especially with San Diego State having to travel across the country to play in Florida in this one. And after Charleston shocks San Diego State, it wouldn’t be shocking to see them take out Virginia, as well. Either way, take Charleston and the points in this one.
Pick: Charleston +5
+583 three-team parlay
Leg 1: Oral Roberts +6.5
Leg 2: Texas A&M -2.5
Leg 3: Indiana -4.5