Whenever the NCAA tournament bracket is released, it is easy to point to the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds and say that is where the national champion will come from.
After all, as Sporting News points out, that has been the case the majority of the time in the past 29 years:
All Your Bracket Essentials:
However, picking those favorites to win the entire NCAA tournament won’t get you very far in Las Vegas. Just take a look at the odds for the entire field:
|Odds to Win 2014 NCAA Tournament|
|San Diego State||75-1|
|North Carolina State||1,000-1|
|North Dakota State||1,000-1|
With that in mind, here are some of the better value picks among the long shots.
There is little doubt that Oklahoma State is one of the most talented teams in the country.
Yes, the Cowboys experienced what can only be described as a blip on the radar in the middle of the season when superstar Marcus Smart was suspended and the team lost seven in a row, but it is riding a wave of momentum into the NCAA tournament.
In fact, Oklahoma State has won five of seven, and the only two losses in that stretch were both overtime affairs to Kansas and Iowa State.
Outside of Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are more than capable of scoring 20-plus points on any given night. Throw in Phil Forte’s sweet stroke from behind the three-point line, and there is plenty of offensive firepower that will challenge Arizona in the round of 32.
If the Cowboys can reach the Sweet 16, the list of potential and probable opponents before the Final Four reads San Diego State, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Creighton or Oregon. On paper, none of those teams have the talent that Oklahoma State does.
Oklahoma State’s Big 12 counterpart in Baylor is actually hotter than the Cowboys heading into the tournament.
The Bears have won 10 out of 12 games and reached the Big 12 tournament finals before eventually bowing out to Iowa State. Fortunately for Baylor fans, head coach Scott Drew seems to already have his team in the right mindset after that loss, according to the Associated Press, via ESPN.com:
We don't have time to look back on this game at all. We need to focus, get better and get ready for the NCAA tournament. The worst thing we could do is dwell on this game and let that affect us in the NCAA tournament.
Cory Jefferson, Brady Heslip and Kenny Chery lead the Bears on offense, while Isaiah Austin anchors the defense from down low. Austin is also a capable scorer on the low block, but his game-changing defense down low will prove to be the difference in tightly contested games in the NCAA tournament.
Baylor is in Oklahoma State’s bracket but has more than enough talent to compete with and possibly defeat Nebraska, Creighton and either Wisconsin or Oregon in the first few rounds. After that, anything can happen.
It must be something about the West Region that inspires solid value picks because the No. 7 seed Oregon Ducks join Baylor and Oklahoma State in that category.
The Ducks were once considered one of the best teams in the country and climbed to as high as No. 10 in the polls. However, a rough stretch in the middle of the season that saw them lose eight out of 10 nearly destroyed their NCAA tournament chances.
Oregon rallied to win eight in a row, including an emotional home victory over then-No. 3 Arizona, to solidify its spot in the field. It eventually lost to Pac-12 tournament champions UCLA in Las Vegas, but it is still one of the most talented teams in the West Region.
With guards Joseph Young and Johnathan Loyd manning the controls and Mike Moser playing the role of athletic and versatile stretch forward, the Ducks will give Wisconsin trouble in the round of 32. Oregon likes to get out and run, which could give the more deliberate Badgers some issues.
If the Ducks can get past that game, a potential Sweet 16 matchup with Baylor could be the result. Too bad for those looking to pick multiple value teams that only one winner would emerge.
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