Jayhawks NCAA Tournament Favorite, Gonzaga Right Behind As Power Conference Tournaments Begin

The 2019-2020 college basketball season stands just a few days before Selection Sunday (this Sunday, March 15th). Then the NCAA Tournament will then start just a few days later on March 17th. The smaller conference tournaments have already punched several tickets to the NCAA Tournament and the big boys have arrived. As we get set for some wild conference tournaments, let’s take a quick look at the NCAA Tournament odds one last time before things get real.


The Kansas Jayhawks have remained the top favorite for the NCAA Tournament, and if anything, they have strengthened their position relative to everyone else. They were priced at +600 a week ago, so their odds have improved. The main reason: Udoka Azubuike, their big man, was able to play this past week after suffering a lot of bumps and bruises in previous games. The Jayhawks lost only one Big 12 game this season, to Baylor, and won the conference championship outright. They are going to be a No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, so they will have the ideal setup for March once again. Last year, their lower seeding – No. 4 – put them in Salt Lake City in the opening weekend of the tournament. Auburn routed the Jayhawks in the second round of the tournament, and that was that. Now with a No. 1 seed, Kansas will get a better placement in terms of location, and could have a workable draw which enables Bill Self to return to the Final Four.


The Zags are going to get a No. 1 seed in the West Region. This was the position Gonzaga had last year when the Bulldogs lost to Texas Tech in the Elite Eight. With a No. 1 seed, Gonzaga should be able to get to the Sweet 16 no matter what since their first two games will be in Spokane. The caliber of opponent will matter more in the Sweet 16, when the Zags figure to get tougher competition. This is not the most talented team Mark Few has had at Gonzaga, but it is a team which works really well together, playing harmonious offense and integrated defense. An opponent with overwhelming physical prowess might be able to bother the Zags in the NCAA Tournament, but a team which is not intelligent and lacks consistent defense could get shredded by Gonzaga’s offense. This team has a very good chance of getting back to the Final Four.


The odds for Michigan State have improved because the Spartans have done a lot of winning recently. They closed out the year with four straight wins over Top 25 opponents. They won at Maryland, came back from a deficit of almost 20 points to beat Penn State on the road, then won against Ohio State this past Sunday to gain a share of the 2020 Big Ten championship. The Spartans are playing great, chiefly because point guard Cassius Winston is playing his best basketball right now. If Winston remains on top of his game, Michigan State will be a very tough out in March.


The Blue Devils finished their ACC regular season with wins over North Carolina State and North Carolina, both at home but neither game was especially challenging. Now comes the ACC Tournament, in which Duke needs to win the tournament to have a chance at a No. 2 seed. Anything less should bring about a No. 3 seed for Coach K, whose team is likely to have a tougher draw at this tournament. Duke was a No. 1 seed last year and still couldn’t get to the Final Four. This 2020 team will face a more daunting set of obstacles.

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