Making moves through the March Madness bracket isn’t always about season-long success but how hot a NCAA basketball team is entering the tournament.
Every year, we see one of two programs squeak into the field of 68 and blow through the opening rounds, riding the momentum stocked up at the end of the regular season.
While we’re still a week out from Selection Sunday, here are some NCAA teaser odds that no one wants to play in the opening week of the Big Dance.
Virginia Cavaliers (55/1 to win NCAA tournament)
The defending national champs were in danger of missing out on the NCAA tournament for a good portion of conference play. At least until Virginia strung together seven straight wins – including a home victory over Duke – heading into its regular season finale versus Louisville.
Win or lose that game and beyond a run to the ACC tournament title – which isn’t out of the questions – the Cavs are projected to land between a No. 8 and No. 10 seed in the bracket, which means it will be facing a strong opponent in the first two rounds of the NCAA.
Virginia is a defensive beast that plays strong on the ball defense and gets a hand up on shooters, while sapping all the energy out of the ball game on the offensive end. The Cavaliers play one of the slowest paces in the country and that can give strong offensive foes fits. While UVA doesn’t have the same shooting as last year’s title team, there is plenty of March Madness experience on Tony Bennett’s roster.
Texas Longhorns (120/1 to win NCAA tournament)
The current bracket projections have Texas coming into the Big Dance as a No. 10 seed, pushing its way through a crowded Big 12 to earn a spot among the field of 68 with some stellar play down the stretch. The Longhorns have won four straight heading into the season finale versus Oklahoma State, including big victories over Texas Tech and West Virginia.
Not only does Texas have the momentum heading into the postseason and could stir the pot in the Big 12 tournament, but their head coach knows a thing or two about busting brackets at this time of the year. Shaka Smart earned the big job in Austin with his antics at VCU, leading the Rams to the Final Four in 2011.
The Horns have embodied Smart’s intensity, ranked inside the Top 25 in points allowed in the country and do a great job defending against the 3-pointer while cashing in on their looks from beyond the arc, knocking down more than eight shots from downtown a game.
Providence Friars (80/1 to win NCAA tournament)
The Friars are flying up the Big East standings in the final weeks of the regular season, winning five straight contests ahead of the conference closer versus DePaul. Providence is projected to earn a No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament.
That possible seeding means a potential run-in with a No. 1 seed in the second round. Thankfully, the Friars have no issues taking down top teams with wins over Seton Hall and Villanova during this current winning streak.
Providence is a versatile team that can win either high-paced shootouts or slow grinders. The Friars defense is very opportunistic, thriving off steals and turnovers to generate extra touches with the basketball. That style of play will frustrate foreign opponents in the opening rounds of the national tournament.