College basketball betting professional and Sportsbook Review analyst Ross Benjamin shares his top picks to reach the Final Four in Phoenix. Each of the betting numbers listed in parenthesis are courtesy of YouWager sportsbook odds.
By Ross Benjamin
Gonzaga Bulldogs (+135): The Bulldogs made it to the “Elite 8” last year for just the second time in its program’s history. Now they’ll be pursuing a first ever ‘Final Four” appearance.
You can make a reasonable argument against them, and say they play in a conference that’s less than inspiring beyond its top 3 teams. Nevertheless, Gonzaga does own non-conference wins over #20 Florida, #17 Iowa State, and #4 Arizona.
Furthermore, they went 3-0 against this season against #22 St. Mary’s, and won all 3 contests by double-digit margins.
Arizona (+150): If there a team in this bracket with a serious chance of knocking off Gonzaga it’s Arizona. The Wildcats can potentially have a chance to revenge their regular season loss to Gonzaga in the West Regional Final.
Kansas (+150): The Jayhawks were inexplicably upset in the Big 12 Conference Tournament Quarterfinals by a TCU team that had lost 7 of their preceding 8 games. It’s usually boom or bust for Kansas in the NCAA Tournament.
I’m betting it’s bust this year, and one of my March Madness predictions calls for Purdue to knock them off in the Midwest Regional Semifinals.
Purdue (+500): Speaking of the Boilermakers, they’ve been in 10 games this season that have been decided by 5 points or less, and they went 6-4 in those contests. The ability and confidence in knowing how to win close games at NCAA Tournament time is invaluable.
Furthermore, Purdue went a respectable 6-5 this season versus teams made the NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina (-104): If the Tar Heels bring their “A game”, there’s no team in this region that will beat them. North Carolina should have smooth sailing to the South Regional Final.
It’s there they’ll face their stiffest challenge from either UCLA or Kentucky.
Kentucky (+195): “One and Done University” will once again be a legitimate national title contender. After already having their hands against a surging Wichita State team, Kentucky faces uber-phenom the Lonzo Ball-UCLA Bruins who already handed them a 97-92 loss in Lexington earlier this season.
UCLA (+500): As if all the hype and constant chatter of the forementioned Ball and his father, LaVar isn’t enough, any time you have a major conference team like UCLA that puts up a plethora of points (90.4 PPG) on a game to game basis, and they own a win percentage of better than .750, nobody is going to be lining up to play them.
As a matter of fact, as it pertains to the NCAA Tournament, teams like the 11-time national champion Bruins are that rare breed in that regard.
The Bruins are young, but they’re supremely talented, and advancing to the 2017 Final Four is a very realistic expectation.