Projected NCAA Tournament No. 4 Seeds are a Very Strong Foursome
As selection Sunday approaches and the NCAA Tournament brackets are unveiled, we'll have just a few days to put our brackets and pool picks together and study the match-ups. Sharp handicappers and bettors that have done preliminary homework on teams will fire in early bets as the sports books release the lines Sunday night and Monday. Those that are prepared with insight and info on the teams and understand some of the keys to NCAA Tournament success will have an edge. Hopefully the overview and insight I provide for the top-seeded NCAA Tournament teams will assist you further in your pursuit of profit and pool success.
The NCAA Tournament 'officially' begins Thursday, March 15 following the 'First Four' play-in games. And while those First Four teams and other higher-seeded tournament teams are big long shots to win the national title, it's a rewarding accomplishment if any team seeded 8 or higher can advance to the second weekend of tournament play and the Sweet Sixteen. And sometimes even a team like last year's No. 7 seed South Carolina can surprise and make it to the Final Four. The payoffs can be rewarding as well when wagering on teams to win a NCAA Tournament region or just riding a hot underdog through the brackets.
We'll evaluate some long shots that could pull some upsets once the seeds and pairings are announced, but our countdown to the NCAA Tournament will cover the top-16 teams starting with the No. 4 seeds.
While a majority of the conferences are completing their conference tournaments this week, we're evaluating the top teams that will get much of the attention and support in the NCAA Tournament pools, brackets and betting interests.
Our countdown and projected seeds are taken from ESPN and Joe Lunardi's Bracketology for the week of March 5.
The projected No. 4 seeds are: Arizona, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Wichita State
This looks like a loaded group, and from our Vegas View and Fairway Forecast, any of these teams could reach the Final Four and have a chance to win the National Championship. The odds to win the national title are taken from the Westgate Superbook in Las Vegas as of March 5. However, if you're wagering on teams to win the NCAA Tournament or regions, be sure to compare odds and make wagers at the leading online sportsbooks.
Key wins: USC, Arizona State (2x), Alabama
Season ATS: 11-18
National Title Odds: 20-1
|Head Coach - Sean Miller|
|Adj Off Effic||16|
|Adj Def Effic||95|
Overview: Arizona has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons heading into the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Sean Miller has denied allegations against him in the FBI college basketball probe. And star guard Allonzo Trier (19 PPG) was cleared to play last week by the NCAA amid appeal of his suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. But the Wildcats won another Pac-12 regular season title while ranking No. 2 in the league in scoring (79 PPG) with a league-best 7.1 scoring margin (9.3 all games). Potential top NBA draft pick DeAndre Ayton (20 PPG) was the league's top rebounder as a freshman, helping Arizona to a league-best rebounding margin (+7.4) with fellow 7-footer Dusan Ristic. The Wildcats led the league in FG shooting (50%), blocked shots and were No. 2 in assists. But a negative turnover margin and a defense that wasn't up to coach Miller's standards allowing 43% FG this season will need to be better for a deep NCAA Tournament run.
Texas Tech Red Raiders
Key wins: Kansas, West Virginia, Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State (2x), TCU (2x), Nevada
Season ATS: 13-13
National Title Odds: 60-1
|Head Coach - Chris Beard|
|Adj Off Eff||51|
|Adj Def Eff||3|
Overview: The second season in Lubbock was a huge success for coach Chris Beard, as the Red Raiders improved from 6-12 to 11-7 in the Big 12. A toe injury severely hampered All-Big 12 first-team senior guard Keenan Evans (17 PPG) in mid-February resulting in four straight losses including to Kansas 74-72 which cost the Red Raiders a chance to win the Big 12 title. Texas Tech was undefeated at home prior to that defeat. Evans is healthier for the Big 12 tournament and hopefully the NCAA as he's the go-to guy on offense and a key cog in the Red Raiders elite defense that finished No 1. In Big 12 scoring defense, FG defense (40%) and 3-point defense. The Red Raiders were top-3 in scoring margin (+11), rebounding margin, steals and turnover margin. Freshman guard Zhaire Smith is a freak athlete with a rapidly developing skill set that can bust a zone with fellow freshman marksman Jarrett Culver (41%). Texas Tech is dangerous, and the Red Raiders elite defense can switch between man, zone and a match-up zone. A Final Four run is possible for this battle-tested group, but Evans must be healthy, productive and efficient.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Key wins: Virginia, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Texas, TCU, Kansas State (2x), Baylor (2x)
Season ATS: 13-14
National Title Odds: 30-1
|Head Coach - Bob Huggins|
|Adj Off Eff||14|
|Adj Def Eff||39|
Overview: Coach Huggins team is balanced with frenetic full court defensive pressure that helped them lead the Big 12 again in steals and turnover margin. The Mountaineers are a very efficient offense that led the Big 12 in scoring margin (+11.5), free throw shooting and pounds the offensive glass. West Virginia does not shoot it too well considering their offensive efficiency, but senior guard Jevon Carter was an All-Big 12 performer who was top-4 in scoring (17), assists, assist/TO, free throw shooting and steals (#1). He also just won his second straight Big 12 defensive Player of the Year award. Sophomore forward Sagaba Konate was also a Big 12 first-team defensive player, and he's a shot-blocker and rim protector who was top-5 in rebounding. West Virginia lost to Kansas twice but outplayed them for long stretches in defeat while having the memorable 35-2 free throw discrepancy in an 8-point loss in Lawrence. West Virginia was a 9-loss team last year just like this season, and you saw how a Huggin's-coached team took NCAA Tourney finalist Gonzaga to the wire in a Sweet Sixteen coin flip ending. I'd gladly take West Virginia in a third meeting with Kansas in the NCAA Tournament with the Jayhawks a projected No. 1 seed, and few teams will like a match-up with the Mountaineers.
Wichita State Shockers
Key wins: Cincinnati, Houston, Baylor
Season ATS: 12-15
National Title Odds: 25-1
|Head Coach - Gregg Marshall|
|Adj Off Eff||5|
|Adj Def Eff||100|
Overview: Wichita State led the American Athletic Conference in scoring (83 PPG) and ranks top-5 in the country in offensive efficiency. With one of the very best bench bosses in Gregg Marshall, the Shockers finished 2nd in the AAC in their debut season falling a 3-pointer and put-back short of sweeping Cincinnati and winning the league crown on the last day of the regular season. This is not Marshall's best defensive team, but they can really pass and shoot the basketball as the league's best in both while also hitting the glass as the best rebounding team in the American. The Shockers ranked top-10 in the country in scoring margin (+12.3), and senior's Shaq Morris and Rashard Kelly provide power in the paint with big body Morris leading the AAC in FG shooting (59%). But it's point guard Landry Shamet that sets the table as the AAC assist leader and the poised presence at the point that can bury the 3-pointers (44%) along with fellow-sophomore Austin Reaves (44%). If you want to see a well-coached team execute on offense, then tune in for the Shockers games as you'll see plenty of scoring and efficiency with another potential No. 4 seed that's plenty capable of making a run to the Final Four.
Follow the madness of March and all the NCAA Tournament action with the latest lines and totals posted at the leading offshore sports books.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay