Michigan vs. Villanova Odds – 2018 College Basketball Championship

michigan-villanova-odds-1The 2018 NCAA Tournament Championship is set, with the No. 3 Michigan Wolverines (33-7) taking on the No. 1 Villanova Wildcats (35-4).

This is an interesting matchup between two teams that didn’t win their respective conferences, but got hot at the right time. Michigan is especially riding high, because they’re on a 14-game winning streak. The Wildcats are also playing really well and are on a 10-game winning streak.

Villanova looks downright intimidating, having crushed their 2018 March Madness opponents by an average margin of 18 points. The Wildcats made fellow No. 1 seed Kansas look like a second-rate team in their Final Four matchup.

They raced out to a 22-4 lead and cruised to victory from here. That said, it’s no wonder why they open as a 6.5-point favorite at GTBets.

Michigan had to scrap to get to this point. They survived a near-upset against Houston in the second round. And they trailed Loyola Chicago by 10 points at two different junctures in their Final Four game.

But one thing that Michigan has done a great job of during their 14-game winning streak is finding ways to win. And their defense locked down Loyola as they eventually pulled out a 69-57 victory.

It’s not going to be easy for the Wolverines to win this contest against Villanova and cover their +6.5 spread. But I’m going to discuss both their’s and Villanova’s chances of covering the spread. You can also see the GTBets odds on this game below.

Michigan Villanova Odds – 2018 NCAA National Championship Game, April 2 (Monday) at 9:20pm

  • Michigan +6.5 (-110) / +260 moneyline
  • Villanova -6.5 (-110)/ -320 moneyline
  • Over/under 145 (-110)

Why Villanova Will Cover -6.5

michigan-villanova-odds-2I thought that Villanova and Kansas would be a closer contest. It turns out that I was wrong…

The Wildcats jumped out to a big lead in the first half on the strength of great three-point shooting. They had 13 triples in the first half and nailed 18 three-pointers overall – a Final Four record.

For good measure, they shot 55% overall from the field. I mentioned in my preview of Villanova and Kansas that it felt like a championship atmosphere. But the way that the Wildcats are shooting, passing, driving, and shot blocking, it doesn’t seem like any team in the country is on their level.

Basically, Villanova will cover if their star guards, Jalen Brunson (19.2 PPG) and Mikal Bridges (17.8 PPG), continue shooting like they are. These two account for 41% of the team’s offense.

These two not only score lots of points, but rather do it in a very efficient manner. They shoot 51% from the field, 41% from the three-pint line, and 80% of the free-throw line.

villanova-michigan-bettingThis isn’t just two players, though, because their offense as a whole is really clicking. They led the nation in offense during the regular season with 87 points per game. And a big reason why is because they have several scoring threats who can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim.

Brunson, who’s fresh off winning the National Player of the Year award, grabs most of the headlines. Bridges, who’s destined to be an NBA lottery pick, also grabs his fair share of press. But role players like Omari Spellman, Eric Paschall, Donte DiVincenzo, and Phil Booth are huge keys to success as well.

Michigan is known for lock-down defense. But they haven’t faced anybody who can score like Villanova. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Wildcats put on another scoring barrage, even against one of the nation’s toughest defenses.

Why Michigan Will Cover +6.5

xavier-simpson-mighican-defenseMost expect Villanova to win this game by a comfortable margin. But this is also a year that’s seen UMBC become the first No. 16 seed the topple a No. 1 seed, beating Virginia by 20 points. I certainly won’t count out the Wolverines in this contest.

This is especially the case when considering that they’ve played so well ever since the end of the Big Ten regular season. Michigan prides itself on defense, which is why they’ve held opponents to an average of 58 points per game on 38% shooting. If anybody is capable of containing the Wildcats, then it’s this team.

Again, even this defense will have a tough time stopping Villanova. But Michigan has also proven that they can light up the scoreboard on occasion. Case in point, they dropped 99 points against Texas A&M in their Sweet 16 contest.

John Beilein has shown a great ability to manage the game and make changes when necessary. And the Wolverines need every bit of strong coaching they can get, given that championship coach Jay Wright is on the opposing sidelines.

Another key for this team is the defensive play of Zavier Simpson. The Michigan Point guard had a terrible offensive game against Loyola, failing to score a point and recording more turnovers than assists.

michigan-villanova-oddsBut the defensive ace has hounded opposing point guards into 11 PPG and under 35% shooting during the tournament. He’s also forced opponents into more turnovers than assists. If you had to pick somebody to try and guard Brunson, this is the guy.

Brunson scored 27 points against West Virginia’s Jevon Carter, who’s one of the few players who may be better than Simpson at perimeter defense. However, Simpson could still succeed where Carter fell short and make Brunson uncomfortable.

Moritz Wagner (14.1 PPG) is also a huge piece on this Michigan team. The 6’11” big man scored 24 points and grabbed 15 rebounds against a Loyola team that had no answer for him.

Villanova’s interior defense is tough to score on, with Spellman and Paschall possessing good athleticism. But Wagner, who shoots 40% from beyond the arc, is very difficult to guard. He can score in the post with his height, and he can also get hot from outside.

