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NCAA Tournament Betting - Could We Be Overwhelmed by Wildcats?

By Charles Jay

If you enjoy wordplay, you will love this year’s NCAA Tournament, because the favorites in three of the regionals all have the same nickname. That’s right folks; if all goes according to form, you could see “Wildcats” filling out three of the slots in the Final Four. Of course, we refer to Arizona and Kentucky as the others.

One of the teams no one wants to overlook when it comes to the possibility of national honors is Villanova, which posted an incredible 32-2 record which would have been good for the top spot in both major polls in most years. While it can be argued that THESE Wildcats did not have the toughest of conferences to navigate through (the Big East), they nonetheless did so with aplomb, sweeping through their last 15 games of the season and doing so with a veteran crew, which is a characteristic that has not been known to be dangerous when it comes to Big Dance play.

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Here are the NCAA Tournament Betting futures on the region, as they are posted at BetAnySports:

  • Villanova +180
  • Virginia +218
  • Oklahoma +825
  • Michigan State +1150
  • Northern Iowa +1175
  • Louisville +1200
  • Providence +3100
  • NC State +4800
  • Georgia +6500
  • LSU +6700
  • Dayton +10000
  • Boise State +17500
  • Wyoming +25000
  • UC Irvine +45000
  • Albany +100000
  • Belmont +300000
  • Lafayette +500000

There are critics who point to the fact that aside from what Villanova was able to do within its own conference, that its non-conference play was not all that awe-inspiring. Indeed, early season wins over VCU, Michigan and Illinois may have looked better at that time then they do now. So even though Jay Wright brought back four starters this year and they do a great job of sharing the basketball, the obvious question about the #1-seeded ‘Cats is whether they are nearly as good as their record seems to indicate.

Most BetAnySports customers probably don’t have much in the way of doubts as to how good Virginia is. The Cavaliers have developed a reputation for being about as stingy as it gets, as they have allowed less than 51 points per game. According to the advanced metrics supplied by the authoritative website, Virginia is #1 in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, ranking even ahead of Kentucky and Arizona – the other two “Wildcats” – in that category. And among 351 Division I teams, they are fifth best when it comes to shutting teams off the boards, yielding an offensive rebound only 24.3% of the time.

If Villanova wants to have the chance to play Virginia for a spot in the Final Four, they are going to have to get by a team that has some of the same qualities. And we are talking about the Northern Iowa Panthers, who are very deliberate, just like Virginia (348th in Adjusted Tempo) and though perhaps not a proficient defensively as the Cavs, nonetheless have allowed only 54.3 points per contest. And NIU is better offensively than Virginia, as they are 15th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency.

Remember that Louisville, at +1200, is without Chris Jones, who had to be dismissed from the team. The Cardinals don’t seem to be putting their best foot forward this year. Is there a wild card, other than Northern Iowa? Sure. The Michigan State Spartans come into this tournament a little angry after taking Wisconsin into overtime in the Big Ten final, then getting shut down entirely, and under Tom Izzo they have historically been a squad that peaked when things meant the most; how else would you explain six trips to the Final Four? This is a team with veterans. Don’t be shocked if they ultimately give Virginia all it can handle.

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