March Madness bracket projections starting to take shape
February 13, 2018 3:05 AM
by Ramon Scott
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament selection committee released a bracket preview on Sunday and the currently projected top four seeds don’t figure to surprise the experts.
Virginia, Villanova, Xavier, and Purdue would get the No. 1 seeds if the regular season and conference tournaments were completed and things stood as they were before Sunday’s action.
The Cavaliers would be the No. 1 overall seed, according to the committee, despite losing to Virginia Tech in double overtime on Saturday, 61-60. Of course, most teams have a handful of games or less left in their regular season followed by the ping-pong ball results of those conference tourneys.
Two of those four teams collide on Saturday, as the Big East regular-season championship will most likely be at stake when Villanova (-3, 166) is at Xavier (1:30, FOX).
The Musketeers were riding an eight-game winning streak coming into this week and have a 15-game home court winning streak starting the week. The Wildcats pounded XU in the first meeting, 89-65, as Phil Booth, who was hot early, and Jalen Brunson combined for 38 points. The ‘Cats own Xavier in Philly.
The Musketeers are certainly one of the best spread teams in the country with 18-8 overall ATS mark, including 7-3 ATS on the road, but the Wildcats are right there, too, with a 16-8 spread mark, including 9-5 against the number at home.
Virginia Tech (+11, 171) at Duke (Wed., 4, ESPN2): Despite losing three of their last five, the Blue Devils still post a 14-9 ATS mark this season and have gone OVER in 16 of 23 starts this season. The Hokies have covered nine of their last 12 on the road and are 14-7 to the OVER.
Kentucky (+9, 159) at Auburn (Wed., 6, ESPN2): Tigers have been terrific in covering 16 of their last 21 games, including a 9-3 ATS mark here at home. Cats are mired in their first three-game losing streak ever under coach John Calipari and are 9-15-1 ATS this season.
Nevada (PK, 153) at Boise State (Wed., 8, ESPNU): Boise now trails the Wolf Pack by one game in the Mountain West and gets them here at Taco Bell where BSU has won 13 straight and gone OVER in six of last seven.
Arizona (+3.5, 165.5) at Arizona State (Thu., 6, ESPN): The Wildcats have lost two of their last three games with losses at Washington and at home versus UCLA last Thursday. Arizona won the first meeting in Tucson, 84-78.
Northern Kentucky (PK, 134) at Wright State (Fri., 6, ESPNU): The big one in the Horizon with NKU 12-2, while Wright is one game back and won the first meeting in Highland Heights, 84-81,.
Syracuse (+5.5, 128.5) at Miami (Sat., 9, CBS): Orange played their best game of the season last Monday beating Louisville and is coming off Wednesday’s home game against N.C. St. SU has gone 18-3-1 to the OVER their last 22 games on the road, while the ‘Canes have gone OVER in eight of their last 10.
Texas (+5, 157) at Oklahoma (Sat., 9, ESPN): The number and the season have caught up to the Sooners, mired in a 1-9 ATS skid, along with losing seven of their last 11 SU into a tough road game on Tuesday at Texas Tech.
Michigan State (-6, 136) at Northwestern (Sat., 11 FOX): Despite their long-awaited elite success, the No. 3 Spartans are just 3-9-1 ATS on the road over their last 13. Northwestern has been a strong UNDER with a 4-15-1 trend to the low.
UNLV (+3, 159) at San Diego State (Sat., 1, CBSSN): Rebels’ win at Nevada behind Jovan Mooring’s shooting reignited promise for their MWC Tournament hopes, though Pack was without Caleb Martin. UNLV still on a 5-21-3 road ATS streak over the last three-plus seasons. SDSU had lost six of last eight, but had covered seven of last nine at home into Wednesday’s game vs. Wyoming.
West Virginia (+4.5, 154.5) at Kansas (Sat., 3, ESPN): Jayhawks got hammered at Baylor on Saturday for their fourth Big 12 loss of the season, knocking them out of first place. Kansas, which won the first meeting in Morgantown, is 7-1-1 to the UNDER over its last nine, which started with that game. WVU lost at home to Oklahoma State last Saturday before hosting TCU on Tuesday
Texas Tech (PK, 132) at Baylor (Sat., 4:30, ESPNU): Big 12 leader, Tech was on a six-game win streak heading into last Tuesday’s home game with Oklahoma. Red Raiders on a 3-9-1 run to the UNDER over their last 10 road games, while BU is 6-11-1 UNDER this season. Bears had covered four straight and won three in-a-row SU heading into last Monday at Texas.
North Carolina (-1, 160) at Louisville (Sat., 5:15, ESPN): UNC earned its big win over Duke last Thursday at home with a great start in the second half. Louisville is 26-12-2 to the OVER in the last 13 months, while North Carolina is 3-7 to the UNDER on the road this season. Heels were on a three-game win streak heading into Monday’s game at home against Notre Dame.
Marquette (+7, 167) at Creighton (Sat., 6, FSN): Creighton lost to Xavier last Saturday on a phantom call in the waning moments that resulted in a fourth-straight spread loss, as the Blue Jays have gone UNDER in nine of their last 12. Golden Eagles, which have lost seven of their last 10 games, have gone OVER in seven of their last eight and seven of last nine on the road.
Oregon (+6, 154.5) at UCLA (Sat., 7:15, ESPN): UCLA, which hosted Oregon State on Thursday, got hot for a four-game win streak. before falling at Arizona State on Saturday. Oregon, meanwhile, has woken up, as well, winning five of its last six heading into Thursday›s game across town at USC. The first win of the hot streak was against the Bruins, 94-91, in Eugene.
Ohio State (+1, 131) at Michigan (Sun., 10, CBS): OSU came into the week covering 9 of its last 12, including six-straight on the road heading into Thursday›s game at Penn State. Bucks are 9-25 to the UNDER dating back to the start of last Feb. Michigan came out on fire against Wisconsin on Sunday and got the money rather comfortably despite a mild Badger threat late.
Wichita State (+9.5 138.5) at Cincinnati (Sun., 1, ESPN): The Bearcats remained undefeated in the American and were riding a 16-game winning streak overall heading into Thursday›s game at Houston and 39-game win streak at home. WSU had gone OVER in 5-straight heading into last Thursday›s home game with Temple, but is just 3-6 to the UNDER on the road.
Penn State (+12.5, 147) at Purdue (Sun., 5, BTN): Boilers were riding a 19-game win streak before running into stalwarts Ohio St. and Michigan St., which put them back in place a bit, and Purdue was just 0-5-1 over their last six games into Thur. game at Wisconsin. PSU has gone OVER in 11 of its last 14 on the road, although Boilers 2-10 to the UNDER over last 12.