College Basketball

NCAA Tournament 2014: Opening Odds for Every Team

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystMarch 17, 2014

NCAA Tournament 2014: Opening Odds for Every Team

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    The NCAA tournament field has been revealed, and we've placed odds on each team winning the whole kit and caboodle.

    In many cases, these won't even come close to matching up with the odds you might find at your local sportsbook, but they are our best estimate at the actual odds each team has of winning it all.

    The two biggest favorites (Florida and Arizona) won't come as any surprise, but we've got a pair of No. 4 seeds among the next few teams after them.

    ***DISCLAIMER*** It should be noted that you can't actually bet on these odds.

    Unless, of course, you want to bet on a No. 16 seed to win it all. If that's the case, we're all ears.

No. 16 Seeds

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Cal Poly (4,000,000 / 1)

    The Mustangs aren't quite the worst team to ever make the tournament—Liberty tied the record by entering last year's tournament with 20 losses—but their 13-19 record isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for a seven-game winning streak.

     

    Coastal Carolina (2,085,135 / 1)

    Texas Southern (2,085,135 / 1)

    Weber State (2,085,135 / 1)

    No RPI top-150 wins and a combined 24 losses to teams outside the RPI top 150.

    The number in their odds may seem like a random mishmash of key strokes, but those are the odds of picking the correct number four consecutive times in double-zero roulette. That feels like a proper equivalent for the likelihood of either team winning it all.

     

    Mount St. Mary's (2,000,000 / 1)

    The Mountaineers played three games against teams in the RPI top 50 and lost those games to Villanova, BYU and Michigan State by an average of 32 points per game.

     

    Albany (950,000 / 1)

    The Great Danes only played one game this season against a team in the RPI top 100, and they held their own in a 12-point road loss to Pittsburgh. Still, there's no chance that a No. 16 seed will win it all.

No. 15 Seeds

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    Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

    American (1,200,000 / 1)

    Between Bucknell and Lehigh, the Patriot League has sent some dangerous teams to the NCAA tournament over the past few years.

    That trend has been broken. American's best nonconference win came against St. Francis University (RPI: 298).

     

    Wofford (1,000,000 / 1)

    The Terriers were relatively competitive in consecutive road games against Saint Louis and VCU in December, losing to each A-10 team by fewer than 20 points. Unfortunately, they haven't actually beaten an RPI top 150 team yet this season.

     

    Milwaukee (650,000 / 1)

    Any team that can win two games away from home against Green Bay is all right in my book. We haven't really seen anything else out of the Panthers, though, as they were blown out once by Wisconsin and twice by Cleveland State.

     

    Eastern Kentucky (200,000 / 1)

    Regardless of what number we put there, Eastern Kentucky isn't going to win it all. Let's get that little tidbit out of the way up front. But if there is a Florida Gulf Coast out there this year, I believe it's the Colonels.

    They won two games against Belmont and came within three points of going 3-0 against the Bruins.

    More impressive than that, they pushed VCU to overtime on the Rams' home court in a battle between two of the nation's leaders in steals per game.

No. 14 Seeds

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    North Carolina Central (400,000 / 1)

    The Eagles won at North Carolina State by 10, lost at Wichita State by 11 and lost at Cincinnati by 13. Against better than average teams, they have performed pretty admirably. They have also won 20 consecutive games, if you're into momentum.

     

    Mercer (200,000 / 1)

    The Bears nearly won at Texas on the opening night of the season. Granted, the Longhorns weren't the same team in November that they are now, but it's an indication of the fact that the Atlantic Sun will still be a threat in this year's tournament.

     

    Western Michigan (125,000 / 1)

    The Broncos could be a dangerous team. They went 8-4 vs. RPI top-100 teams this season. Most of those wins came against MAC opponents in the 85-100 range, but that's still pretty darn good. They weren't great early in the season, but they have won 12 of their last 13 games.

     

    Louisiana-Lafayette (100,000 / 1)

    If you haven't heard of Shawn Long and Elfrid Payton, you're going to in the next few days.

