NCAA Bracket 2014: Odds for Every Sweet 16 Team to Win NCAA Championship
After the first week of the tournament, we've lost one legitimate title contender (Wichita State) and another with the talent to go on a run (Kansas), but the big picture doesn't look much different than when we started.
Well, I take that back. Are we buying Kentucky as a legitimate contender again? Had the Cats played like they did against Wichita State all season, they would have been worthy of their preseason No. 1 tag. One more win and I'd be willing to buy their stock.
There are a few other dark-horse contenders (Tennessee and Baylor) that flexed their muscle this weekend, but again, the pre-bracket favorites (Florida, Michigan State, Arizona, Virginia, Louisville and Michigan) are still alive.
And if the NCAA would like to give Wichita State a redo, would anyone be opposed?
Not allowed? OK. Let's take a look at the title odds for the 16 teams remaining. They're listed from least likely to win the title to most likely based off the regular season and tournament performance to date. If I were put in charge of a casino in Vegas (bad idea), these are the odds I'd give them.
Title Odds: 150-1
The Road Ahead: Dayton just beat a team (Syracuse) with a huge frontline. The Flyers get another one in the Sweet 16 in Stanford.
Reason to Buy: The Flyers have already knocked off two teams that started the season ranked in the Top 11 and that were in the Top Five at some point this year.
Reason to Sell: A double-digit seed has never won the title. Hard to believe a 10-6 Atlantic 10 team will be the first.
Will Cut the Nets Down If...: Archie Miller is the second coming of John Wooden. He's a bright young coach. He has a nice team. But this team isn't winning four more games.
Title Odds: 120-1
The Road Ahead: An Elite Eight appearance is definitely a possibility, as the Cardinal will likely open as a favorite against Dayton. The odds to get past Florida to get to the Final Four, however, would be low.
Reason to Buy: Stanford has great size, experience and a slasher in Chasson Randle. That size overwhelmed a very talented Kansas team.
Reason to Sell: Stanford struggled to deal with KU's press. How do you think the Cardinal will deal with Florida's press?
Will Cut the Nets Down If...: Every team they play are as nervous and jittery as the Jayhawks were. That's not likely.
Title Odds: 60-1
The Road Ahead: Connecticut gets to play an Iowa State team that isn't quite as dangerous as it was with Georges Niang. The guard matchup between DeAndre Kane and Shabazz Napier will be key and extremely intriguing for those of us watching.
Reason to Buy: Shabazz Napier. He scored 49 points in his first two tourney games. Kemba Walker scored 51 in his first two tourney games during the 2011 championship run. Napier is playing at that kind of level.
Reason to Sell: The surrounding cast around Napier isn't as good as what Walker had, which included Napier and wing Jeremy Lamb.
Will Cut Down the Nets If...: Napier continues to go nuts and his supporting cast plays great. It's not inconceivable, but it's hard to see when it's likely the competition will be better than what the Huskies faced during their 2011 run.
San Diego State
Title Odds: 45-1
The Road Ahead: San Diego State has a second shot at knocking off Arizona this year. The Aztecs will want to muck it up and try to win ugly, because if Arizona gets in any kind of rhythm, that could spell trouble for SDSU's chances.
Reason to Buy: Steve Fisher is as good as it gets in putting together a defensive game plan, and he has the group to execute it.
Reason to Sell: Xavier Thames has been great—53 points in two games—but do the Aztecs have enough offense to win the title? I don't think so.
Will Cut the Nets Down If...: The Aztecs get scoring production from Thames and at least two more guys. At some point, you can't just rely on great defense.
Title Odds: 35-1
The Road Ahead: UCLA has to go up against the pre-tourney favorite. The Gators are not going to beat themselves, but if the Bruins have an amazing shooting night, they're at least talented enough to have a puncher's chance.
Reason to Buy: Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are one of the best guard tandems—if not the best—left in the tournament. Stephen F. Austin is great at forcing turnovers, and UCLA gave it away only three times.
Reason to Sell: UCLA still has, in my estimation, the two best teams left in the bracket in Florida and possibly Michigan State in the Final Four. Not sure the Bruins play enough D to beat those teams.
Will Cut Down the Nets If...: Anderson and Adams play out of their minds and they keep catching the elite teams on off-shooting nights. Most likely, UCLA's season will end in the next game.
Title Odds: 35-1
The Road Ahead: The Vols face the best offense they've seen all season in Michigan. Win that and they're going to go up against another talented team in the Elite Eight in Louisville or Kentucky. That might be the toughest road to the Final Four any team left faces.