Wagner also has a bit of good history on his side. He’s only the third player in the last 40 years to score 20+ points and grab 15 rebounds. The other two include Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon, both NBA Hall of Famers.

The defense will be there for Michigan. And it’s possible that they could be one of the few teams to hold Villanova under 80 points. The key will be for them to get their offense going. Wagner and Charles Matthews (13.1 PPG) will be leading the offensive charge. If they get hot and the defense contains Villanova, then this game becomes an upset scenario.

Final Thoughts on Villanova Michigan Odds

Kansas didn’t come into their game against Villanova with as much defensive prowess as Michigan. And this was obvious, because the Wildcats dropped 95 in Saturday’s Final Four contest.

But you can bet that the Wolverines will bring more defensive intensity and possibly make this a good game. They play strong team defense, led by Simpson’s efforts against opposing point guards.

Michigan is facing an impossible task in trying to stop a talented Villanova team that’s playing at peak level. Even against a top defense, I don’t see Brunson and Bridges slowing down after their hot performances against Kansans.

But if Michigan can somehow manage to get in these players’ heads, they still have several other players who can score. And Villanova has such good fundamentals that they may not offer the Wolverines any chance to win.

Final Score Prediction: Villanova wins 81-64

2018 Final Four Odds: Michigan and Loyola Chicago

loyola-michigan-final-four-oddsLoyola Chicago has been the story of this year’s March Madness. The No. 11 seed has beaten Miami, Tennessee, Nevada, and Kansas State on their march to the Final Four.

They’ve tied LSU (1986), George Mason (2006), and VCU (2011) as the lowest seed to make a Final Four. By winning against Michigan, they can become the first 11 seed to make the title game.

Michigan is trying to become the second Big Ten team to win a national championship in the last four years. Wisconsin pulled off the feat in 2015, and the Wolverines now have a chance to do the same.

The Wolverines no doubt have the talent edge. But so far, Loyola has been unfazed by the slew of 4 and 5-star recruits they faced.

I’ll discuss if they can topple another giant, or at least cover their spread. Also keep in mind that you can wager on this game via GTBets.

Loyola Chicago vs. Michigan Odds – 6:05pm on March 31 (Saturday)

  • Michigan -5.5 / -270 moneyline
  • Loyola Chicago +5.5 / +230
  • Over/under 129.5

Why Michigan Will Cover -5.5

charles-matthews-michiganJohn Beilein’s teams are normally known for outstanding offense. But this year’s squad has been all about defense.

Case in point, they’ve held their tournament opponents to 47, 62, 72, and 58 points. I’m betting that upcoming contest against Loyola doesn’t make it out of the 60s.

Aside from holding opponents to low scores, the Wolverines also rank fourth in the nation in defense efficiency and force opposing teams into 38% shooting.

Given that Michigan always brings the defense, it’s no surprise that they find ways to win games. During their current 13-game winning streak, they’ve won eight of these contests by double digits.

And although they’re not great on offense, they somehow mustered 99 points against Texas A&M in their Sweet 16 contest. This is the most points scored by a Michigan NCAA Tournament team since 1992.

Beilein has led his second Michigan team to the Final Four in the last six years. He’s also produced a school-record 32 wins.

Both teams that won the previous record of 31 games advanced to the national title. This is a good omen for a Wolverines squad that has a realistic chance of pulling off the same feat.

One more bit of good history for this team is that they’re 6-1 all time in semi-final games, which is the best ever of any team with at least five appearances.

Charles Matthews leads this Wolverines squad with 16.5 PPG and 7.3 RPG in the tournament so far. He’s especially good in non-conference showdowns, averaging 17.4 PPG and shooting over 56% from the floor.

xavier-simpson-mighican-defenseAnother key factor for Michigan will be Xavier Simpson, who’s done a great job of shutting down opposing point guards. During Michigan’s tournament run, opposing the guards have only averaged 11.8 PPG on 34.6% shooting. They also have just eight assists compared to 13 turnovers.

This is big, because Simpson will match up against Missouri Valley Player of the Year Clayton Cluster. If he can shut down Loyola’s top player, then the Wolverines have a great chance to win this contest.

It also doesn’t bode well for the Ramblers that they’ve had turnover issues throughout the season. They turn over the ball on 19% of their possessions, which ranks a dismal 218th in the nation. This is another area that Michigan can take advantage of in a possible victory.

Why Loyola Will Cover +5.5

loyola-final-four-oddsThe reason why Loyola has made a surprise Final Four run is that they’re extremely efficient. They’ve shot 53% from the field, which is better than any tournament team with at least two games played. They’re also hitting almost 42% of their three-point shots.

And it’s not just one guy who’s filling the basket up. Instead, the Ramblers have had a different leading scorer in each of their four tournament contests.

A perfect example of this is Ben Richardson, who was the South Region’s Most Outstanding player, despite averaging just 7 PPG on the regular season. He scored 23 points in the Elite Eight matchup against Kansas State to claim these honors.

Another thing that the Ramblers do really well is drive to the basket. Of their 274 points in March Madness so far, 136 of these have come in the paint. This, despite the fact that they don’t have anybody taller than 6’6″ in the regular rotation. Loyola has multiple players who can put the ball on the floor and finish, meaning Michigan can’t slack off when guarding anybody.