    The Ragin' Cajuns' dynamic duo has combined to average 38 points per game this season. Long is averaging a double-double with 18.7 points and 10.5 rebounds; Payton averages 19.1 points and 6.0 assists per game.

    ULL was one of the only teams from this midseason list of Cinderella candidates that actually made the tournament. You may want to at least think twice before picking the Ragin' Cajuns to lose right away.

No. 13 Seeds

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    Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

    Tulsa (100,000 / 1)

    Tulsa was pretty dreadful during the 2013 portion of the season. Though the Golden Hurricane came relatively close to beating Creighton, Green Bay and Oklahoma, they opened the season with a 4-9 record, including two losses to TCU.

    Since then, they're 17-3 and have won 11 straight.

    I'm not sure they have enough to shock the world this year, but six of their seven leading scorers are sophomores. Consider yourself officially alerted that Tulsa will be a scary team during the 2015-16 season.

     

    Delaware (80,000 / 1)

    Remember when Delaware was tied with Villanova in the final three minutes of that road game? The Fightin Blue Hens don't have any marquee wins, but they are not going to be an easy team to beat.

     

    New Mexico State (50,000 / 1)

    Last year, New Mexico State was my sleeper pick. I got sucked into the allure of a 7'5" Sim Bhullar playing his best basketball entering the tournament, but I won't let that happen again.

    What's that? Bhullar is averaging 14.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game over his last six games?

    Must. Resist. Temptation.

     

    Manhattan (25,000 / 1)

    Since winning the MAC tournament, Manhattan has been my answer every time someone asks for a dangerous sleeper team.

    The Jaspers commit more fouls per game than any team in the country. The Jaspers also attempt more free throws per game than any other team in the country. To say they play a physical style would be an understatement.

    It's basically the opposite of VCU's "Havoc." Rather than trying to speed you up, Manhattan will slow you down. But in both cases, if you've never played against that type of team before, it could result in an upset.

No. 12 Seeds

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    Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

    Stephen F. Austin (35,000 / 1)

    The Lumberjacks haven't lost a game since November.

    In totally related news, they also haven't played an RPI top-90 team since November.

    They did go 29-2 vs. D-I competition, and we sure did bend over backwards over the past few months to compliment Wichita State for putting together an undefeated season. Regardless of the strength of schedule, they must be doing something right.

    Stephen F. Austin has been great at forcing turnovers and offensive rebounding. Now, let's see how that translates to games against tournament competition.

     

    North Dakota State (17,500 / 1)

    Like so many other automatic qualifiers in the No. 12-13 range, the Bison lost a couple of early games but have been unstoppable for the past three months.

    Since suffering by far their worst loss of the season to North Dakota on Nov. 24, the Bison are 23-3 with 10 RPI top-150 wins. On offense, they are one of the best interior teams in the country.

    Marshall Bjorklund, TrayVonn Wright and Taylor Braun are all seniors who are 6'7" or taller and averaging a combined 43 points per game.

     

    Harvard (8,000 / 1)

    Just like last season, Harvard hasn't played any quality teams in more than two months.

    Also like last season, the Crimson are one of the primary candidates to pull off a few upsets.

     

    North Carolina State (3,000 / 1)

    It's possible that the biggest upset that the Wolfpack accomplish in the tournament was actually getting into the field. T.J. Warren and company are playing well, but they sure do have some questionable losses.

    Play like they did a few weeks ago in a 15-point loss at home to Miami, and they'll get laughed out of the tournament.

     

    Xavier (2,000 / 1)

    Semaj Christon has played in 236 of the past 240 minutes for Xavier and has been coming a bit unraveled.

    His field-goal percentage in Xavier's first 30 games was 49.3 percent. Over the final three games, he shot just 37.5 percent, averaging less than one point per field-goal attempt.

No. 11 Seeds

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Providence (2,000 / 1)

    Eventually Bryce Cotton has to run out of gas, right? He averaged 38.6 minutes per game during the 2011-12 season, 37.8 minutes per game last year and an insane 39.9 minutes per game this year. If and when he finally has a bad game, the Friars will be in serious trouble.

