Table of Contents
By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
PUNCHING TICKETS – WEEK TWO
Now that the little guys have punched their tickets on weekend one, it’s the rest of the 68-team NCAA bracket to get filled accordingly with the powerhouses and blue bloods of college hoops. It’s a stacked weekend with an intimidating amount of games and seeding at play, so I’m here to simplify the process and give you one parting thought for conference championship week tourneys before you get your futures in and bundle up some extra March Madness bankroll.
As a reminder: this year’s tournament field is set by the winners of each of the 32 NCAA Division 1 conference champions, and the other 36 teams are selected by the tournament committee as at-large bids. I’ve been a college hoops fan long enough to know that it’s very beneficial to show one last good resume to the committee in your conference championship weekend. You don’t want to be counting on the at-large bid if you’re on the bubble, and seeding is everything for your school’s path to Houston and the Final Four. This week’s conference championship tournaments are a mix of one-bid leagues and all the powerhouses vying for precious seeding a decent draw once the Sunday night bracket reveal comes around. Let’s get to the second weekend and some big boy conference championships to see who will be punching tickets:
THE BLUE BLOODS
As has been the case, in recent years, this is a wide-open field and with so many games on the bracket, there’s always a strange leaky team that plays its way into the tournament. UNC at +600 could be a good candidate for that, but I’ll also hedge on the third favorite behind Duke (+280) and Virginia (+300), with a 1 seed and a solid draw.
Alex’s Play: Miami +340
Since my October preview, this has been a two-horse race between UCLA and Arizona, so it’s no shocker to see them +110 and +210 to win in Vegas. I’d love to pick against these squads but the regular season showed us that USC and Oregon “ain’t it” as the kids say”. Pick your favorite PAc-12 blue blood here.
Alex’s Play: Arizona +210
Alabama’s (+170) off-court drama continues to circle as they head to Nashville, and Brandon Miller doesn’t seem bothered one bit by any of it. I’m not sure if Tennessee (+280) has the juice to repeat the feat here from last year, and I find myself leaning towards a random Coach Cal run through the bracket that starts right here this week.
Alex’s Play: Kentucky +400
BIG 12 Championship
In the deepest conference in college hoops, it’s a roulette wheel of possibilities this week in Kansas City. Half of the league has better than +650 odds to win the tournament, led by Texas (+300) and Kansas (+350). I lean toward Rock Chalk here even though long term, I think I like the Longhorns on the bracket to advance further. The Jayhawks own this week typically.
Alex’s Play: Kansas +350
BIG EAST Championship
This pick is purely draw-related. Creighton (+320) is the third favorite behind UConn (+190) and Marquette (+320). UConn owns MSG so they’re getting big-time juice here, but Creighton owns the best draw and easiest path to the final. I think that pays off for them and the UConn number is too inflated here.
Alex’s Play: Creighton +320
THE OTHER GUYS
I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out my alma mater – though the Quinnipiac Bobcats (men) have never tasted the NCAA Tournament, their best shot to win the MAAC in recent memory comes this week. My Bobcats are +400 and the elephant in the room here is: can Iona (-200) be beaten? Well, QU split the season series so if they get another shot, the impossible could happen.
Alex’s Play: Quinnipiac +400
Take one letter away from MAAC and you the AAC where the +1 ranked Houston Cougars are doing everything we thought they would all season. All-American talent and Marcus Sasser lead a poised Cougars squad into March. It’s extremely hard to bet against Houston (-300) this week, and even with all that juice I still like them to preserve. The only other play is Memphis (+450) which needs a good showing to solidify a tourney bid
Alex’s Play: Houston -300
America East Championship
If you’re looking for a surprise name, it’s the UMass-Lowell Riverhawks at +200 to ruin Vermont’s annual trek through this conference and take the America East. It would be a landmark win and the first NCAA D-1 tourney ever for UML, but they shoot the lights out from deep so they’re easy to root for.
Alex’s Play: UMass Lowell +200
NEC – St. Francis PA +700
Big Sky – Montana St. +125
Cal State Fullerton +450
Happy Hunting this March!