Here are the Best Value Picks of March Madness
As the college basketball regular season ended Sunday, there were a surprising number of teams that won their conference tournament to qualify for the NCAA tournament, but wouldn’t have qualified otherwise. Teams like Saint Mary’s of the WCC and Saint Louis of the Atlantic 10 very likely wouldn’t have received at-large bids if they hadn’t won their conferences, but because they did, they are now two of the hottest teams in the tournament, and surprise auto-bids. Saint Louis has won four in a row and six of its last seven, while Saint Mary’s, who upset No. 1 ranked Gonzaga to win the WCC tournament, has won 7 of its last 8 with the only loss coming in the regular season to that same Gonzaga team.
Despite the impressive performances lately by Saint Louis and Saint Mary’s, no team is hotter over the last three weeks than Oregon. After losing three straight games in February to non-tournament teams (Stanford, Oregon State, USC), junior phenom Payton Pritchard and the Ducks have rattled off eight straight wins to win the Pac-12 and receive an automatic bid. Despite this, Dana Altman’s team was given 300/1 odds to win the tournament by the William Hill Sports Book, seemingly lower than they deserve.
Although Oregon would become one of the greatest Cinderella stories in sports history if they won the National Championship, no seed lower than 11 has ever even made the Final Four. They do have a good chance to at least do some damage in the tournament. Seeded 12th in the South region, they are playing a Wisconsin team that may have peaked too early with a six-game win streak in late January, and has not played at the level of a 5 seed since. This matchup was easily predicted to be the closest among 5 vs. 12 matchups, with the Badgers currently favored by just 1.5 points.
If Oregon is able to beat Wisconsin, they will also have a reasonably favorable second round matchup, when facing the winner of 4th-seeded Kansas State and 13th-seeded UC Irvine. The Anteaters have become a very popular upset pick, and would be a team Oregon would certainly be favored against in the round of 32. Kansas State will likely be without star power forward Dean Wade, which could benefit Oregon if the Wildcats were to advance.
Some may say Oregon doesn’t deserve to be in the tournament based on their full season accomplishments, after only receiving a bid due to winning the PAC-12 tournament. However, one of the beauties of March Madness is that once you’re in, you’ve got a shot. And, it doesn’t hurt to be on an eight game winning streak with one of the most dynamic players in the country. Get those dancing shoes ready, Ducks.
Jeremy Schooler is a sophomore studying broadcast journalism and business. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.