     

    Dayton (1,200 / 1)

    As long as they don't meet up with Saint Joseph's, the Flyers might be able to make a decent run. Dayton went 0-3 vs. Saint Joseph's but 10-4 vs. all other RPI top-100 teams.

     

    Nebraska (1,000 / 1)

    They didn't make the field with much room to spare, but the Cornhuskers are playing about as well as any team in the country over the past seven weeks. Since Jan. 20, they are 8-3 vs. teams in the RPI top 100.

     

    Iowa (500 / 1)

    Iowa has been playing quite miserably over the past month, losing six out of seven and eight of 12.

    But when they were hot, the Hawkeyes were easily one of the 20 best teams in the country. We'll see which version of this team shows up for the tournament.

     

    Tennessee (450 / 1)

    For some reason, the entire world fell in love with Tennessee over the weekend—even though the Volunteers only averaged 54 points per game against South Carolina and a Florida team that was going to be a No. 1 seed in the tournament no matter what happened.

    That 35-point win over Virginia in December will never, ever make any sense, so please don't take it as an indication that Tennessee could win the tournament.

No. 10 Seeds

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    BYU (1,000 / 1)

    Quite a few people weren't even projecting BYU to make the tournament, so it was surprising to see the Cougars as a No. 10 seed.

    They had four dreadful losses to teams outside the RPI top 125, and their marquee wins over Texas and Stanford came before either of those teams looked anything close to what they do today. One or two wins is totally possible, but six is a bit much.

     

    Saint Joseph's (400 / 1)

    We've seen a few No. 10 seeds make it to the Elite Eight over the years, but there has never been one in the Final Four—let alone a national champion. Even if this is the year that trend changes, it won't be because of the Hawks.

    Langston Galloway has been playing incredibly well since the calendar flipped to March (22.0 PPG in six games), but the Hawks rely far too heavily on their starting five. One minor injury or one game with foul trouble and they're finished.

     

    Arizona State (350 / 1)

    The Sun Devils were 1-9 away from home against the RPI top 100—and needed overtime to beat California in that one win. They played pretty well against Pac-12 competition, but I don't feel great about their chances.

     

    Stanford (200 / 1)

    The Cardinal haven't been to the tournament since 2008, so this will be Johnny Dawkins' first trip as a head coach. Aside from the 1989 season in which Steve Fisher took over for Bill Frieder as head coach of Michigan at the end of the season, no coach in the past 30 years has won it all in his first trip to the tournament.

No. 9 Seeds

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    George Washington (200 / 1)

    The Colonels went 11-8 vs. RPI top-100 opponents and didn't lose any other games this season. It's hard to believe anyone would consider actually betting on them to win it all, but that would have also been true about Wichita State as a No. 9 seed last year.

     

    Kansas State (100 / 1)

    Unfortunately for the Wildcats, there will be no tournament games played at Fred Bramlage Coliseum. They were very difficult to beat at home but went just 1-9 away from home against RPI top-100 opponents.

     

    Pittsburgh (75 / 1)

    The Panthers have spent most of the season convincing us not to believe in them, but I still see a quality team. They don't have a ton of great wins, but they don't have any terrible losses—and the losses that they have suffered have primarily been of the down-to-the-wire variety.

    Just imagine how differently we would be viewing Pittsburgh if Tyler Ennis hadn't drained that game-winning half-court shot, or if Malcolm Brogdon didn't make that game-winning three-pointer with one second remaining. Give the Panthers wins instead of losses in those games and they might have been in the running for a No. 3 seed.

     

    Oklahoma State (35 / 1)

    Between Baylor, Oregon and Oklahoma State, we've had our share of teams this season that looked like a potential national champion for the first two months of the season, only to completely fall apart for a month before playing their way back to a middling seed.

    The Cowboys might be the most dangerous of them all. They have looked very good over the past three weeks since getting Marcus Smart back from that infamous suspension.

No. 8 Seeds

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Colorado (300 / 1)

    Unless all the games are decided by a score of 59-56, Colorado won't be going far. Oddly enough, that's the exact score by which the Buffaloes have won their last three games. Other than that, they've spent the past two months getting blown out by quality teams like Arizona and UCLA.

