College Sport

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

As we turn the calendar to February, March becomes more prominent in the college basketball landscape and the national consciousness. This year’s tournament should be wild as no team (except maybe Purdue) has split. We have yet to see greatness, but we have seen a lot of good teams able to get to Houston and cut the nets. But before we draw up the bracket and stop the madness, there is still some money to be made in the futures market at the national tournament, as well as profiting from some of the conference winners.

Odds from Caesars Sportsbook

Overcoming power conference races

And we’ll start here with the power conference races. The Big Ten is a Purdue wrap at -1800, and rightly so. Alabama (-240) is not a lock with the Tennessee Volunteers, also in the mix, but the Vols should play Bama again at home and have a tighter schedule with one game left in the standings currently. UCLA is -185 in the Pac-12 and while Arizona has the potential to win a national title this year, they have shown inconsistency. This leads me to believe that UCLA, with the best track record and the Wildcats’ home game remaining, will eventually win the conference.

Virginia Cavaliers (-150)

I took Virginia to ACC just two weeks ago when they were +180. Now they are where they rightfully should be at -150. The ACC has some good teams in the middle, bad teams at the end, and not a lot of high-end talent. The Cavaliers are the most consistent team, and the home game against Clemson is their only real competition. They have every chance to win the title.

Kansas State Wildcats (+250)

The Big 12 is the best college conference ever, and far from it. The market reflects this, with Texas currently the favorite (+180), Kansas (+225) followed by Kansas State (+250). Those odds will no doubt change after the Wildcats play Allen Fieldhouse tonight. While Texas is the current favorite, the Longhorns still have four of the toughest road games on the calendar (Kansas, K State, Baylor, TCU) and a home game against the Jayhawks. Despite their leadership in the standings, I don’t think they are playing.

It’s the other way around in Kansas State, with the Wildcats winning some of their toughest road games in Baylor and Texas. They also have remaining road games that are the easiest (relatively; again, this league is loaded) at Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and West Virginia. At +250, K State gets my money, but I also invest a little in Kansas.. First, because they are KU and the Big 12 title is almost a birthright, and also because I believe it will be a shared title between the Sunflower State contenders. At the moment, both have a good value, and I expect these prices to come down next week.

Marquette Golden Eagles (+135)

In the Big East, Xavier is a slight favorite at -110 and is capable of winning it, but Marquette at +135 is where I put my money.. Shaka Smart’s team this season came as a surprise; they are the most effective offense in the country and lead in the Big East in terms of the speed of TO in defense. They are currently at the top of the standings and have a favorable schedule for closing the regular season; Golden Eagles is a game.

Teams to look out for ahead of the NCAA Tournament

Okay, let’s talk about the tournament. Picking winners without knowing the grid can be a waste of time. However, there are a few futures that I think deserve your attention.

First, I really like Houston (+140) and Purdue (+240) to get into the Final Four. The No. 1 seed significantly increases the team’s chances of reaching the Final Four. These two teams will undoubtedly be the number 1 seed, and one of the two teams will be the number 1 seed in the tournament’s overall standings. As I said above, Purdue has started to separate a bit from his sequence and the 7ft 4in Zach Edie. Boilermakers know exactly who they are and are very hard to beat. Consistency is key, and Houston has it too. The Cougars are extremely well coached by Kelvin Sampson and are an elite defensive team that plays with a physical strength and toughness rarely seen at the college level. They also have offensive weapons led by All-American contender Markus Sasser. Houston has hosted many tournaments over the past few years, and this year Houston will host the Final Four. However, I’m not ready to take Houston (+600) and Purdue (+1000) to win all this just yet.. There are other teams at the top that I think have higher ceilings than them, but the question is whether they can reach their full potential.

Even though Alabama lost to Oklahoma last weekend, I still think the team is supremely talented on both sides and can win everything (+1000). Crimson Tide is the epitome of modern basketball… 3-point shots, free throws and free throws. They have an unmistakable top 5 pick in Brandon Miller, as well as length and versatility on both sides, and are in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive effectiveness.

Winning back-to-back national championships is extremely difficult and rare (the 2006 and 2007 Florida Gators were the last), but I think Kansas is capable (+1200). Jalen Wilson is the national player of the year contender, and Bill Self is arguably the best coach in the business. Playing in a tough Big 12 conference will prepare the Jayhawks for battle in the tournament.

These two teams are the more obvious picks, but there are two higher odds teams that I’m following and may be investing in over the next week or two. None of the teams are currently ranked, but I think that will change.

Resin North Carolina Heels (+3500)

First last year’s runner-up, North Carolina (+3500). The Tar Heels started the season by taking first place in the country. I didn’t think it was right, but this team really grew up after a brutal November. The Hills still have the core that led them to the national championship game last year, including first-team All-American Armando Backot. If Caleb Love starts to play effectively, like at the end of last season, defending at a higher level, this team is capable of it again.

Creighton Bluejays (+4500)

Creighton (+4500) are also a team that has been able to turn things around after going through a brutal spell of six straight losses, most of them without center Ryan Kalkbrenner 7-1. They have won seven of their last nine games, beating Xavier in last weekend, and it looks like the pre-season top 10 team we all thought it was. I think the Bluejays will be in contention for the Big East title (+400) and might even hit a streak that gets them into the top 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Their price will definitely come down in the coming weeks, so if you want to get aggressive, throw them some money now to win it all or even get into the Final Four (+1200).

We thought last season was the most open season ever with four Blue Bloods (Duke, UNC, Kansas and Villanova) in the Final Four. I don’t know if it will end the same way this season, but I expect there will be more teams than we ever thought in the past with the potential to get to Houston. We will try to help you decipher who these teams will be and make some money along the way.


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