Reason to Buy: The Vols may be one of the most talented double-digit seeds in the history of the tourney. They rank sixth in Ken Pomeroy's ratings, so they look nothing like a double-digit seed. Their only loss in the last eight games was to Florida, a game the Vols led by seven at halftime.
Reason to Sell: After Tennessee knocked off Iowa in the play-in game, the path to the Sweet 16 hasn't been that challenging. UMass was arguably overseeded as a No. 6, and the Vols were lucky enough to avoid Duke in the Round of 32.
Will Cut Down the Nets If...: The bigs keep dominating the glass—Tennessee had 18 offensive rebounds against Mercer—and Antonio Barton plays the best basketball of his career. Barton scored 18 against Mercer. It still seems like a long shot, but like I said, the Vols are not a double-digit seed in terms of talent and the way they're playing.
Title Odds: 35-1
The Road Ahead: Iowa State has a very winnable game against Connecticut in the Sweet 16 and then will play either Virginia or Michigan State in the Elite Eight. The Cyclones should be pulling for the Wahoos, as Adreian Payne would be a tough matchup, especially now that Georges Niang is done for the season.
Reason to Buy: Fred Hoiberg's lineup includes multiple mismatches, and he's great at dialing up sets to exploit them. Now that Niang is out, he's running a lot of the offense through DeAndre Kane, who had 24 points, seven assists and 10 rebounds against North Carolina.
Reason to Sell: Without Niang, the Cyclones are lacking in depth and size inside.
Will Cut Down the Nets If...: They step up their defense, stay hot from the perimeter and get a little lucky with their draws. The Cyclones would be a decent dark-horse pick if Niang had not been injured.
Title Odds: 25-1
The Road Ahead: Baylor faces a team in Wisconsin that should be well equipped to face the Bears zone with a lineup full of shooters, but the same could have been said for Creighton.
Reason to Buy: The Bears have one of the best frontlines in the country and are getting great guard play from Kenny Chery and Brady Heslip. They've also won eight of nine games.
Reason to Sell: Scott Drew has been to the Elite Eight twice and never made it past.
Will Cut the Nets Down if...: The Bears keep defending like they've been defending and keep playing through their posts. I had Baylor in the Final Four, and I'm feeling good about that pick after the way Drew's team dominated Creighton, holding Doug McDermott to 15 points.
Title Odds: 25-1
The Road Ahead: Wisconsin has to play one of the tournament's hottest teams in Baylor. The Bears present some matchup problems with their length and athleticism.
Reason to Buy: Wisconsin's offense. Bo Ryan's team spreads the floor with shooters and shares the ball. The Badgers are really hard to guard when perimeter shots are falling. And this isn't the typical Bo Ryan team. As the Badgers showed Oregon, they're comfortable running and gunning.
Reason to Sell: The Badgers aren't the typical Ryan team on the defensive end either, and that's a bad thing. Frank Kaminsky has the size at 7'0", but he's not a great interior defender. If you have guards who can get in the paint or big men who can post (like, say, Baylor does), that can give the Badgers problems.
Will Cut the Nets Down If...: They stay hot on the offensive end. The Badgers need to keep hitting threes to have a shot, especially against Baylor's zone in the Sweet 16. They're shooting 41.2 percent from deep in the tourney thus far.
Title Odds: 20-1
The Road Ahead: Kentucky has to play Louisville again, and this is a much better Louisville squad than the one the Cats saw in December. A Final Four appearance, however, looks a lot more attainable than it did weeks ago.
Reason to Buy: Wichita State is a great team and played a great game against UK. If the Wildcats can sustain that high level of play, they can beat anyone.
Reason to Sell: Consistency. What has UK shown us to believe that it can bring it on a consistent level? We've been seeing glimpses all year.
Will Cut the Nets Down If...: They keep playing like they did against against Wichita State with the Harrison twins attacking the paint, Julius Randle looking beastly, Willie Cauley-Stein protecting the rim and James Young knocking down big shots. John Calipari has the pieces, and we finally saw what it looks like when it all comes together.
Title Odds: 12-1
The Road Ahead: Michigan will need to beat some big frontlines to get back to the Final Four. They don't get much bigger than Tennessee, which is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country.
Reason to Buy: John Beilein's offense is even more efficient than last year's team that got to the championship game. The Wolverines are extremely difficult to guard, especially when Nik Stauskas and crew are knocking down perimeter jumpers.