     

    Gonzaga (150 / 1)

    If you're looking to buy stock in Gonzaga, allow me to remind you that the Bulldogs' only wins against tournament teams came against BYU (twice) and New Mexico State. Not only have they failed to beat the caliber of opponents they'd face in the Final Four, but they haven't even beaten a team as good as their second-round opponent.

     

    Memphis (125 / 1)

    Having swept Louisville during the regular season, it would be foolish to doubt Memphis' ability to beat anyone. However, the Tigers are not a very consistent team, particularly on defense. In seven of their nine losses, they allowed their opponent to score 77 or more points. That won't cut it in the tournament.

     

    Kentucky (100 / 1)

    Kentucky's line in Vegas is going to be way too high, solely because this is Kentucky. Outside of that 10-minute stretch in which the Wildcats almost came back to beat Michigan State on Nov. 12, I can't remember the last time I watched them and thought, "Now that's a Final Four team."

    That won't stop scores of people from betting on them, though.

No. 7 Seeds

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    Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    Texas (125 / 1)

    A month ago, I would've given Texas respectable odds of winning it all.

    Since Feb. 18, though, the Longhorns are 3-5 with blowout losses to Kansas and Baylor and another confidence-crippling loss to Texas Tech. They seem to be backing their way into the tournament.

     

    Oregon (100 / 1)

    It has been a nice bounce-back month for the Ducks, but I'm not sold that they're a threat to knock off a Wisconsin in the Round of 32. They needed double-overtime to beat UCLA when the Bruins were down two key players and then got destroyed by UCLA in the Pac-12 tournament.

     

    New Mexico (100 / 1)

    Even if the Lobos were a serious threat to win it all, no one in their right mind is going to bet on them after last year's second-round loss to Harvard. They were considerably overrated last year but might be a bit of a sleeper this March.

     

    Connecticut (50 / 1)

    It's an easy comparison because they play(ed) for the same team, but if anyone is capable of making a Kemba Walker type of run through this year's tournament, it might be Shabazz Napier. He kind of sputtered toward the end of the season, but it's a grind to play 35-plus minutes per game for three seasons.

    I suspect the senior will find another gear for his final NCAA tournament, though.

No. 6 Seeds

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Massachusetts (200 / 1)

    Please see the next slide for my thoughts on the A-10 teams.

     

    Ohio State (85 / 1)

    I'm sorry, but you can't get swept by Penn State and still be a legitimate candidate to win six straight tournament games. The Buckeyes could win a few games, but they don't have the offensive firepower to consistently beat the opponents they would face beyond the second round.

     

    Baylor (75 / 1)

    A lot of teams stumbled their way into the tournament. Baylor is not one of those teams.

    The Bears are doing as well as they have all season. Cory Jefferson is playing like a man possessed, Brady Heslip is liquid hot magma from three-point range and Isaiah Austin is consistently playing like a top-rated recruit for the first time in two years.

    If you insist on taking a "deep" sleeper to win it all, I'd recommend Baylor. Entering play Saturday, the Bears stood at 300/1 to win it all—same as Missouri and Marquette. That's lunacy.

     

    North Carolina (30 / 1)

    The Tar Heels did win 12 straight games in conference play, but it's pretty hard to win six straight tournament games when you can only count on one person on the team to make threes or free throws. Hold Marcus Paige in check and North Carolina is incredibly beatable.

No. 5 Seeds

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    Saint Louis (200 / 1)

    Last season, the Mountain West Conference entered the tournament with an incredible RPI and placed quite a few single-digit seeds into the NCAA tournament. But virtually the entire conference fell flat on its face, going 2-5 with four losses against double-digit seeds.

    I'm concerned we're headed for a similar result with the A-10.

    Really, though, what did these teams do during the nonconference portion of the season? Saint Louis and Saint Joseph's had zero RPI top-70 wins but did have losses to Creighton, Villanova, Wichita State and Wisconsin to boost their resume. Dayton, George Washington and VCU each had one RPI top-50 win in the first two months of the season.

    Basically, Massachusetts entered the month of January ranked No. 1 in RPI and spent the next two months helping the rest of the conference's computer profiles.