The Ramblers have also been really good on defense, ranking 19th in the nation in defensive efficiency. The key behind their strong play has been forcing opponents to just 32.2% three-point shooting, which ranks the top 30 nationally. They’ve stepped things up in the tournament, holding opposing teams to less than 30% three-point shooting.

loyola-miami-oddsAnother driving force behind their success is the fact that Loyola guards well without fouling. They rank 15th of the nation in fewest fouls per game. But even if they do foul Michigan, the latter has shot poorly from the free throw line (66%, 326th nationally).

Outside of their first-round contest against Miami, the Ramblers have been counted out in every game they’ve played thus far in the tournament. This time won’t be any different, because they face a Michigan team with superior talent.

They’re also trying to become the first Cinderella to actually make the championship game. Double-digit seeded teams are 0 for 4 in the Final Four. But Loyola plays such a good team game that I wouldn’t be surprised if they become the first double digit seed to advance to the title.

Final Thoughts on Michigan vs. Loyola

The Ramblers are the only team that’s hotter than Michigan right now. They’ve won 14 straight games, which is one more than the Wolverines. The last time that Loyola tasted defeat was a January 31 contest against Bradley.

moritz-wagner-michiganOne reason why teams have had such a problem with Loyola in the tournament is because they don’t beat themselves. This team is efficient on offense and they play strong defense. They also rebound the ball relatively well for their lack of height, holding teams to one shot on 75% of their possessions.

Loyola’s starting lineup is mostly around the same height, allowing them to switch defenders on multiple positions. This can be a problem for Michigan, because they like to take advantage of mismatches.

On the Wolverines side, they undoubtedly have the talent edge. This includes 6’11” Moritz Wagner, who can play inside while also shooting 40% from the three-point line.

Loyola doesn’t anybody talented enough to cover Wagner one on one. If the big man gets going, then Michigan has a strong chance to not only win but also cover their spread.

Final Score Prediction: Michigan wins 67-60 and covers their +5 spread

2018 Final Four Odds: Villanova vs. Kansas

villanova-kansas-oddsNo offense to Michigan and Loyola, but the toughest Final Four matchup is definitely Villanova and Kansas. The two No. 1 seeds will battle in a game that feels like a championship.

Besides two top seeds facing off, this matchup has an interesting subplot, with Villanova’s Jalen Brunson and Kansas’ Devonte Graham battling for Player of the Year honors.

These are both perimeter-oriented teams, meaning the squad that gets hot from outside could very likely move on to the championship. But on the other side, the team that forces in its opponent off the three-point and focuses on the intangibles can also claim victory.

I’ll continue discussing this matchup by looking at the GTBets Final Four odds and analyze both team’s chances of covering their spread.

Kansas vs. Villanova Odds – 8:45pm on March 31 (Saturday)

  • Villanova -5 / -235 moneyline
  • Kansas +5 / +200 moneyline
  • Over/under 154.5 (-110)

How Both Teams Got Here

In a tournament where two No. 1 seeds didn’t make it out of the second round – including Virginia’s shocking loss to No. 16 UMBC – Kansas and Villanova stand out. In a way, these two teams are punished for being on the same side of the bracket, because they now have to play each other in the first leg of the Final Four.

The Jayhawks began their tournament run by easily beating Penn and slipping by Seton Hall in the second round. They didn’t have much trouble with Clemson in the Sweet 16, but needed overtime to beat a talented Duke squad in the Elite Eight.

The Wildcasts dominated Radford in the first round, and needed a good second half run to put No. 9 Alabama away. Villanova was down to No. 5 West Virginia in the second half, but went on a big run to win this Sweet 16 matchup. They also outplayed No. 3 Texas Tech in a close Elite Eight game.

Why Villanova Will Cover -5

2018-final-four-futuresThe toughest thing about playing Villanova is stopping them from putting the ball in the basket. They lead the nation in scoring with 87 points per game and also hit 12 three-pointers per contest.

This isn’t just some run-and-gun team, though, because the Wildcats also rebound, pass, and play strong defense. Highlighting the passing, Villanova ranked fourth nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio. This is the best Jay Wright squad ever when looking at statistics alone.

Jalen Brunson, who averages 19.2 PPG and 4.6 APG, is the top leading player that Wright has had in his coaching career. Villanova also has a future NBA lottery pick in Mikal Bridges, who averages 17.8 PPG and 5.4 RPG.

In addition to having elite guards, the Wildcats feature big men Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall, who give this team a good presence down low. And guards Donte DiVincenzo and Phil Booth are experienced role players who help this team click.

Why Kansas Will Cover +5

devonte-graham-kansasThe Jayhawks already played a championship-style game against Duke, a team that was loaded with first-round of NBA prospects. The fact that Kansas came out on top of this game prepares them well for what could be an even tougher opponent in Villanova.

Graham has been a great leader for this squad all season, so I expect him to play well once again in this contest. He’ll need a sidekick to step it up, which could come from either Malik Newman or Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.

