College Basketball: NCAA Championship Odds for the Top 25
As February encroaches upon March, excitement is brewing in college basketball fans around the nation as they await the sport’s most anticipated time of year.
With the season already offering plenty of exhilaration, upsets and buzzer-beaters, we can only imagine what the madness of March will bring to us this year.
Last year was very unpredictable with some very unlikely teams journeying to the Final Four, and this year we can only hope for that same twisting plot.
With that hope in mind, let’s take a look at each Top 25 team’s odds (as defined by the writer) of winning it all this year.
25. Notre Dame
Notre Dame had a rough start to the season with an 8-5 record during non-conference play; however, a ray of hope came in the form of a Big East-opening win against No. 22 Pittsburgh.
The Fighting Irish won a season-changing game against Syracuse that gave the Orange their first loss of the season.
Notre Dame has been unstoppable after that monumental win, defeating Top 25 Connecticut and Marquette.
While Notre Dame isn’t expected to win out in the Big East, it has become an appealing tournament team.
Despite a good non-conference performance, Gonzaga raised major concerns when it fell to the Big Ten’s Illinois and Michigan State.
The lack of nationally competitive teams in the West Coast Conference tends to undermine Gonzaga’s value, but the Bulldogs have fared well in the conference and split their series against No. 16 St. Mary’s.
Gonzaga can’t be counted out altogether, but the Bulldogs’ lack of tough opponents serves as a detriment in their preparation for the tournament.
23. Mississippi State
Mississippi State came out strong for non-conference play with a 13-2 record, almost defeating No. 7 Baylor.
However, the Bulldogs haven’t fared as well in the SEC and currently sport a mediocre 6-5 record.
Mississippi State probably won’t be ranked after losing to LSU this week. If the Bulldogs are going to be competitive in the tournament, they’ll have to show up big in their final SEC games.
Virginia started the season with an impressive 14-1 record, which included a home win against No. 15 Michigan.
The Cavaliers haven’t won any key games against the ACC’s toughest talent, but they have gotten pretty close.
Virginia has an excellent opportunity to prove itself by winning its upcoming home games against Florida State and North Carolina.
21. Florida State
After a shaky start to the season, Florida State has been one of the hottest teams in the nation since conference play began.
The Seminoles won two huge games against No. 3 North Carolina and No. 4 Duke and are right on their tails in the ACC title race with a 9-2 conference record.
If Florida State finishes conference play well, it will be a major threat to top teams.
Indiana captivated the nation this season with a 12-game run that included a thrilling home win over No. 1 Kentucky.
The Hoosiers got off to an exciting start in the Big Ten by beating Ohio State and Michigan after a tough opening loss to Michigan State.
Although the Hoosiers have since slipped into mediocrity, they are a dangerous team and can turn it on at any point and shock the nation once again.
With one of the most dynamic backcourts in the nation, Michigan has proved its worth at the top of the Big Ten conference by defeating Wisconsin, Michigan State and Indiana.
The Wolverines’ biggest setback is lack of momentum, as they have yet to post more than a two-game win streak in conference play.
If Michigan can catch some momentum going into the NCAA tournament, it will be up there with the best teams.
Ranked as high as No. 4, Louisville came out strong with a 12-game run to start the season.
However, the Cardinals got off to a bad start in Big East conference play with a tough home loss to Georgetown.
Louisville is back to playing good basketball, though, as it is now on a roll in conference play and nearly defeated Syracuse.
Ranked highly in the beginning of the season, Wisconsin hit a major obstacle during conference play by losing consecutively to Top 25 teams.
The Badgers hit another rough patch with a 1-3 start to Big Ten conference play, losing an overtime heartbreaker at home against No. 11 Michigan State.
However, Wisconsin recently posted a six-game win streak in conference play before losing to No. 3 Ohio State by six points.
16. Saint Mary’s
Saint Mary’s got off to a good start this season but proved no match for Baylor when it took the Bears on at home.
The Gaels got off to a blazing start in West Coast Conference play with a 10-game surge; however, their two recent conference losses have raised doubts about their NCAA contention.
However, if Saint Mary’s can finish conference play off strongly, then it’ll be a competitive team in March.
15. San Diego State
It was uncertain how San Diego State would perform after an impressive season last year; however, the Aztecs came out ready to play this season.
Although the Aztecs beat Top 25 teams during non-conference play, those wins have since lost their appeal, as the teams that they beat have dropped down significantly in the rankings.
Regardless, San Diego State will show up ready to play at the Big Dance.