    Sounds a lot like what New Mexico did last year, doesn't it?

     

    Oklahoma (35 / 1)

    Oklahoma is so underrated that no one is talking about the Sooners being underrated. They have one of the fastest and most efficient offenses in the country. If they can start running, good luck catching up with them.

     

    VCU (30 / 1)

    Never underestimate the power of Havoc. This VCU team is even more talented than the one that went to the Final Four three years ago.

     

    Cincinnati (Please see next slide)

No. 4 Seeds

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    San Diego State (24 / 1)

    Cincinnati (No. 5 Seed) (24 / 1)

    I would have done them on separate slides, but if there's a major difference between these two teams, I'm not seeing it.

    Both play impeccable defense, blocking a lot of shots and creating a lot of turnovers. Both teams have an offense that depends almost exclusively on a senior guard who doesn't have a great shooting percentage but always seems to make shots when it matters the most.

    Even their games at New Mexico were nearly identical. Cincinnati lost 63-54, shooting 29.5 percent from the field while the Lobos shot 50 percent. New Mexico also shot 50 percent in a 58-44 win over San Diego State, which shot 32.3 percent from the field.

    There's a good chance they both make the Sweet 16, but neither Cincinnati nor San Diego State will be going too deep in the tournament.

     

    UCLA (20 / 1)

    The Bruins are the first of three No. 4 seeds who won a major conference tournament and clearly appear to be peaking at the right time.

    They got a bit of a rough draw, potentially having to go through VCU and Florida just to reach the Elite Eight, but they just won three games in three days against three teams who made the tournament.

     

    Michigan State (15 / 1)

    They lost seven of their final 12 regular-season games, but the Spartans are closer to 100 percent healthy than they have been in months.

    Not surprisingly, a lot of the talking heads are picking Michigan State to win it all. As Dick Vitale tweeted (with considerably more capital letters than we're using here), "Sparty is four seed, but a one seed to all of us at ESPN. All five on our show picked Spartans to win it all!"

    Our own C.J. Moore is picking Michigan State to win it all as well.

    Bracket advice: If you pick Delaware to beat Michigan State, it sure sounds like you'll be the only one.

     

    Louisville (8 / 1)

    You haven't seen the odds for the top three lines yet, but I'm giving Louisville the third-best odds of winning the tournament.

    The Cardinals have too much talent to not at least make a run at repeating as national champions.

    Montrezl Harrell is playing out of his mind. Over the last five games of the regular season—four of which were against tournament teams—Harrell averaged 21.2 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. I have no earthly idea how he isn't a projected lottery pick in this year's draft, but just watch how quickly that changes if he plays like that in the tournament.

No. 3 Seeds

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Iowa State (20 / 1)

    DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim are arguably the best one-two scoring punch in the entire tournament field. Aside from a triple-overtime win over a short-handed Oklahoma State, though, the Cyclones entered the Big 12 tournament with an 0-6 record away from home in 2014 against RPI top-100 foes.

    Can they carry the momentum from winning that tournament, or will they revert to their underachieving ways?

     

    Duke (15 / 1)

    Vegas will inevitably give Duke better odds than this because they know people will bet on the Blue Devils regardless, but poor defense and a crippling dependence on three-pointers will likely keep Duke from winning it all.

    If and when the Blue Devils run into a team that can defend Jabari Parker without foulingin the Elite Eight against Michigan, for exampleit could be the end of their run.

     

    Syracuse (14 / 1)

    Syracuse had its troubles in the latter half of ACC play, but the Orange were regarded as one of the two best teams in the country for more than half of the season. With Jerami Grant back in the mix, the only thing Syracuse needs to make the Final Four is for Trevor Cooney to remember how to shoot the ball.

    In Syracuse's first 25 games (all wins), Cooney was shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range. Over the final six games of the regular season, he shot 20.0 percent.

     

    Creighton (12 / 1)

    If any team in the country is going to score 90 points per game all the way to the title, it's the Creighton Fightin' McDermotts.

