Selection Sunday is still two months away, but the NCAA basketball season is in full swing and it’s time to take a look at the early odds to cut down the nets in Indianapolis. (Scroll to the bottom to get straight to the numbers.)
The biggest theme of the season so far? Parity.
Non-conference play featured several massive upsets. (The New Jersey Institute of Technology downed then-No. 17 Michigan; Incarnate Word trumped Nebraska; and the Ivy Leaguers at Yale edged out the defending national champs at UConn, to name a few.) After about 16 games for each team, only two squads remain undefeated: Kentucky and Virginia.
The second biggest theme of the season so far? Kentucky looks a whole lot better than everyone else. That would seem to belie the whole “parity” theme mentioned above, but the teams can co-exist. While the smaller programs are generally catching up to the traditional powers, John Calipari keep distancing himself from the growing peloton.
Calipari’s Wildcats are 16-0 and their resume already features impressive wins over then-No. 5 Kansas (72-40), then-No. 6 Texas (63-51), then-No. 21 UNC (84-70), and then-No. 4 Louisville (58-50). (The win over Louisville came on the road in the highly hostile KFC Yum! Center.)
The Wildcats suffered a key injury with forward Alex Poythress going down for the season due to an ACL injury. But Calipari still spreads the minutes pretty evenly between nine players, all of whom would be starters on basically every other team in the country.
Kentucky has faced some adversity this year, needing OT to get by both Ole Miss and Texas A&M, and its shooting has looked very suspect at times. That said, they have a stifling defense that holds opponents to just over 50 points per game (first in the nation), and defense is always key in March. That’s (one of the many reasons) why Kentucky remains the clear favorite for March Madness 2015.
The undefeated Virginia Cavaliers are second in the odds, but there isn’t much to separate the next handful of teams. They are all have a good chance to make a deep run in the tourney, but no team appears built to handle UK’s size, athleticism, and depth.
2015 March Madness Odds – Top Ten:
- Kentucky Wildcats: 1/1
- Virginia Cavaliers: 8/1
- Duke Blue Devils: 9/1
- Villanova Wildcats: 12/1
- Wisconsin Badgers: 12/1
- Gonzaga Bulldogs: 14/1
- Louisville Cardinals: 15/1
- Arizona Wildcats: 20/1
- Kansas Jayhawks: 25/1
- Utah Utes: 25/1
Check back in the coming weeks for another update.
(Photo credit: Phil Denton (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)