March Madness gets underway in spirit this week with all the major college basketball conference tournaments on the schedule, with Selection Sunday to follow.
Odds courtesy of OddsShark.com
It appears that two No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament are locked down by Gonzaga of the West Coast Conference and Virginia of the ACC. The Cavaliers shared the ACC regular-season title with North Carolina but won the head-to-head tiebreaker and thus are the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament in Charlotte.
UVA is the +125 favorite on the ACC Tournament odds and gets to avoid having to potentially face both Duke (+175) and North Carolina (+325) as they are in the other half of the bracket.
Even though the Blue Devils only finished third in the regular-season standings, they remain +240 favorites to win the national title. That’s likely because of Duke superstar freshman Zion Williamson. He has missed the past six games with a knee injury, and Duke was 3-3 without him, including losing twice to the Tar Heels. Williamson is expected back for Duke’s ACC Tournament opener on Thursday, most likely against Syracuse. Both of Virginia’s losses this season were to Duke when Williamson was healthy.
LSU was the SEC regular-season champion for the first time since 2009, yet the Tigers are only the +450 fourth-favorites to win the SEC Tournament in Nashville behind Kentucky (+200), Tennessee (+200) and Auburn (+400).
Why the lack of respect? Likely because LSU is expected to be without Coach Will Wade and perhaps freshman star Javonte Smart for the rest of the season in wake of an explosive Yahoo! story last week that reported Wade was caught on an FBI wiretap allegedly discussing payments to Smart’s family during his recruitment. Wade has been indefinitely suspended, while the school simply held Smart out of the regular-season finale.
The nation’s deepest conference appears to be the Big Ten, which stages its tournament from Chicago. Top-seeded Michigan State is the +140 favorite with Michigan (+225) second and Purdue (+300) third – the Boilers shared the title with the Spartans. The most important game of that tournament might be Thursday’s matchup between No. 9 Indiana (+5000) and No. 8 Ohio State (+6600) because both are squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. That bubble probably bursts for the loser, while the winner faces MSU.
Finally, the Big 12 Tournament is from Kansas City and second-seeded Texas Tech is the +140 favorite to win it for the first time. TTU shared the regular-season title with Kansas State (+350), but the status of Wildcats second-leading scorer Dean Wade is in question due to a foot injury. Defending tournament champion Kansas is +400. No Big 12 team has a shot at getting a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.