14. Murray State
Murray State appeared on the national scene in early December with a win over No. 20 Memphis, and the Racers didn’t stop there, winning 23 games to start the season.
The Racers have only lost one game this season (25-1) and have dominated the Ohio Valley Conference with some serious long-range shooters, including Isaiah Canaan, who averages 47.3 percent from beyond the arc to complement his 19.2 points per game.
The debate is still in the air as to whether Murray State can hang with the best of them, and all that will be put into action this March.
Marquette appeared on the national radar early this season with a key road victory at Wisconsin, which was ranked No. 7 at the time.
After a rough early stretch in the Big East with two close losses to Georgetown and Syracuse, the Golden Eagles have posted a 9-1 record in conference play.
If Marquette can convert on some difficult road games coming up, it will be a top contender in the Big East tournament and beyond.
Florida has held its ground in the SEC under No. 1 Kentucky, which is undefeated in conference play.
Although the Gators have played Top Five teams thrice on the season and lost every time, they have yet to be put to a real test against a top team because they haven’t had the privilege of playing those teams at home yet.
However, Florida will have the ultimate chance to prove itself against tough competition in its final SEC conference game at home against No. 1 Kentucky.
UNLV has turned heads in college basketball with its powerful yet unselfish offense, and it has worked its way into the Top 25.
Although the Rebels’ early-season victory over North Carolina put them on the radar, their flair has diminished due to their inability to win games on the road in the Mountain West Conference.
UNLV will have to finish its conference play strong in order to remain a Top 25 team and a candidate for a national championship.
Baylor was one of the hottest teams in college basketball to start the season, as it came out roaring with a 17-game win streak.
However, the Bears haven’t been able to prove themselves as Big 12 contenders after falling to Top 10 Kansas and Missouri on four occasions.
Baylor’s offense can be explosive, but if the Bears are going to win an NCAA championship, they’ll have to hold their composure better.
A storming start to the season for Georgetown was quickly evened out by a mediocre opening to Big East conference play.
However, the Hoyas have remained at the top of the tough Big East and are looking good as of late, as they recently took No. 2 Syracuse to overtime.
8. Michigan State
After starting the season with two rough losses to North Carolina and Duke, Michigan State went on a 14-game winning surge, proving that the Spartans were still contenders in the NCAA after a rough start.
Michigan State is currently giving Ohio State a run for its money for the Big Ten title, as both teams are currently tied at 10-3. The two will battle head-to-head to close out conference play.
7. North Carolina
A highly hyped team coming into the season, North Carolina has a stellar group of athletes on the court.
However, unexpected losses like the blowout suffered against Florida State have caused uncertainty about what the Tar Heels are capable of despite having the best offense in the nation
6. Ohio State
A recent Big Ten home loss to Michigan State has put Ohio State under the spotlight, but the Buckeyes still have one of the best starting fives in college basketball.
Ohio State’s problem of depth persists, as the team has no real replacement for forward Jared Sullinger when he needs rest.
However, the Buckeyes have a big advantage going into the tournament with the experience of last year under their belt.
Early non-conference losses brought doubts about Kansas’ potential, but the Jayhawks have really excelled in Big 12 conference play under Thomas Robinson’s dominant play.
Although Kansas beat Top 10 Baylor twice, it still remains unclear how this team will fare against other top talent come tournament time, as the Jayhawks suffered losses to Kentucky and Duke early this season.
Duke has had its share of doubts this season but has quieted its critics with a huge road win against ACC rival North Carolina.
The Blue Devils have held their ground in the ACC, and despite getting blown out by Ohio State on the road earlier this season, they seem to have found their niche and have adjusted to their strengths.
An ACC title could be a huge boost of momentum if Duke can beat North Carolina in its final ACC conference game this season.
Missouri has worked its way not only into the Top 25 but recently into the Top Five, giving No. 5 Kansas a run for its money in the Big 12.
With senior guard Marcus Denmon leading the offense (17.9 PPG), the Tigers have one of the most productive offenses in college basketball with an average of 80.3 points per game (eighth).
Syracuse’s 20-game win streak to start the season put it in the spotlight as the strongest team in the nation.
The Orange currently stand at an unrivaled 26-1 on the season and 13-1 in Big East conference play.
Syracuse has been tagged as the deepest team in college basketball, and if Fab Melo can stay healthy, the Orange have a good shot at the NCAA championship.
Kentucky has lost one game all year (25-1), has dominated the SEC and remains undefeated in conference play (11-0).
The Wildcats’ youth has been the subject of skepticism, especially going into the NCAA tournament, but their raw talent has prevailed above all.