It is once again time to make our picks for the College Basketball National Champion based on the updated Betting Odds. Let’s talk about the current favorite, the smart pick, and of course, the dark horse.
Favorite: Houston Cougars, 16-1 (4-0) (+700)
What can we say about the Cougars that we haven’t already said this season? Well, it appears that they have not faltered following their lone loss on the season to Alabama. Since that December 10th stumble, Kelvin Sampson’s club has picked right back up, winning seven consecutive games.
There is an old saying in sports gambling circles that “good teams win, great teams cover.” Houston was simply a good team early on, covering just three of seven games following the “buy game” season, but has now covered the anticipated margin in five of their last six contests.
While Marcus Sasser has been mostly consistent all season, five-star recruit seems to be realizing his potential right in front of our eyes. The five-star prospect is averaging 22 points and 7.5 rebounds per game over his last two contests while shooting 4-6 from deep in those games.
Smart Pick: Tennessee Volunteers, 14-2(4-0) (+1400)
Despite Head Coach Rick Barnes’ seeming inability to escape the first weekend of the dance, this Volunteers team may be built differently. Barnes has seen the second weekend of the tournament just a single time since the 2007 tournament, despite some fantastic talent at both Texas and Tennessee. The one time he did make it through in 2019, he was bounced in the sweet 16 with a 27-4 Vols club.
This season, however, this club appears to be arguably the best defensive team in the nation. The Vols are first in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, first in the nation in defensive effective field goal percentage, seventh in defensive turnover percentage, and first in three-point defense.
In addition to their defensive prowess, Tennessee has good, albeit inconsistent, guard play. Santiago Vescovi and Zakai Zeigler are a fantastic duo on both ends of the floor. The dynamic duo shoots gaps on defense and shoots triples on offense. Freshman Julian Phillips is one of the most undervalued players in the nation but, like his backcourt mates, has yet to establish consistency.
This team is Final Four caliber if they can show they can be trusted from game to game in SEC league play.
Dark Horse: Xavier Musketeers, 14-3 (5-0) (+5000)
We have spoken of this Xavier club before, but they require another mention, especially at this price. As shown in their impressive victory over Creighton on Wednesday evening, this team is one that has the talent, coaching, depth, and talent to make a run in March.
Sean Miller’s club boasts one of the best overall frontcourts in the entire nation in Jack Nunge, Zach Freemantle, and Colby Jones. Any of those three has the ability to lead the Musketeers on any given night, while all three have shown they can be consistently above average while also being efficient. Nunge is one of the best passing big men in the nation, while all three have the ability to play inside out.
Souley Boum is one of the most underrated point guards in the entire nation despite being a fantastic shooter from deep and from the line. The transfer from UTEP has put double figures on the board in all but one game this season and is one of only two players in the nation averaging 17 points, four assists, four rebounds, and shooting 45% or better from three-point range.