Top Sportsbooks have released their college basketball odds for the upcoming NCAA Tournament.
Since the bracket has been revealed, there are all sorts of predictions being circulated about what will happen in the first round and beyond. But some of these predictions might misguide you.
Here are my five main takeaways from the bracket reveal.
Alabama Is Fool’s Gold
Everybody is saying that Alabama has a very easy path to the Elite Eight. This certainly seems to be the case: after beating the 16 seed, the Crimson Tide would face either 21-12 Maryland or 19-14 West Virginia before facing perpetual March loser and often offensively challenged Virginia or one of three lower-profile teams.
But I contend that Alabama could very well get tripped up in the second round albeit only if Maryland gets past West Virginia. The Terps would be a live underdog against the Crimson Tide because they match up well against them.
To explain, Alabama’s defense excels at defending the perimeter. The Tide rank 18th nationally at limiting opposing three-point attempts, but they’ve struggled in all their losses to contain talented inside scoring.
In losses to UConn and Gonzaga, opposing frontcourt players tormented the Tide inside. More recently, good guard play as in Bama’s loss to Texas A&M and its high-scoring near-loss to Auburn has hurt the Tide defense inside.
Maryland Could Be Alabama’s Downfall
Pretty much all Maryland’s offense does is score inside—the Terps also earn a lot of free throws, and Bama’s defense struggles to defend without fouling. Among others, the Terps boast an excellent guard—and guards are characteristically crucial in March—in Jahmir Young who loves driving to the basket and drawing fouls.
Center Julian Reese is also dangerous—he ranks 95th nationally in two-point efficiency because he is difficult to guard, which might earn him a double team from the defense.
Maryland’s defense, not just its offense, matches up well against Bama. Bama loves to shoot the three. The Tide rely heavily on making threes, which can be problematic for them in case they grow cold from deep, which happens to them sometimes, especially in the first half.
They are likelier to struggle shooting against Maryland’s defense, which thrived against offenses like Illinois’, Tennessee’s, and Penn State’s that shoot a lot of threes. The Terps allow the 328th-highest point distribution from behind the arc.
Texas Futures Worth Investing In
When considering future bets, Texas should be near or at the top of your list—currently, you can get Texas to win it all at +1800 with Bookmaker (visit our Bookmaker Review).
The Longhorns have a very favorable path forward. After presenting a shock to the system of a Colgate team that once lost by 27 at currently nine-seeded Auburn, the Longhorns will likely draw Texas A&M, whose success against teams—such as Missouri, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, South Carolina, and even Alabama in one of two tries—that rely on three-point shooting will likely take them past Penn State.
The Aggies struggle to contain opposing centers, as evident in their difficulty with Kentucky and Texas has a highly efficient one in Dylan Disu who is playing very well right now. The Longhorns also boasts veteran guard play that enables them to take good care of the ball. They possess a well-rounded group of scorers who specialize in attacking inside the arc, and their elite defense will have no problems with Texas A&M’s frequently anemic offense.
The highest-seeded team that Texas would then face is a Xavier squad that lacks shot-blocking talent and often allows teams to go off from behind the arc. After handling maybe Xavier, an offensively challenged Iowa State team that they are familiar with and beat by 18 not too long ago, or a lower-profile team, the Longhorns could face Houston, the top seed in their region, for whom they would represent a massive step-up in terms of competition.
In sum, Texas is top-18 in both offensive and defensive efficiency and has the ingredients to get past a lot of relatively soft tests in their region, ultimately making them an intriguing option to win it all.
Duke Will Stay Hot
Duke is another team worth investing in—for your NCAAB picks you can take the Blue Devils to win it all at an impressive +5500 at Bovada (visit our Bovada Review). The Blue Devils will bully their way past an Oral Roberts team whose dependence on three-point shooting will hurt it against a Duke team whose annual calling card is perimeter defense.
Duke may not even have to face top-seeded Purdue, one of those perpetually overrated Big Ten teams, a team whose youthful guard play would struggle mightily against Memphis’ high-pressure defense. If the Blue Devils face Memphis, they do have the veteran guard play to handle the Tigers. Their offense has improved massively in their ability to prevent turnovers.
They would have too much scoring talent at the wing positions to help star forward Kyle Filipowski and the team outscore a Memphis squad whose defense would suffer for the risks it incurred insofar as they do not lead to Tiger turnovers and whose team in general would not welcome the slower-paced, half-court game in which Duke thrives.
Duke’s path forward looks easy in this region which features struggling Tennessee with its haplessly unsuccessful head coach as the four seed, an often offensively challenged Kansas State as the three seed, and a Marquette squad that misses size, length, and shot-blocking ability in its vulnerable interior defense as the two seed.
Life Can Be Unfair for Schools Out West
Consider what a given team’s local time would be when playing because the body clock can be an issue. For example, Saint Mary’s will play at what will be 11 AM in their normal time zone. USC will play at 9:15 AM in their local time and UCSB at 10:30 AM. These teams are at a disadvantage that is worth accounting for in your handicapping because they might play sluggishly.
The South Is Wide Open
The South appears very wide open, as it feels like there is an unusual amount of potential for seed upsets. From top seed Alabama dealing with a tough matchup in the second round, to four seed Virginia perpetuating its mostly bad March history against a loaded Furman squad, to three seed Baylor continuing its current struggles, to two seed Arizona disappointing backers again as a result of its frequently awful, or at best inconsistent, guard play.
This could be the region out of which a low seed emerges, with a 10-seeded Utah State team that can shoot being one candidate even if it has to hope to avoid losing to San Diego State a fourth time.