Which 16 teams should you buy or fade ahead of March Madness?

Let’s run it back! Last year I wrote “This is the deepest year in recent memory in terms of teams that can cut netting in New Orleans.” Well, last year has turned into this one. And that could become the new normal with the transfer portal and the democratization of talent across the country, we just might see more parity in the future. We know exactly what will happen this season. So where do you put your dollars? We’ll use last weekend’s NCAA selection committee’s report of the top 16 players to base our picks on who you should buy and fade and who gets the sprinkles to cut nets in Houston.

Odds from Caesars Sportsbook

1. Crimson Tide of Alabama (+1000)

In Brandon Miller’s situation, it seems almost heartless, so I’ll keep it simple. For the time being, it appears that Miller will continue to play for Tide. If so, then they are one of my favorites to win it all with a high level of attack, defense and playmakers led by Miller.

Verdict: Buy

2. Houston Cougars (+650)

Houston is currently the betting favorite to win the NCAA championship, with the Final Four taking place in his hometown. Over the past five years, the national champion has been in the top 22 in adjusted offensive and defensive effectiveness according to, so balance is critical. The Cougars have it and are in the top 10 in both categories. Defensively, they are elite, physical, and make opponents feel them with every possession. On offense they have high level scorers and playmakers such as Markus Sasser, Jamal Shed, Jaras Walker and others. Last year they made it to the elite, and the year before they made it to the Final Four. Three of the four previously mentioned players were part of one or both of these teams. Experience and security matter.

Verdict: Buy

3. Purdue Boilermakers (+1200)

The brilliance faded for the Boilermakers as they struggled down. They still have a likely Wood Award winner in Zach Edie who is very difficult to guard. However, freshman guards Foster Loyer and Braden Smith are exposed. They are both solid players, but they are young and can be forced to lose ground and manage the game poorly. In general, the team also lacks athleticism. Purdue can make it to Houston, but it can’t beat the elite teams.

Verdict: fade

4. Kansas Jayhawks (+800)

No one has been national champion since 2006 and 2007 with the Florida Gators. This Kansas team has proven they can do it. The Jayhawks have 14 Quad 1 wins, while no other team in the country has more than 10.

Jalen Wilson would have been a Wood Award winner if not for Edie, and his supporting cast has taken shape. DeJuan Harris is the Jayhawks’ key player when he’s aggressive on offense, Grady Dick is one of the best freshmen in the country, and Kevin McCallar is an elite two-way player. All this, combined with Bill Self and the experience of winning last year, the Jayhawks can win again.

Verdict: Buy

5. Texas Longhorns (+2500)

I think Texas is underrated here. They are close to the recipe I mentioned earlier, in the top 25 in terms of adjusted offensive and defensive effectiveness. They are an old team with a lot of experience and depth, including Sir Jabari Rice, who is the highest prolific sixth man in the country. They are also in contention for the Big 12 title in Kansas, which is by far the toughest conference in the country (eight or nine out of 10 Big 12 teams will enter the tournament).

Verdict: To sprinkle

6. Arizona Wildcats (+1000)

I liked last year’s Arizona team that failed, and this year’s team is a smaller version with similar parts. Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo together make up the best frontcourt combination in the country, but the problem is with defense and defense play by the Wildcats. Kerr Kriisa, Pelle Larsen and Courtney Ramey are good players but lack defensive skill. Arizona can score, but I think their defense and defensive shortcomings will be exploited, as evidenced by stunning losses as double-digit favorites against Washington State and Arizona at home.

Verdict: fade

7. Baylor Bears (+2200)

Baylor has the most dynamic backcourt in the country with Adam Flagler, LJ Cryer and Keyontae George. They score pro-level points, entertain and throw a lot of hard shots. The problem is that they are not well protected. While the Bears have a solid head start, it’s not enough to make up for their lack of desire and effectiveness on defense. This team could run all the way to Houston, but taking the bears to cut the nets is too one-sided.

Verdict: fade

8. UCLA (+1200)

UCLA is very similar to Baylor, but with opposite issues. I love their parts. Tiger Campbell is an elite point guard, Jaime Jacques is one of the most versatile and difficult to defend players in the country. The Bruins have role players and elite defense, but I don’t believe they will score consistently enough. They play at a slow pace and can grind teams down with their defense, but this year they can’t keep up the fight for points against high-level opponents. Playing them to get into the Final Four at +330 is good, but I wouldn’t pick them to cut nets

Verdict: fade

9. Tennessee Volunteers (+1800)

I’m so on Vols. Tennessee is an elite defensive team, ranked #1 in defensive efficiency and #64 in offensive efficiency. All such a struggle in the offensive. This was recently demonstrated when the Vols lost five of their last eight games.