No. 2 Seeds

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Kansas (off)

    Fourteen years ago, Cincinnati was one of the favorites to win the 2000 NCAA tournament. The Bearcats ranked No. 4 or better in the AP poll for the entire regular season.

    But then Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the Conference USA tournament. The Bearcats earned a No. 2 seed, but Tulsa eliminated them in the Round of 32.

    Sound familiar?

    Until we truly know how much and how effectively Joel Embiid will be able to play with the stress fracture in his back, there's no good way to assess the Jayhawks. Maybe Embiid will be healthy enough to make it back for the later rounds of the tournament, but there's no guarantee Kansas will still be alive by then.

    After all, the Jayhawks lost their last game of the regular season to a team that didn't even make the tournament (West Virginia).

     

    Wisconsin (20 / 1)

    Before the loss to Nebraska in the regular-season finale, the Badgers were just barely getting past Penn State and Purdue.

    Sam Dekker was supposed to be an All-American this year, but he completely disappeared down the stretch, averaging just 6.0 points over Wisconsin's final three regular-season games. Unless he comes back with a vengeance or Nigel Hayes steps up his game even more than he already has, it could be an early exit for the Badgers.

     

    Villanova (12 / 1)

    Villanova might be even more unproven than Wichita State.

    The Wildcats are 1-3 this season against RPI Top-25 opponents and lost those three games by a combined 65 points.

    Villanova should reach the Elite Eight, but once they run into Michigan State or Virginia, it could be trouble.

     

    Michigan (12 / 1)

    Sometimes you bet on players, and sometimes you bet on coaches. In this case, I refuse to doubt the abilities of head coach John Beilein.

    The Wolverines should not be this good. They lost Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. from last year's Final Four team and only got eight games out of Mitch McGary before back surgery cut his season short.

    Yet here they are as a No. 2 seed after winning 17 of their final 20 games. Caris LeVert might be the most underrated player in the entire country. Don't be surprised if he has a McGary-esque breakout party in carrying this team back to the Final Four.

No. 1 Seeds

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Virginia (12 / 1)

    The Cavaliers have one of the best defenses in the country, but what happens when they run into a team that can shoot three-pointers? Duke shot 46 percent from long range against them. Green Bay hit 50 percent of its triples, and Tennessee drained 61 percent. Those were all losses for Virginia.

    This team is neither built to play from behind nor to go bucket-for-bucket in a high-scoring game. And in order to last six games in the tournament, you're inevitably going to run into one of those types of games.

     

    Wichita State (10 / 1)

    Congratulations to the Shockers on an undefeated season, but now it's time to find out if they can play against real teams and match their 2012 NCAA tournament performance. They only played one game all season (at Saint Louis) against an opponent of the caliber that they'll face beyond the second round and committed a season-high 18 turnovers in the process.

    Is Fred VanVleet truly one of the best point guards in the country, or has he just benefited from facing subpar defenses?

     

    Arizona (6 / 1)

    The Wildcats fell out of our good graces in February after losing a key player (Brandon Ashley) and a few games, but they're still one of the best teams in the nation. They demonstrated that by destroying Colorado, California and Stanford in consecutive games a few weeks ago.

    You're welcome to have reservations based on fatigue from running a six-man rotation for more than a month, but don't doubt their talent. Sean Miller's men could absolutely be cutting down the nets on April 7.

     

    Florida (4 / 1)

    It won't be the hip and trendy pick, but Florida is the favorite to win it all.

    The Gators play impeccable defense, have one of the best leaders in the country in Scottie Wilbekin and haven't lost in more than three months.

    They're looking pretty similar to last year's Louisville team, as well as the Florida team that won the 2007 title. As I wrote in mid-February:

    The last time Florida won at Kentucky was on Feb. 10, 2007. The win pushed the Gators to 23-2 on the season. They would eventually win the national championship.

    Florida is now 23-2.

    Do you believe in deja vu?

    Even if you figure that Florida is guaranteed to win its first game and has a 75 percent chance of winning each of its remaining games, that still only gives the Gators a 23.7 percent chance of winning it all. They're pretty clearly the favorite, but anything can and will happen over the next three weeks.

     

    All Your Bracket Essentials

     

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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