This is an unconventional starting lineup that includes four guards and one center. And Kansas’ mid-major style offense has produced great results. The big man down low is 7-footer Udoka Azubuike, who has the ability to contain Villanova’s solid frontcourt. Bill Self’s squad will hope that freshman Silvio De Sousa can also provide important contributions down low.

Kansas has been truly battle tested, given how they navigated through the toughest region (Midwest) and the nation’s strongest conference in the Big 12. Nobody is better prepared to face and possibly defeat Villanova.

X-Factors for Kansas and Villanova

mikal-bridges-villanovaBrunson is almost guaranteed to come through in this contest. But Bridges is more of a wild card.

The 6’6″ shooting guard no doubt has the talent to excel against any opponent. But he’ll need to avoid a repeat of the Texas Tech game, where he went 0-for-5 from three-point range. If Bridges gets going, then it frees Brunson up to play even better.

Kansas is in a similar situation to Villanova, where they can count on Graham to play like a national player of the year candidate. But they also need Newman to continue stepping up and providing support in order to win.

Newman has been huge throughout the tournament, including a 32-point performance against the Blue Devils and 28 against Seton Hall. He’s come through in the clutch when the Jayhawks have needed him most. And they’ll definitely need him against Villanova.

Final Thoughts on Kansas vs. Villanova

malik-newman-kansasThe Wildcats are favored by 5 points on the spread, which is a significant amount in a game between two top seeds. They also have the best odds of winning the Final Four. This team does pretty much everything right, and they have elite players in Brunson and Bridges leading them.

Of course, Kansas is no slouch either. They’ve proven themselves again and again against other top-tier competition. So it would be no surprise if they also won this game.

Either squad can claim victory here. But Villanova has the look and feel of an eventual champion. I expect them to win, but I also think that Kansas will make it close and cover their spread.

Final Score Prediction: Villanova wins 84 to 81 – Kansas covers their +5 spread.

2018 Final Four Futures – Which Team Offers the Most Value?

2018-final-four-futuresThe 2018 Final Four is set, with Villanova, Kansas, Michigan, and Loyola Chicago all playing in San Antonio. It’s almost a surprise that No. 1 seeds Kansas and Villanova made it when considering the slew of upsets.

This includes No. 1 Virginia being the first top seed to lose to a No. 16 seed, and No. 1 Xavier losing in the second round. Another No. 1 seed will go down before the championship, given that the Jayhawks and Wildcats face off on one side of the bracket.

No. 3 Michigan isn’t such a surprise inclusion, given that they’re a legitimate tournament team with a 13-game winning streak. But No. 11 Loyola Chicago has truly crashed the party and will play the Wolverines this weekend. The Ramblers are tied with LSU (1986), George Mason (2006), and VCU (2011) as the lowest seed to ever make the Final Four.

We have some interesting matchups heading into the Final Four. But which one is offering the best betting value? Find out as we look at the 2018 Final Four futures and discuss each team.

2018 Final Four Futures from GTBets

  • Villanova -115
  • Kansas +350
  • Michigan +250
  • Loyola Chicago +950

Top Value: No. 1 Kansas at +350

devonte-graham-kansasBoth Kansas and Villanova are top seeds. But you’d think that the Wildcats are on a different planet when looking at the odds.

You stand to win four times more by betting on the Jayhawks. Meanwhile, Villanova’s line looks like but you’d see from a moneyline favorite – not a Final Four futures favorite.

The only reason why Kansas doesn’t have great odds is because they have to play the Wildcats right away. If Kansas wins, they’d undoubtedly be favorites to also win the championship too.

This squad has a strange look for a top-tier team. They play for guards and one big man, making them seem more like a quirky mid-major team, rather than a college basketball powerhouse. But the lineup has worked well so far, and the Jayhawks can really run and shoot the ball.

Devonte Graham leads this team as a passer and playmaker. He doesn’t possess incredible athleticism, but Graham does have tremendous skill, especially when throwing lobs to Kansas’ big guys.

Udoka AzubuikeIs is a great athlete who can overpower players. But he also has the tendency to be out of position on defense and turn the ball over. He’ll have to remedy this against Villanova.

As a team, Kansas runs a methodical offence that creates a lot of open shots for teammates. That said, Villanova’s best chance to win is to force the Jayhawks to beat them one on one, rather than chasing the ball around the perimeter.

Second Best Value: No. 1 Villanova at -115

mikal-bridges-villanovaI really don’t like the idea of betting on the Wildcats as such a heavy favorite when Kansas looms ahead. But then again, Jay Wright’s squad is easily the favorite here.

Villanova is great at exploiting opponent’s weaknesses, using a combination of skill, passing, outside shooting, and posting up. This team plays like they have 3-4 years more experience than they actually do.

Mikal Bridges is a future NBA lottery pick, thanks to his length and outside shot. He’s also versatile enough on defense to defend positions 1-5. It’s bad enough that teams have to worry about Bridges. But Jalen Brunson is yet another elite player on the Wildcats. Brunson leads the team with 19.2 PPG and 4.6 APG.

Eric Paschall gives his team a nice presence down low. His 6’9″, 255-pound frame makes him a strong post player, and he also has energy to chase after offensive rebounds.

