For the first time all season, a team has now held the top spot for three consecutive weeks. Baylor has strengthened their grip on the top spot, while Gonzaga and San Diego State faced only minor obstacles recently and don’t really have the resume-building strength of schedule to potentially challenge them for the top overall seed.
It’s been an ugly season of college basketball, frankly. In the offseason, the NBA (very likely) pressured the NCAA to move back the three-point line to better prepare guys for the NBA and the result has been a tremendous disaster to the product that is college basketball.
With the increased miss rates of shooters, more players are taking mid-range shots and the lanes are typically too clogged for playmaking around the basket. Also, it’s worth considering these players nowadays have very underdeveloped post games, so these games have been even less appealing.
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The Top 10
- Baylor (20-1) – Over the weekend, Baylor suffocated TCU, holding them to just 52 points in a 16-point win. Baylor shot a hot 47% from three, but again struggled from the field, shooting just 41.8%. Macio Teague was 5-8 from deep, pulling his three-point percentage back to 34% on the year in the process. For Baylor, they’re going to need Teague to return to form from his first two seasons, where he averaged 44% from three.You have to think for many of these teams, they’re still struggling to adjust to the three-point line being extended this season. On Monday, Baylor beat Kansas State by just six, drawing even in rebounds. Baylor managed to go 41% from deep and their 50% effort from the field was just better than the Wildcats. As the season wears on, it’ll be interesting to see whether Baylor can keep up their defense and continue their ascent as a rising, potent three-point shooting team.
- Gonzaga (23-1) – Gonzaga kept their quest for a #1 seed alive Saturday, rallying from an eight-point halftime deficit to win by four against San Francisco. Gonzaga turned the ball over 15 times compared to San Francisco’s seven. The Bulldogs did win the rebounding battle (+6) and managed to go 4-5 from deep, but it was clear Gonzaga’s strategy was to get easy baskets as they shot 54% from the field, compared to San Francisco’s 41%. San Francisco managed to hang around and keep it close, but Gonzaga’s steady (and clumsy) approach was just too much.
- Kansas (18-3) – The Jayhawks held off Texas Tech Saturday, sticking to a script close to what Gonzaga utilized on Saturday, leaning on high-percentage shot attempts and staying off the three-point line for the most part. The Red Raiders shot 43% from deep, but the Jayhawks won both the rebounding battle (+3) and shot better from the field (52%).Kansas has a relatively soft schedule the rest of the way. I love their odds right now and they stand a good chance to be a #1 seed come tournament time if they can take one of two from Baylor down the stretch (Big 12 Tourney included).
- San Diego State (23-0) – On Saturday, the Aztecs fought back from being down eight in the second half against Utah State to pull away by 12 in the end. It was an impressive shooting performance from Utah State that helped grow their lead, but the Aztecs caught fire with just under 15 minutes to go, making 8 of their 14 threes in that closing stretch. Both teams shot around 43% from deep, but it was the Aztecs who hit the bigger shots, despite only being +3 on rebounds and +1 on turnovers.
- Louisville (19-3) – Louisville won its eighth straight on Saturday, destroying NC State on the road. Louisville got a dud of an offensive performance from top player, Jordan Nwora (3-13 FG). Though he as bad offensively, Nwora’s nine rebounds and guard, Ryan McMahon (7-10 from three) carried the Cardinals to a comfortable road win. With the action in the ACC now in full stride, Louisville will only face one more ranked opponent the rest of the way (Florida State).
- Dayton (20-2) – Dayton had a quiet week, hosting only Fordham for the week. Dayton jumped out to a considerable lead over the Rams and cruised to an easy home victory. Obi Toppin was impressive again, going 7-10 from the field in 29 minutes of action. Dayton dominated the boards (+9) and didn’t really have any moments of concern. On Saturday, Dayton will host a solid St. Louis team.
- Duke (19-3) – Despite being -9 on turnovers Saturday, Duke maximized their efficiency in the paint, shooting 57% from the field, to outpace the Orange of Syracuse on Saturday. However, if you were expecting the same high energy, efficient basketball on Tuesday’s matchup against Boston College, you were left extremely disappointed.Duke shot just 1-15 from deep and 37% from the field, yet somehow managed to pull away, thanks to an 18-1 run after trailing 49-40 in the second half. Boston College won the rebounding battle (+1) but lost the turnover battle (-6) and really went cold from the field at the absolute worst time (37% from the field and 2-18 from three). The teams combined to shoot 3 for 33 from deep. Though it was hard to watch, Duke kept their composure in the second half and out-worked Boston College on the defensive end, earning another critical ACC victory.
