Selection Sunday has come and gone, which has left some teams happy and others disappointed. However, this tournament invites 68 teams to the Big Dance and provides plenty of opportunities to get in. This is no time to feel sorry for bubble teams that didn’t make it, but instead look forward to a highly competitive tournament that is sure to entertain and surprise fans with exciting buzzer beaters, breakout performances, and unexpected outcomes.
Which teams are expected to compete for the hardware? The seeding certainly isn’t the be-all-end-all factor that decides it, as the 2018 NCAAB Men’s Championship odds show. The first two favourites are No. 1 seeds, Villanova (+550) and Virginia (+550), but the next two, Duke (+750) and Michigan State (+850), are second and third seeds in the same region – the Midwest. Xavier (+1600), considered by the oddsmakers to be the weakest No. 1 seed in the field, is only the 11th favourite to claim the championship on April 2.
Villanova’s recipe for success is to lean on experienced players like juniors Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson, who tasted championship glory just two years ago as freshmen. Besides experience, these NBA draft prospects also bring elite talent to the mix, as they average over 18 points per game and shoot over 52% from the field.
As for Virginia, it’s no secret that their challenges are on the offensive side of the ball. By far, they have the best defence in the nation, but if they want to advance into the latter rounds of the bracket, Tony Bennett’s squad will need to score with the likes of Kentucky or Arizona, a potential Sweet 16 matchup for the ‘Hoos. Kyle Guy and Devon Hall will have to be sharp in their shot-making if Virginia is to have a chance.
Duke and Michigan State field impressive rosters, comprised of NBA talent everywhere you look. The NBA draft is projected to include five Duke selections (Marvin Bagley III, Wendell Carter Jr, Gary Trent Jr, Grayson Allen, Trevon Duval) and two Michigan State players (Jaren Jackson Jr, Miles Bridges), so watch out for a potential fireworks matchup between the two teams in the Sweet 16.
Every few years, we get a magical individual performance in the tournament, where one player makes all the difference for his team (see Carmelo Anthony in 2003, Stephen Curry in 2008, and Kemba Walker in 2011). Who are the nominees to stand out this year? In terms of guards, watch out for Oklahoma’s Trae Young, the leading scorer in the nation, and Collin Sexton of Alabama, one of the best two-way players in the nation. As for big men, DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III deserve your attention, as they’re able to dominate the paint as well as the perimeter and impose their will on opposing defences. Keep an eye out for individual player props as we progress through the tournament for your chance to bet on who you think will shine this March Madness.
*Odds as of March 13, 2018