With the 2016-17 NCAA college basketball season moving further into conference play and the start of March Madness quickly approaching, collegiate roundball gaming enthusiasts need to know which teams are looking like legitimate threats to win this year’s national championship.
Now, let’s find out who these teams are.
2017 March Madness Picks
After watching the now, top-ranked Villanova Wildcats get past everyone en route to the 2016 national championship last season, college basketball enthusiasts everywhere are looking for teams like the Wildcats that are offering both, great value and a legitimate chance of winning it all.
The Odds-On March Madness Betting Favorite: Kentucky 9/2
The fifth-seeded Kentucky Wildcats (16-2 SU, 11-7 ATS) may be the odds-on-favorite to win this year’s national championship, but right now, the fifth-ranked Wildcats clearly aren’t the best team in the country.
The Wildcats have been phenomenal in putting up a whopping 93.3 points per game to rank second in scoring nationally, but the young Cats have been underachieving at best at the defensive end of the floor in allowing 72.2 points per contest to rank an uninspiring 189th in points allowed.
Nevertheless, Kentucky has some big-time players that will be playing in the NBA in the very near future, starting with leading scorer, Malik Monk. The 6-3 freshman guard hung an insane 47 points on North Carolina in mid-December and has scored 20 points or more five times in his last 10 games while topping the 30-point plateau twice.
The Cats may still be finding their way right now, but Kentucky looks like they’ll be a lot better by the time March Madness rolls around and they very well could back up their status as the favorite to win the national championship whether you like polarizing head coach John Calipari and his collection of elite, McDonald’s high school All-Americans and five-star recruits.
The Smart March Madness Bet: Villanova 17/2
For me, the defending national champion – and top-ranked Villanova Wildcats (18-1 SU, 12-6 ATS) are the ‘smart’ pick to win back-to-back national championships for several reasons.
First and foremost, I love the fact that Villanova is not only, 9-0 at home this season, but more importantly, 4-1 away from home and a perfect 5-0 in neutral site games. The Wildcats’ road and neutral site records are great indicators of just how well Villanova will play once March Madness rolls around.
I also love the fact that Nova is one of the best defensive teams in the nation as they rank a stellar 14th nationally in points allowed (61.7 ppg) while also ranking a stupendous fourth in defending the three-point shot (28.3 percent) and an identical fourth in defensive rebounding (25.4 rpg).
Not only that, but Villanova has a great head coach in Jay Wright that is now, undeniably as good as any head coach in the nation, not to mention two sure-fire NBA performers and a likely third in so-it-all shooting guard Josh Hart (18.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg), sweet-shooting small forward Kris Jenkins (14.1 ppg) and blossoming point guard Jalen Brunson (13.9 ppg).
In essence, Villanova is a great defensive ballclub that has an outstanding head coach, three heady stars and the intelligence to beat anyone no matter where they play.
The March Madness Sharp Bet: Wisconsin 35/1
Just like they’re football-playing counterparts, I’m pretty high on the 17th-ranked Wisconsin Badgers this season (15-3), mostly because of their lockdown defense. Wisconsin ranks eighth in points allowed (60.4 ppg) and 52nd in field goal shooting percentage (40.5 percent) while also ranking second in defensive rebounding (25.2 rpg). I also love the Badgers’ trio of stars in leading scorer Bronson Koenig (14.5 ppg), second-leading scorer Nigel Hayes (13.6 ppg) and power forward Ethan Happ (12.8 ppg). Come tourney time, the Badgers look like they’ll be dangerous at the very least.
The March Madness Dark Horse Bet: Florida State 28/1
I like the athletic 10th-ranked Florida State Seminoles (17-2) as my top dark horse selection to win the 2017 national championship.
Florida State is averaging an impressive 86.3 points per game to rank 13th nationally in scoring while draining a blistering 50.5 percent of their collective shots to rank a stellar seventh in field goal shooting percentage.
While the Noles allow 70.9 points per game to rank just 150th in points allowed, Florida State has harassed their opponents into a dismal 39.7 percent shooting mark from the field to rank 33rd in field goal defense.
The Seminoles also have an excellent head coach in veteran hoops savant Leonard Hamilton and a couple of players that look like future NBA performers, starting with 6-7 shooting guard Dwayne Bacon (17.4 ppg), but including 6-4 point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes (10.6 ppg, 4.8 apg) and do-it-all guard Terrance Mann (8.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg).
The ACC-leading Seminoles have gone 3-1 in neutral site games and have beaten three nationally-ranked title contenders in Duke, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech over their last four games while narrowly falling to North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I say, make no mistake about it people, the Seminoles can beat any team in the nation on any given day.
The Longshot March Madness Bet: Maryland 200/1
The 25th-ranked Terrapins (16-2) are sitting atop the Big Ten standings and have the look of a team that is going to be quite dangerous by the time the national championship tournament gets underway in about eight weeks.
Maryland ranks 43rd in points allowed nationally (65.1 ppg) and an equally impressive 47th in field goal shooting defense (40.4 percent) and has a legitimate star in sweet-shooting guard Melo Trimble (17.2 ppg) and another gifted player in freshman shooting guard Anthony Cowan (11.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.6 apg).
The only concern I do have about the Terps is that they haven’t played the same caliber of competition as some of the other teams on this list. Still, the Terps could surprise once March rolls around and at 200/1, they’re certainly offering a stupendous return should they manage to upset the entire apple cart.