Verdict: fade

10. Virginia Cavaliers (+4500)

The Cavaliers are the team that has the biggest discrepancy between AP/committee rankings and where the bookies see them. They are not an elite defensive team like in years past and on offense they have to take their own jump shots and they don’t have a guy who can create their own shot. Virginia is a strong team, but their ceiling is Sweet 16.

Verdict: fade

11. Iowa Cyclones (+5000)

Iowa is very similar to Virginia, but better defended. They wreak havoc and create a ton of casualties, but if they don’t score them, the cyclones go out of their way to create an attack. They may win a few games in the tournament, but they’re not going to beat elite teams that have advanced significantly over the course of the season.

Verdict: fade

12. Kansas State Wildcats (+5000)

Jerome Tang deserves the Coach of the Year title this season. The Wildcats had only two fellows when Tang took the job in the spring, and what he’s done since then has been amazing. Marquis Nowell and Keyonte Johnson are stallions. Johnson has been one of the best stories in college basketball since he passed out on the court two years ago during a game in Florida. However, the teams that figured out how to stop Novell have limited Kansas State at times. They are still fighting the really strong teams in the country.

Verdict: fade

13. Indiana Hoosiers (+4000)

Indiana is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in college basketball. At home they are a completely different team than on the road. It’s not unique to them, but they are good, really good, and their bad can be very bad. Trace Jackson Davis is a First Team All-American. Jalen Hood Schifino is a star freshman, but he has also been extremely inconsistent. Defensive play wins in March, and it’s not enough for the Hoosiers to win everything in March.

Verdict: fade

14. Marquette Golden Eagles (+4000)

Shaka Smart has done a great job and the Golden Eagles are very valuable here. They sit in a very difficult Big East with a lead three games ahead where they will have at least six points (DePaul, Butler and St. Johns). They have arguably the best point guard in the country in Tyler Kolek, scoring effectively and radiating the resilience of vintage Shaq Smart teams. The problem is their defense, and this shows up in key games and moments. But at this price, Marquette is worth some money.

Verdict: To sprinkle

15. Gonzaga Bulldogs (+2200)

This is not the Zags team of yesteryear when they had dominant and special players. This team doesn’t have a top 5 on their roster, but they still have one of the best big players in the country in Drew Timm, future NBA talent in Julian Strouter, and a bunch of guys who are still getting buckets. They are number one in the nation in offensive effectiveness and have been tested with victories over Xavier, Alabama (100 points at high tide in Birmingham), Michigan State and Kentucky, as well as heavy losses against Texas, Purdue and Baylor. The optional defense remains a problem, so they won’t go through much of the tournament as they have in recent years. However, Gonzaga is still able to run without being Mark Few’s best team.

Verdict: To sprinkle

16. Xavier Musketeers (+5000)

Xavier was good in Sean Miller’s first year at the helm, but not good enough to win it all. They’ve been struggling without Zack Fremantle, meaning they’ll likely be seeded at number 5 or 6. The Musketeers can score and Souley Blum is a terrific defender, but that’s not enough given their struggles defensively.

Verdict: fade


I was talking about depth, so this year could very well be similar to last year when higher seeded teams like Duke (6-seat) or North Carolina (8-seat) made it to the Final Four. So, a few others to consider:

UConn Huskies (+1600)

They had their most impressive 14-0 start to the season and struggled into the middle of the season. They didn’t defend at the level they were capable of and their defensive play can sometimes be erratic. However, Huskies earn differently with good big players, creators and shooters. They are in the top 10 in terms of offensive effectiveness and in the top 25 in terms of defensive effectiveness. The sweepstakes recognize their potential more than the ratings, and so do I.

Verdict: Buy

Creighton Bluejays (+3000)

We thought Creighton would be one of the top 10 teams in the country in pre-season. They fell into a six-game skid midway through the season, mostly because their dynamic big Ryan Kalkbrenner missed three games. Kalkbrenner is back and healthy, providing size, rim protection and scoring. The Bluejays have dynamic defensemen and playmakers, winning eight games in a row before recently losing three of…


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