- Florida State (19-3) – Florida State had a big road win Saturday as the Seminoles held strong throughout, pushing the Hokies one step closer to the NIT. Sophomore guard, Devin Vassell, has continued his hot three-point shooting season (42.7%) with a 7-7 performance from deep against the Hokies. On Monday, Florida State may have put the final nail in the coffin to North Carolina’s season as the Noles knocked out the Tar Heels in a very sloppy, ugly game.Florida State turned the ball over 16 times (-7 differential) but the Noles were 42% from the field and used their size and rebounding advantage (+6) to oust the Tar Heels. North Carolina was horrible and inefficient from the field, as they have been all season, shooting 31% from the field. Freshman projected lottery pick, Cole Anthony, shot 3-10 from three and 2-12 from inside three. His disaster of a season hasn’t seemed to impact his draft stock much (35% from the field), but it does raise a lot of questions as far as his NBA ceiling goes.
- Maryland (18-4) – Maryland broke into the Top 10 with a big win over conference foe, Rutgers. Jalen Smith did a lot to improve his draft stock, going 3-7 from three and pulling down 15 rebounds in a valiant effort that helped rally the Terps past the Scarlett Knights. Smith is now shooting 41% from deep on the year. Maryland is making a push for the Big 10 title as they’re now tied with Illinois for the top spot in the conference.
- Villanova (17-5) – The Wildcats were outgunned from the start Saturday at home against Creighton. The Jays shot the lights out from the start, going 51% from the field and 50% from deep. Creighton was also +4 on the rebounding differential. Villanova was surprisingly bad offensively, shooting 36% from the field. It was unlucky in many respects, but it only further reinforces my concerns from my first article on the Top 10 with Villanova’s poor rebounding.On Wednesday, Villanova shot 47% from the field and 53% from three and it didn’t seem to matter because Butler was +6 on rebounding differential and shot 57% from the field. Villanova being bad on the boards could be their undoing in the tournament. Because of their poor rebounding, off-shooting nights like this one are going to cost them if it happens in March. For good rebounding teams, you can survive off nights like this by increasing your possessions. Villanova just isn’t one of those teams right now.
Best Futures bets to win the NCAA Tourney
Below we examine the best NCAA Futures to win the NCAA title.
#3 Kansas +1,000
Kansas is my safe pick in this bunch. They have solid guard and inside play, and a solid Senior rim protector. They have a pretty veteran, well-balanced team. Their potential issues in the tournament could be protecting slim leads. Their center, Azubuike, struggles from the line (44% FT). Starter Marcus Garrett, also struggles from the line at just a 64% rate. I can see teams employing a hack-a-shack type strategy late on Azubuike and Garrett and it’s costing them.
Kansas also struggles from deep and you have to wonder if a team comes out hot against them and just feels like they have a better chance circumventing the Kansas interior defense by taking plenty of deep shots in a game, Kansas could struggle to keep up. I like them from a size, guard-play, and defensive standpoint, but I wonder if they’re as flimsy as their current odds indicate. Among the blue bloods with the best chances to take down the tournament, I like Kansas most.
#6 Dayton +3,000
Dayton is my favorite pick here. They probably have the best player in college basketball on their team in Obi Toppin, but they also have strong guard play with Landers and Crutcher. Dayton is a solid team all-around their schedule looks very favorable down the stretch. Currently, none of Dayton’s remaining opponents are ranked and if they win out, they could position themselves for a nice run in March.
#15 Kentucky +2,200
Kentucky has the weapons. We see it every season with John Calipari’s teams. They’re always talented but out of sorts throughout most of the season. Once March rolls around, they always seem to level-up. This season is no different to me. Sure, they aren’t nearly as loaded with talent as Calipari’s teams have been over the past decade, but this team should be ready to go by March.
They need to get more aggressive on the boards and start finding rhythm from deep. It’s honestly pretty generous odds, especially considering there are a lot of questionable teams out there.