The premier event in American college basketball returns once more with the annual ‘March Madness’ NCAA tournament. Expect high drama, memorable moments, upsets and plenty of basketball action for bettors to find value. Want to inform your NCAA basketball knowledge? Read on to improve your March Madness betting predictions.
What is March Madness?
The NCAA Men’s basketball tournament, more commonly referred to as March Madness due to the competition taking in March and featuring 68 teams, is a yearly single-elimination tournament to crown the best college basketball team in the United States.
Originating in 1939, the NCAA tournament has been a staple of US basketball and American sport in general, with winning the competition considered a prestigious honour.
Thirty-two teams qualify automatically through their respective college conferences placing’s with the remaining 36 teams relying on being given an “at-large’ bid from the 10-member selection committee, who are also responsible for seeding, selecting and bracketing the March Madness tournament.
Once the 68 teams have been determined, they are seeded and placed into four regions which are dependent geographical location.
On March 17, otherwise known as ‘Selection Sunday’, the full March Madness bracket is revealed and action will commence on March 19 with the ‘First Four’ matchups.
Throughout March, the first and second round matches are played, leading to the Midwest, South, East and West Regional matches. The winners of those regional matches make it through to the ‘Final Four’ on April 6, with the Championship game and winner being crowned on April 8.
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Who are the favourites?
Let’s take a look at the colleges that are in contention to reach the latter stages of the tournament:
Duke Blue Devils
Regardless of the potential injury concerns to star man and soon to be no.1 draft pick Zion Williamson (if reports are to be believed), Duke come into March Madness as the clear favourite to pick up their sixth NCAA title, their first since 2015.
There’s no doubt that with Zion in the team, Duke have been a formidable team over the course of the college season with a record of 23-2 when Williamson has played the full game.
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Duke look set to be a no.1 seed or a no.2 seed at the very least, which should make their opening fixtures and bracket placement kinder, thus enabling them to pick up wins and build up momentum to propel them to at least the final four.
Zion is expected to be fit in time for March madness but should he not be fit for the tournament, it could be a great psychological advantage to teams that come up against Duke and could severely impact their chances.
After the epic encounter between Duke and Gonzaga in Maui the day before Thanksgiving, where Gonzaga triumphed 89-87, the Bulldogs are many expert’s choice to be the Blue Devil’s biggest threat to the NCAA Championship. The potential rematch in this year’s tournament will more than likely have a great impact on who will go onto win the title.
Gonzaga currently have the best college record of 29-2 and look to be in formidable form heading into March Madness.
After the remarkable loss they suffered in last year’s March Madness, where Virginia (1.02) fell 74-54 to UMBC (21.28) – the first time a No.1 seed had lost to a No.16 seed in NCAA history - the Cavaliers have a point to prove.
It was a historic upset and the type of result that really demonstrates how unpredictable March Madness can be.
Virginia boast the best three-point defence in the country, working tirelessly on their perimeter game both defensively and offensively to put them in contention of at least making in to the Elite Eight.
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Anything less than getting through the first round will be seen as continued regression from their stunning loss last year, something the Cavs will be desperate to put right this time around.
The Volunteers, led by leading scorer Grant Williams, have been impressive over the course of the season. Recording notable victories against Gonzaga, Louisville, Kentucky and Florida, Tennessee are in line to be No.1 Seed in the Midwest which should give them a favourable opening to the competition.
The emergence of PJ Washington and to a lesser extent Tyler Herro have propelled the Wildcats into NCAA contention and depending on where they are seeded, Kentucky could have a favourable route through the first two rounds.
The Tar Heels recorded an impressive victory over tournament favourites Duke (albeit without Zion in the Duke team) by 16 points earlier this season.
Having their best season in the past five years, North Carolina are tied with Virginia and battling Duke for the top spot in the league standings and will hoping to translate their good form into the tournament.
Michigan State Spartans & Michigan Wolverines
Locked in a battle for bragging rights and seeding positions, the two teams from Michigan will be desperate to outdo one another heading into the NCAA tournament.
The Wolverines are vying for a No.1 seed for March Madness, whilst the Spartans may have to settle for a No.2 position. They have dealt with the loss of Charles Matthews to injury by continuing their No.1 seed push with comfortable wins over Nebraska and Maryland.
The Spartans have the power to displace their college rivals when the two teams play each other, with a win for the Spartans all but denying the Wolverines hopes of securing the No.1 seed for March Madness – making it a key fixture in the build up to the competition.