2014 College Basketball National Championship Contenders
by Aaron Smith - 3/18/2014
Selection Sunday is behind us, and March Madness is upon us! It's the best time of the year for a college basketball fan. Who doesn't get chills when that theme music comes on and you know it's time for the first game to start on Thursday afternoon?! Fans all over the country find a way to miss work for those first couple days, and the Madness gets underway.
While the first couple days of games may be the most exciting since everyone is looking for a Cinderella and there is non-stop action on television, but the games get more important as you go farther into the tournament. The 2014 NCAA Tournament is here, so it's time to take a closer look at the top National Championship contenders. It may be fun to find a Cinderella team, but finding the champion is the best strategy of all. Let's take a closer look at seven teams who have a chance to cut down the nets this year. I have searched for the best odds on each team and have listed in each breakdown where those odds are from.
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Florida Gators (+525)
The Florida Gators are +525 to win the NCAA Basketball Championship at both 5Dimes and Bookmaker. At every sportsbook you look at, the Florida Gators are the favorite in this year's tournament. Florida comes in as the overall No. 1 seed, so it makes sense for them to be the favorite. The Gators are a well-balanced team that plays great defense and has both good guard play and an elite big man in Patric Young. My concern with this team is that the SEC was so weak that they might not come into the tournament battle-tested enough.
Michigan State Spartans (+650)
5Dimes lists Michigan State at +650 to win it all this season . Tom Izzo's March success is well-documented. There isn't a coach in the country I'd rather have on my sideline for this tournament than Izzo. The Spartans struggled through much of the season, but injuries were largely to blame for those struggles. Michigan State is healthy at the right time now, and their wins over Wisconsin and Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament served notice to the rest of the tournament field. I think there is some value on the Spartans.
Louisville Cardinals (+650)
Louisville is 13/2 at Bovada to win the NCAA Tournament. The converted odds for that are +650. Rick Pitino's team was arguably the most underseeded team in the tournament. Louisville could have easily been a No. 1 or at least a No. 2 seed, and instead they were given a No. 4 seed! If Louisville needed any extra motivation, that seeding should give it to them. The Cardinals ran through the American Athletic Conference tournament like it wasn't even a test. Louisville is a rare team that is top 20 in both offense and defensive nationally. Defending a title is tough, but Louisville is definitely capable of winning it.
Arizona Wildcats (+900)
Once again it is Bovada with the best odds on Arizona at +900 win the tournament. Sean Miller is quickly becoming known as one of the best coaches in the country, and the Wildcats play defense as well as anyone in the nation. Arizona is in one of the easiest brackets, so I like their chances of getting to the Final Four. Still, I'm afraid Arizona's inconsistency on the offensive end will trip them up at some point in this tournament. Remember, Brandon Ashley was a key contributor to this team, and he is out for the season with an injury.
Kansas Jayhawks (+1,300)
The Jayhawks are +1,300 to cut down the nets at 5Dimes. Kansas would have been given much better odds of winning this tournament if Joel Embiid wasn't injured. Embiid will miss the first weekend of games, but the rest of the team should be able to get past their first two opponents. Can Embiid come back for the second weekend of games? If so, Kansas is a great value at this price. It's a big question mark, but at this point it is probably worth a small play because the Jayhawks have such a high upside.
Wichita State Shockers (+1,574)
Bookmaker lists Wichita State at +1,574 to win it all. Wichita State rolled right through the regular season with an unbeaten record. They picked up a No. 1 seed here in the NCAA Tournament. There has been more discussion about the Shockers than any other team on the major media outlets. This team is the real deal, but I do worry about them not being battle-tested throughout the season. Also, they were given a No. 1 seed, but they no doubt have the toughest path to the finals of any of the top seeds.
Duke Blue Devils (+1,652)
Duke is listed at +1,652 to win the NCAA Tournament at Bookmaker. The Blue Devils were beaten by Virginia in the ACC Tournament title game. Coach K's team is clearly very talented, but I worry about their issues on the defensive end of the floor. A team that has struggled as much as they have on defense rarely wins six straight games in a row. You can't count out a team with Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood leading the way, but I don't see as much value here as I do on the other teams in this article.
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