Perhaps the only weakness to this team is that they don’t have tremendous athleticism from top to bottom. Instead, Villanova relies on efficiency, good team defense, and a strong night-in, night-out effort. Kansas’ best chance to win will be to force the Wildcats out of position on defense and open up the perimeter for three-point looks.

Third Best Value: No. 11 Loyola Chicago at +950

loyola-miami-oddsDo I think that Loyola is going to win it all? No. But I also don’t think that they should be counted out from completing their Cinderella run.

Of course, doing so means that the Ramblers would have to supplant the 1985 Villanova team as the lowest seed (No. 8) to win the title. But it’s also important to realize how underrated the Ramblers are.

Loyola Chicago is a mid-major dream, playing as good of an all-around game as anybody in the country. They don’t take bad shots, all of their main players are solid passers, they can shoot the ball, and they’re good at closing out on defense.

Speaking of the latter, Loyola checks in with the fifth-best scoring defense the country, holding opponents to 62.1 points per game. They also force opponents into 41.4% shooting, which ranks them 41 nationally. The strength of the Ramblers’ defense is their players’ abilities to guard multiple positions.

Clayton Cluster is the leader of this team. He possess strong playmaking ability and can shoot. It’s no surprise that the Ramblers run their offense through him. Cluster paces this team with 13.2 PPG while shooting 45.4% from the three-point line.

One key for Loyola will be keeping Cameron Krutwig out of foul trouble. If the freshman can’t keep from fouling, then Michigan has a clearer shot to win this game.

Worst Value: No. 3 Michigan at +250

moritz-wagner-michiganI know that the Wolverines are hot right now, but this doesn’t justify them having better Final Four odds than Kansas. Furthermore, they’re not even a lock to beat No. 11 Loyola. But on the other hand, they also have a strong chance to win their first game.

Michigan excels at the pick and roll, putting opposing teams in awkward positions when trying to defend this. They create open shots again and again with this simple play, much like an NBA team.

Moritz Wagner leads this team on offense with 14.3 PPG. The 6’11” big man is hard to cover, because he shoots almost 40% from three-point range. However, he’s going to need to be more selective than he was against Florida State from outside (0 for 7 on three’s).

Michigan’s big men as a whole are susceptible on defense. Wagner, Duncan Robinson, and Isaiah Livers have all had their struggles on defense at times. But the Wolverines should make up for this with their physical style, which can force a normally methodical opponent off their game.

The Wolverines have run through both the Big Ten Tournament and 2018 March Madness (so far) by forcing teams to play their game: a gritty, defensive style. And this should serve them well if they play against Villanova or Kansas. But they’ll have to survive Loyola first, which won’t be any picnic.

5 Sweet Sixteen Bets to Make in 2018 March Madness

sweet-16-bets2018 March Madness has been great for fans of the unpredictable. This year’s tournament has seen:

  • Two No. 1 seeds fail to make the Sweet 16 for the first time in 14 years
  • The South Region’s top four seeds lose already.
  • A No. 16 seed beating a top seed the first time ever.

It’s been a crazy March for sure. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t still navigate the betting market with accuracy. In fact, I see 5 enticing bets in this weekend’s Sweet 16.

I’m going to discuss 5 schools that have a great chance to cover. Also, keep in mind that you can bet on these teams as well as the entire Sweet 16 at GTBets.eu.

1. No. 5 Kentucky Covers -5.5 Against No. 9 Kansas State (Thurs, 9:37 p.m., CBS)

gilgeous-alexanderKentucky is the top seed left in the South Region after the top four seeds were upset. Many were expecting the Wildcats have to play No. 4 Arizona and Deandre Ayton, who’s considered the top NBA prospect heading into the 2018 Draft. But Buffalo dominated Arizona and, in turn, had the same done to them against Kentucky.

John Calipari’s squad now faces Kansas State, which has been a solid team this season. The Wildcats will get a boost when Dean Wade returns to the lineup. However, I’ll don’t see this making enough of a difference.

K-State is quite possibly the most-predictable tournament team, because they beat teams they’re supposed to, and lose to superior opponents. Case in point: they were 10-1 against Big 12 opponents that were lower in the standings, and 0-7 against higher teams.

Add in the fact that Kentucky is playing their best basketball this season, and I don’t see this contest being particularly close. The Wildcats have won 9 out of their last 10, and they shouldn’t have any trouble continuing this impressive streak.

Score Prediction: Kentucky 82, Kansas State 68

2. No. 3 Texas Tech Covers +2 Against No. 2 Purdue (Friday, 9:57 p.m., TBS)

purdue-sweet-16-oddsPurdue had the best inside-outside game in college basketball. But they took a major hit when Isaac Haas got injured. The 7-footer was key to drawing defenders into the paint so that Purdue could get open shots on the perimeter.

The Boilermakers will attempt to use the same formula with backup center Matt Haarms, who had a good game against Butler. Purdue was able to make 11 of their 24 shots from behind the arc in the second round. And they’re going to need the same hot shooting to beat Texas Tech.

Carsen Edwards, Vincent Edwards, Ryan Cline, Dakota Mathias, and P.J. Thompson have all shot at least 100 three-pointers and made over 40% of their attempts. Even without Haas, this team will be tough to beat.

