February is almost over and that means that March Madness is coming soon. With barely three playing weeks left in the 2019 NCAA basketball season, let’s take an early look at who the oddsboard thinks is going to conquer March Madness this year.
Here are the complete odds to win the 2019 NCAA Men’s basketball championship. Odds taken from bovada as of 2/21/19:
|Loyola University Chicago||25000|
Duke is the odds on favorite to win the 2019 NCAA championship at +160, and rightfully so. The Blue Devils have been in the national radar since preseason because of Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett and a couple of future NBA first rounders surrounding them. Williamson is expected to be the top pick of the upcoming NBA Draft while Barrett, who recently recorded the fourth triple-double in the history of the Duke Basketball program, is expected to be #2 or at least in the Top 5.
The Blue Devils are 23-3 on the season and as of last week or Week 16 of the season, the Blue Devils ranked 1st in both the AP Top 25 and the Coaches polls. However, with Duke suffering its worst loss of the season, a 72-88 thrashing at the hands of rival North Carolina just this Wednesday, it remains to be seen where Duke falls next week although it’s likely they will remain at the top spot because the Blue Devils have already beaten the #2 ranked team Virginia twice this season.
Coach K. lost freshman sensation Zion Williamson to what Coach Kl termed as a “mild knee sprain” when his custom-made PG13 2 Nike shoe got ripped off after he planted hard while dribbling near the free throw line 36 second into the game. Without their leading scorer, the Blue Devils looked lost and were outplayed the rest of the way by the Tar Heels.
The Blue Devils also lost 87-89 to then #3 Gonzaga in the finals of the Maui Invitational and they also suffered a 91-95 upset overtime loss at home against Syracuse last month. Other than these three road bumps, the Blue Devils have demolished their opposition, with 19 out of their 23 wins coming via double-digits. Duke will play the Tar Heels again at the Dean Smith Center to close out their season.
What About The Others?
The Tennessee Volunteers had a 19-game winning streak and a three-point victory over the then top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs in early December. But while their winning run was impressive, don’t forget that they did so while having only the 43rd toughest schedule in the league where they faced only one ranked foe during that period.
The Volunteers were exposed when they faced the Kentucky Wildcats last Saturday at Rupp Arena. The Wildcats blew the Volunteers out of the building 86-69 and knocked Tennessee off the #1 spot. The Volunteers rebounded with a win over Vanderbilt but they did little to impress in hacking out a 58-46 win in a game where they only scored 22 points in the second half.
It’s about time that the Kentucky Wildcats have been recognized. Kentucky’s 34-point loss to Duke on opening night left a sour taste in the mouth but since then, they‘ve improved leaps and bounds. The Wildcats had a ten game winning streak between January and February before losing at home to LSU. Then last week, Kentucky blew out Tennessee in an impressive performance and I think this team should be in the Top 5 of the national rankings right now.
The Wildcats play good defense and are ranked 8th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Since Ashton Hagans took over as starting point guard, that defense has even improved to #4 in the nation. The Wildcats are one of the top offensive rebounding teams and they get to the foul line a lot but they need to improve on their shooting, especially from behind the three point arc. What’s good though is that P.J. Washington has emerged as John Calipari’s go-to guy/ The Wildcats have a rematch with the Volunteers on March 2. I’m going to make my verdict on them after that game.
Virginia is 4th on the oddsboard at +800 but with two losses to Duke this season, I don’t fancy them at all. Gonzaga comes in at #5 at +850 and the Bulldogs are one of three teams to beat the Blue Devils this season.
Duke has shown a lot of vulnerability this season but part of that is because their top players are college freshmen. Overall though, the Blue Devils have the most talent in the nation and sometimes that’s just what you need to win it all in college basketball.
I’m going with the favorites right now and picking Duke to win the 2019 NCAA men’s basketball title.