Reason to Sell: Michigan's defense. The last 11 champs have all ranked in the top 20 in kenpom.com's adjusted defensive efficiency. The Wolverines rank 96th.
Will Cut the Nets Down If...: They are solid on the defensive end and shoot like they did against Texas (50 percent from distance) for four more games.
Title Odds: 12-1
The Road Ahead: A rematch with Kentucky is first. The Wildcats won at Rupp on Dec. 28 and are coming off their best performance of the season.
Reason to Buy: The Cardinals have the tourney experience, and dealing with Rick Pitino's press is as uncomfortable as sitting in a dentist chair.
Reason to Sell: Louisville's offense. The Cardinals rely a lot on the penetration of their guards, especially Russ Smith. It's hard to score without good ball movement against good set defenses. In three games against defenses ranked in the top 10 of kenpom.com's adjusted defensive efficiency, Louisville has averaged 58.3 points and 0.879 points per possession. At some point, it'll see another great defense.
Will Cut the Nets Down If...: The Cards start looking crisper on the offensive end. Pitino needs his three stars (Smith, Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock) to be at their best to have a shot at repeating.
Title Odds: 8-1
The Road Ahead: The Wahoos have the most difficult road ahead out of all the No. 1 seeds. It wouldn't be surprising to see Vegas come out with Michigan State as the favorite in the Sweet 16. And even if the Hoos win that, they could still see Florida in the Final Four.
Reason to Buy: The game tends to turn into a half-court affair the deeper you get in the tournament, and no one is more comfortable playing that way than Virginia. Tony Bennett's team executes extremely well and is well schooled on both ends.
Reason to Sell: This is the most talented roster Bennett has ever had, but it still doesn't compare to the other elite teams. Winning the ACC was impressive, but it doesn't look quite as good now that UVa is the only ACC team left in the tourney.
Will Cut Down the Nets If...: The Hoos can continue to play the game at their pace and execute like they did against Memphis. Unfortunately, the talent and coaching is only going to get better from here.
Title Odds: 8-1
The Road Ahead: Arizona has a rematch with San Diego State—the Cats won at SDSU in November—and could end up facing an extremely hot Baylor team in the Elite Eight. From a talent standpoint, the Bears aren't far off matching the Wildcats.
Reason to Buy: When Arizona's offense is clicking, as it was against Gonzaga, Sean Miller's team looks like it should be the title favorite.
Reason to Sell: That offense hasn't exactly been consistent, especially since Brandon Ashley's season-ending injury.
Will Cut Down the Nets If...: The Cats keep getting off to great start. It seems to come down to confidence with this bunch. The defense is good enough to win a few more games by itself, but the Cats will have to shoot the ball well to beat the likes of Florida or Michigan State if they get to the title game. Even Baylor could present a challenge with its zone.
Title Odds: 5-1
The Road Ahead: Michigan State faces what could end up as the first of three No. 1 seeds the team potentially faces if it wants to win the title. It will take a disciplined performance to knock off Virginia.
Reason to Buy: The Spartans are finally healthy and showing glimpses of how good they can be. Tom Izzo has the best combination of talent and experience left in the tourney.
Reason to Sell: At some point, the Spartans are going to need to get point guard Keith Appling going. He's scored only six points in the NCAA tournament thus far.
Will Cut the Nets Down If...: Their stars show. So far so good from Adreian Payne, Gary Harris and Branden Dawson. Appling needs to get back on track, and until he does, Travis Trice needs to keep giving Izzo solid minutes. This was my pick to win it before the tourney, and I haven't seen anything to abandon that pick.
Title Odds: 4-1
The Road Ahead: Florida's most difficult game before the Final Four is likely in the Sweet 16 against UCLA. Kyle Anderson, at 6'9", is as well equipped as any point guard in the country to deal with Florida's pressure.
Reason to Buy: Florida's seniors. There's not another team I trust more in this tournament. With Scottie Wilbekin playing at an extremely high level, it's going to be tough to knock off the Gators.
Reason to Sell: The Bruins are a scary matchup because of the way they can shoot the ball and how well Anderson can navigate the press. The Bruins just knocked off another elite defensive team in Arizona to win the Pac-12 tournament.
Will Cut the Nets Down If...: Wilbekin and Michael Frazier keep shooting the ball well. It's hard to see the Gators losing when that happens.
C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @CJMooreBR.
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