But the Red Raiders can also fill up the nets. This is especially the case now that senior point guard Keenan Evans is back on the court and healthy.

Evans has averaged 22.5 points in the first two rounds. While Purdue plays solid defense, Evans will likely once again score over 20 points.

Perhaps more importantly, Tech Tech has a long, mobile defense that can get out on shooters. Without Haas down low, this team will be able to roam around the perimeter even more and force Purdue off the three-point line.

This game is going to be close. But Texas Tech will be on the right side of their +2 spread.

Score Prediction: Texas Tech 73, Purdue 72

3. No. 2 Duke Covers -11.5 Against No. 11 Syracuse (Friday, 9:37 p.m., CBS)

duke-sweet-16-oddsThe Midwest Region has almost gone by script so far. But Syracuse is the one surprise in this region.

The Orange were the last team taken by the selection committee. Starting in a play-in game against Arizona State, Syracuse didn’t seem to have a chance of going very far. But they’ve now rattled off three wins to reach the Sweet 16.

Syracuse is a bad offensive team that leans heavily on Tyus Battle to score. But their strength is a zone defense that forces opponents to shoot just 37% from the field.

It’s no secret that Jim Boeheim’s club will look to slow this game down and make it an ugly affair, much like they did in an upset victory over Michigan State.

Duke has by far the more-talented team here. They feature a starting lineup full of first-round NBA picks, including Marvin Bagley, Grayson Allen, Gary Trent Jr, Wendell Carter, and Trevon Duval.

The Blue Devils can easily turn this game into a blowout if they get out in transition. The same is true if they can speed the contest up.

But what if Syracuse manages to slow this game down as planned? Odds are that Duke will be better at this too.

Duke already beat Syracuse in the same style of game in late February, winning 60-44. The key to this victory was the talented Blue Devils’ talented shutting down Syracuse’s already inept offense. Expect a repeat of the same on Friday.

Score Prediction: Duke 66, Syracuse 41

4. No. 4 Gonzaga Covers -5.5 Against No. 9 Florida State (Thurs, 10:07 p.m., TBS)

josh-perkins-gonzagaThe Zags have exceeded expectations this year, coming off the heels of a national title appearance and losing four of their top eight players. The Bulldogs feature strong guard play with Josh Perkins and Silas Melson. They also like to get up and down the court quickly.

This should make for an interesting matchup, because Florida State also plays at a fast pace. The Seminoles have well-distributed scoring, with their top scorer averaging 12.9 PPG.

Florida State scored an impressive victory against No. 1 seed Xavier. They were able to hold Muskateers stars Trevon Bluiett and Quentin Goodin to a combined 14 points on 31% shooting.

As good as the last victory was, though, Florida State just doesn’t have enough prime-time tournament experience to get past Gonzaga. Furthermore, they’re a middle-of-the-pack tournament team that’s run its course.

Score Predcition: Gonzaga 82, Florida State 73

5. No. 1 Villanova Covers -5 Against No. 5 West Virginia (Friday, 7:37 p.m., TBS)

milal-bridges-villanovaVillanova and West Virginia are widely viewed as one of the most-competitive games in the Sweet 16.

The Mountaineers feature a tough defense that can suffocate opposing teams. They’re great at forcing turnovers, ranking 11th in the nation in this category. And Bob Huggins’ team causes real fits for opponents with their full court press.

One interesting matchup in this contest will be between West Virginia’s Jevon Carter and Villanova’s Jalen Brunson. But while the Mountaineers may match up well here, they’ll have a real struggle to also contain Mikal Bridges. Wesley Harris or Esa Ahamd will take turns trying to handle the future NBA lottery pick.

If they’re not up to the task, then the Wildcats could walk away with this one. And I don’t see Jay Wright’s team having much trouble breaking West Virginia’s press.

Score Prediction: Villanova 80, West Virginia 72

2018 March Madness Futures & Sweet 16 Rankings

gilgeous-alexanderThe 2018 edition of March Madness has definitely embodied the name. We saw UMBC become the first No. 16 seed in history to topple a No. 1 seed. Virginia was the unfortunate top seeded team on the other side of this history.

We also witnessed No. 1 seed Xavier go down along with other title contenders like Arizona, Cincinnati, North Carolina, and Michigan State.

This has created a Sweet 16 that’s mixed well with championship contenders and Cinderellas. Which of these teams has the best chances of cutting down the nets in San Antonio?

I’ll discuss this matter below while covering the Sweet Sixteen rankings from top to bottom. You can also see GTBets’ current 2018 March Madness futures below.

2018 March Madness Futures (Mar. 21 – Sweet Sixteen)

Here are odds on the remaining teams in 2018 March Madness. Keep in mind that you can bet on all of these Sweet 16 teams at GTBets:

  • Duke +350
  • Villanova +375
  • Kentucky +700
  • Gonzaga +750
  • Kansas +750
  • Michigan +800
  • Purdue +1200
  • West Virginia +1500
  • Texas Tech +2000
  • Texas A&M +2500
  • Clemson +3000
  • Kansas State +3000
  • Nevada +3500
  • Florida State +4000
  • Loyola Chicago +5000
  • Syracuse +6000

1. DUKE (28-7)

  • Defeated: Iona (15), Rhode Island (7)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Syracuse (11)
  • Duke Futures Odds: +350

I previewed the 2018 NCAA Tournament field last week and discussed how nobody has more talent than the Blue Devils. But they also had question marks regarding their consistency and defense.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Michigan State vs DukeDuke has largely eliminated these questions in the first couple rounds. They’ve dominated opponents on the offensive glass and have been unstoppable on offense.

