March Madness begins in earnest this week as the NCAA Tournament tips off with play-in games prior to half the field playing on Thursday and the second half on Friday.
Before that, bettors are quickly preparing themselves to find the biggest value and best percentages for this season’s Big Dance.
The NCAA tournament continues get more and more unpredictable. Last year’s tournament saw 15 significant upsets during the tournament. A significant upset is when there is a gap between seeds of at least four.
The most balanced teams in the field are Kentucky, Arizona and Villanova. Kentucky is No. 2 in adjusted defensive efficiency and No. 6 in adjusted offensive efficiency. Arizona is No. 3 and No. 11 respectively in the two categories, while the Villanova Wildcats are No. 12 and No. 4.
None of the other teams in the field approaches the balance these two teams have. Duke, a No. 1 seed is No. 3 offensively but a dismal No. 57 defensively. Virginia is No. 1 in defensive efficiency but No. 26 on offense.
Since the field increased in 1985, the No. 16 seeds have an overall record of 0-120, while the No. 15 seeds are a combined 7-113.
One seed that has paid off well is No. 12. The No. 12 seeds over the past two seasons are 6-2 against the No. 5 seeds. At least one No. 12 seed has reached the second round in 13 of the last 14 years. Even more interesting is that the No. 12 seeds have a better winning percentage at 36.7% than do the No. 11 seeds at 34%. This year’s teams at No. 12 are Stephen F. Austin, Wyoming, Buffalo and Wofford.
The big question entering this tournament is if anyone can stop the Kentucky Wildcats. One coach that opposed the Wildcats this season, Bruce Pearl from Auburn said only three of the teams in the tournament have an opportunity to defeat the Wildcats: Gonzaga, Duke and Wisconsin.
He liked Gonzaga because of its overall size and Kyle Wiltjer their All-American would love the opportunity to play against his former Wildcats coach. Pearl added that teams that want to beat Kentucky must be big, physical and shot well.
This season the Big 12 has been ranked the top conference of the season. However, the Big East, ACC, Big Ten, SEC and the Pac-12 also have strong competitors.
VCU is a No. 7 seed, but will be an underdog of 2.5 points against Ohio State.