It’s a top-heavy field in the NCAA Tournament this year, but is there still room for some of the favorites to fall off? Can a major conference stalwart sneak onto the No. 1 line and wear their home jerseys until the Final Four?
Let’s take a look at the odds for teams attempting to be a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament at DraftKings Sportsbook, and how their upcoming schedule can impact it.
What happens when there are no more lands left to conquer? You end up as pretty much a lock for the No. 1 seed. But there are still a couple more challenges for the Zags, who have rolled through the WCC like a hot knife through butter this season. They’ve still got two tough games left to play at BYU, and home to St. Mary’s.
And then there is the WCC Tournament, which had been the Gonzaga Invitational since 2013 until they lost to St. Mary’s in the final last year. They’re probably a lock, but it’s a big price to pay, and one small slip could cost them this spot due to a dearth of Q1 wins the last two months because of the WCC not being up to par.
Even a loss at home to No. 3 Kansas on Saturday would probably still keep them on the No. 1 line, but combine it with a loss at No. 17 West Virginia to close the regular season and we might start questioning. Or add a dash of an early exit from the conference tournament, and they could play themselves out of this space. But you’d likely need at least two losses going forward, and there’s not a lot of opportunity there. The worst-case scenario is a sweep by Kansas Saturday and in the Big XII final in KC.
San Diego State -200
It’s really hard to leave an undefeated mid-major with some quality wins off the top line. They’ve got four Q1 wins, and zero real challenges the rest of the way. Nevada lost by “only” 13 in Viejas Arena, and they do go to Reno to finish the regular season, but that’s likely the last chance anyone in the MWC has of stopping the freight train.
And even if they did drop one, they still might get there: St. Joe’s went 27-0 in 2003-04 but lost in the opening round of the A-10 Tournament, and still got a No. 1 seed. SDSU is probably the best value on the board.
The best team according to all the computers, and if they can find a win over Baylor either Saturday or in the conference tournament, it looks good for them to be there. But three losses to Baylor might put their status in peril, especially if Gonzaga and SDSU win out. If you’re betting this, you’re getting two for the price of one: a fade on the ‘Zags and the Aztecs, and a bet on KU beating Baylor at least once.
Now we’re on the side of teams that need some help. Dayton lost to Kansas in OT on a neutral court in December, so if it’s razor-thin between 4th and 5th overall, that might be the tiebreaker. With two more shots to pick up Q1 wins (at VCU, at URI), but a much trickier path in the A-10 Tournament, you not only need to dodge some bullets but also get some help out of your control. This is a stay-away.
The ACC is still pretty lousy, but there’s enough landmines with Virginia and NC State twice to be concerned. And that’s before FSU and Louisville, who would be lurking in Greensboro for the ACC Tournament. If the Devils can win out with this schedule they’d make a strong case, but with the two mid-majors and the two Big XII schools blocking your path for now, it’s a lot of hope for not a lot of price being laid.
Florida State +250
If you think an ACC team can still get a No. 1, this might be the way to put that wager. Losses are at Pitt, at Indiana, at Virginia, and at Duke last Monday. They’ve also still got to beat Louisville in Tallahassee next Monday. But they could flip UVA & Duke in the ACC tournament (lost by five in both Charlottesville and Cameron), and challenged themselves out of the league (wins at Florida, vs. Tennessee, vs. Purdue). They need help too, but at least you’re getting a better price for maybe the toughest defensive team that’s not Baylor.
No one in the Pac-12 with six losses should be considered at the top of anything, especially if they lost to North Carolina’s ravenous brush fire of a 2020 men’s basketball team. Let’s move along.
With the mid-majors and the Big XII blocking so much of the potential, it’s just too much to ask a team that lost back-to-back games at Georgia Tech and Clemson last week to get back on the top line. They’re really good, and could for sure win the ACC Tournament, but that likely won’t be enough.
Only three losses, all in conference and on the road (Alabama, Florida, Mizzou). But the SEC is either the fifth-or-sixth best conference in D1 this year. Just not enough strength with the blemishes already there, and the resumes in front of them.
It’s crazy that it took this long to get to a Big Ten team, especially since it’s far and way the best conference in America. But there’s for sure value here if they can run out. Their four losses are all on the road to Top 30 teams (Penn State, Seton Hall, Iowa, Wisconsin), and winning the B1G this year should be heavily valued by the committee. You’ll need some help from above, but if the Terps could win out and cut down the nets in Indianapolis at the B1G Tournament, there’s a path here. But that means winning at least eight and probably nine more Big Ten games in nine opportunities. And that is really, really hard to do.
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