Wendell Carter is owning the paint while Marvin Bagley is getting to the rim at will. And teams must also worry about Grayson Allen on the perimeter.

The upcoming matchup against Syracuse could be tricky, because the Orange play such good defense. But this will probably be a speed bump on Duke’s march towards San Antonio.

2. VILLANOVA (32-4)

  • Defeated: Radford (16), Alabama (9)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: West Virginia (5)
  • Villanova Futures Odds: +375

The opening weekend wasn’t a good one for No. 1 seeds. But the Wildcats certainly played like a top seed in advancing past both Radford and Alabama.

Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVicenzo have been knocking down shots from outside. And the defense, which occasionally looked shaky during the regular season, has improved to title contender level.

The only downside for Villanova is that the East Region was the least impacted by upsets. This leaves the Wildcats having to get by West Virginia, and either No. 2 Purdue or No. 3 Texas Tech in the next round.

3. KENTUCKY (26-10)

  • Defeated: Davidson (12), Buffalo (13)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Kansas State (9)
  • Kentucky Futures Odds: +700

Kentucky is an unenviable position right now, because the South Region was filled with upsets.

This leaves the No. 5 Wildcats as the top remaining seed in the South. The second-highest remaining seed in the regional is No. 7 Nevada.

Hamidou Diallo played a great game against Buffalo with 22 points. If he can keep up this play, then Kentucky will have yet another weapon along with their other young talent.

4. KANSAS (29-7)

  • Defeated: Penn (16), Seton Hall (8)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Clemson (5)
  • Kansas Futures Odds: +750

devonte-graham-kansasKansas is looking to erase a recent history of tournament disappointments. And they went a long way towards doing this with a 83-79 victory over Seton Hall.

This win is even more impressive when considering that All-American guard Devonte Graham had a terrible game, shooting just 1-for-7 from the field.

Malik Newman made up for this, though, with a 28-point effort. Udoka Azubuike shook off the rust from an injury by scoring 10 points and grabbing 7 rebounds in 22 minutes.

The Jayhawks are the last power-conference champion left in the field. But they have a tough road to the Final Four, with No. 5 Clemson up next and a possible meeting with Duke in the Elite Eight.

5. GONZAGA (32-4)

Defeated: UNC Greensboro (13), Ohio State (5)
Sweet 16 Opponent: Florida State (9)
Gonzaga Futures Odds: +750

Gonzaga has become as a perennial tournament team. But nobody expected them to perform as well as they have after losing most of their starters from last year’s national title runner-up team.

But here we are, and the Bulldogs have shown solid all-around offense and strong interior defense. The result is a return trip to the Sweet 16, and possibly beyond.

Guard Zach Norvell and forward Rui Hachimura provided heroics for the Zags in the first two rounds. Norvell’s go-ahead three-pointer against UNC Greensboro was especially notable. Hachimura turned out an outstanding effort off the bench with 25 points against Ohio State.

6. MICHIGAN (30-7)

  • Defeated: Montana (14), Houston (6)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Texas A&M (7)
  • Michigan Futures Odds: +800

Michigan was a dark-horse title contender to open the tournament. Nothing has changed in this respect, because they still have a solid chance to win the championship.

John Beilein’s teams are normally known for great offense. But this Wolverines squad has used lock-down defense to prevail in most of its 30 victories.

The defense was especially important against the Cougars, as Michigan had to stay within striking distance with their offense struggling.

Houston star Rob Gray needed 22 shots to score 23 points, while the team as a whole only made 37.1% of their shots. This is the reason why Jordan Poole was able to hit a game-winning three-pointer within the last few seconds.

The Wolverines may not go much further if they don’t finally get some offense going. But they definitely have a chance to win their game against Texas A&M if they bring the same defensive intensity.

7. WEST VIRGINIA (26-10)

  • Defeated: Murray State (12), Marshall (13)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Villanova (1)
  • West Virginia Futures Odds: +1500

Many expected the second-round game between West Virginia and their in-state neighbors, Marshall, to be a competitive affair. But the Mountaineers dominated the contest by a score of 94-71.

This should get the Thundering Herd to stop pestering about playing an annual game. More importantly, West Virginia displayed the aggressive perimeter defense that makes them so tough to play.

The Mountaineers don’t have an easy path to the title, with top-seeded Villinova up next. But they definitely have a shot with their pressurizing defense.

8. TEXAS A&M (22-12)

  • Defeated: Providence (10), North Carolina (2)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Michigan (3)
  • Texas A&M Futures Odds: +2500

Texas A&M’s play has been like Jekyll & Hyde this season. Hyde often showed up during a subpar SEC season for the Aggies. But Dr. Jekyll was in the building for an 86-65 victory over No. 2 UNC.

This is a tough team to play, because their frontcourt has a lethal combination of skill, length, and size. Robert Williams looks like a solid NBA prospect, while Tyler Davis and D.J. Hogg also make the frontcourt a nightmare for opponents.

The challenge for Texas A&M is their lack of depth at guard. But starters Admon Gilder and T.J. Starks have been serviceable so far.

9. TEXAS TECH (26-9)

  • Defeated: Stephen F. Austin (14), Florida (6)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Purdue (2)
  • Texas Tech Futures Odds: +2000

The Red Raiders weren’t quite the same team without Keenan Evans. They lost 2 out of 5 games heading into the tournament. But Evans is back from a toe injury, and the senior has averaged 22.5 points in the first two rounds.

Texas Tech has a quick defense that forces turnovers at a rapid rate. But their weakness is an offense that sometimes disappears. And they’ll need all the offense they can muster against Purdue.

10. PURDUE (30-6)

  • Defeated: Cal State Fullerton (15), Butler (10)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Texas Tech (3)
  • Purdue Futures Odds: +1200

carsen-edwards-purdueIsaac Haas’ injury could ultimately cost the Boilermakers a chance to make the Final Four. After all, the 7-footer’s inside presence opened up a lot of opportunities for this sharp-shooting school.

But backup center Matt Haarms played well enough for this team to work the ball around and make 11 out of 24 three-pointers. Carsen Edwards and Vince Edwards may have to create more shots off the dribble against Texas Tech in order for this team to win.

11. CLEMSON (25-9)

  • Defeated: New Mexico State (12), Auburn (4)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Kansas (1)
  • Clemson Futures Odds: +3000

Clemson is far from a basketball school, given that they hadn’t made the NCAA Tournament in six seasons until this year. But coach Brad Brownell’s squad snapped this streak and has exceeded expectations. In fact, this is the first Tigers squad to make the Sweet 16 since 1997.

Victories over New Mexico State and Auburn haven’t even been close, thanks to a high-scoring backcourt and strong interior defense. Clemson has gotten hot at the right time as they prepare to face their greatest challenge in Kansas.

12. NEVADA (29-7)

  • Defeated: Texas (10), Cincinnati (2)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Loyola-Chicago (11)
  • Nevada Futures Odds: +3500

jordan-caroline-nevadaNevada has gotten used to playing from behind so far, having only led for 4 minutes combined in their first two wins. They erased a 13-point deficit against Texas (OT), then came back from 22 points down to beat Cincinnati.

Eric Musselman’s team has relied on talented transfers to make it this far. This includes Jordan Caroline and Kendall Stephens, who’ve are big scoring threats.

The Wolfpack has the weakest Sweet 16 opponent out of anybody remaining. And this should bode well for their chances of moving on.

13. FLORIDA STATE (22-11)

  • Defeated: Missouri (8), Xavier (1)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Gonzaga (4)
  • Florida State Futures Odds: +4000

The Seminoles have one of the most-mundane profiles in college basketball.

They finished with an even 9-9 record in the ACC. They lost their first-round ACC tournament game to Louisville. And their top scorer averages 12.9 points per game.

But they do have plenty of athleticism and size, which has helped them get by Xavier and Missouri in the first two rounds. This combination makes them tough to score on in the paint, which should help them against Gonzaga, which relies on inside scoring.

14. SYRACUSE (23-13)

  • Defeated: Arizona State (11), TCU (6), Michigan State (3)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Duke (2)
  • Syracuse Futures Odds: +6000

syracuse-tcu-oddsOutside of Tyus Battle and his 19 points per game, this team doesn’t have many quality Division 1 scorers. Oshae Brisset and Franklin Howard are the only other two players who are legitimate offensive threats.

It’s no surprise that the Orange’s defense has led them this far. They have a long team that’s athletic enough to make their zone defense work superbly.

Chances are that this outstanding zone defense won’t be enough against a vastly superior Duke team. But the Orange won’t hang their heads, given that they barely made it into the tournament field anyways.

15. KANSAS STATE (24-11)

  • Defeated: Creighton (8), UMBC (16)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Kentucky (5)
  • Kansas State Futures Odds: +3000

Kansas State is a good team on paper. But it’s hard to have much faith in them, considering that they went 0-7 against Big 12 opponents who were above them in the standings.

The Wildcats also didn’t look very good against No. 16 UMBC, needing a late run to get by their lowly ranked opponent. Perhaps Dean Wade’s return could boost K-State. But even if he does play, it’s unlikely to be enough against No. 5 Kentucky.

16. LOYOLA-CHICAGO (30-5)

  • Defeated: Miami (6), Tennessee (3)
  • Sweet 16 Opponent: Nevada (7)
  • Loyola-Chicago Futures Odds: +5000

loyola-miami-oddsLoyola-Chicago is the tournament’s last remaining true Cinderella. But the 11-seeded Ramblers haven’t gotten here on sheer luck. They’ve beaten two power conference schools en route to the Sweet 16 and now have a 30-win season on their resume.

They at least have a chance against Nevada, thanks to their defensive discipline and methodical offense. Plus they have two solid scorers in Clayton Cluster and Donte Ingram.