NCAA Tournament 2018: Latest Predictions and Odds for Bracket Busters
The two potential bracket busters discussed below have both assumed that title in years past.
In 2005, Bucknell shocked Kansas, who was a No. 3 seed and had been ranked the No. 2 team in the nation for much of the year, in a 64-63 first-round win.
In 2008, future NBA star Stephen Curry and the Davidson Wildcats engineered a run to the Elite Eight and nearly took down eventual national champion Kansas before losing 59-57.
The 2017-18 editions of each of these teams could also break some brackets this year. Here’s a look at both, with reasoning as to why each is predicted at minimum to cover their respective first-round spreads. Those odds are via OddsShark, and you can also find a bracket below.
Potential Bracket Busters
Davidson (+5.5) over Kentucky
Davidson is the team that no top school should want to play right now, as the Wildcats are scorching hot heading into the NCAA tournament. They won the Atlantic-10 title with a victory over favored Rhode Island on Sunday, which capped a streak of eight wins in their past nine games (and 11 of their last 13).
The Wildcats have two dominant scorers: senior forward Peyton Aldridge posts 21.5 points per game (in edition to 7.8 rebounds) and freshman guard Kellan Grady has shined in his first year, averaging 18.0 points a night at an efficient 50.4 percent rate.
Jon Axel Gudmundsson, who has one of the best names we’ve seen in recent men’s tournament history, is a well-rounded sophomore from Iceland who posts 13.0 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game.
Those three and the rest of the Wildcats combine to engineer the 18th-most efficient offense in the nation, per the Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings.
While Kentucky is a solid team that seems to be hitting its stride after winning the SEC tournament, the Wildcats (as usual) are a young squad, with the top five scorers being freshmen.
That hasn’t hurt UK at certain times in the past (notably Anthony Davis’ 2012-13 squad), but inexperience throughout the top portion of the rotation could also hurt the team as well.
Look for Davidson to cover and perhaps win outright against UK.
Bucknell (+14.5) over Michigan State
Last year, No. 13 Bucknell Bison nearly upset No. 4 West Virginia in the first round, losing just 86-80 to a tough Mountaineers team that almost picked off eventual national championship runner-up Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.
The same starting lineup that almost pulled off that win is back this season, and like Davidson, the Bison are rolling going into March Madness. They won 19 of their 21 Patriot League games (including tournament play) and beat Boston University and Colgate University by 31 and 29 points, respectively, in the league semifinals and finals.
The key word for Bucknell is balance. They have a couple of bigs who can hang with other top frontcourt players down low in senior forward Zach Thomas and sophomore center Nana Foulland.
The 6’7" Thomas was the league’s Patriot League Player of the Year as he averaged 20.3 points and 9.2 rebounds. The 6’9" Foulland is second on the team in scoring and rebounding with 15.4 points and 7.1 boards.
The backcourt is also solid as well, led by senior point guard and conference tournament MVP Stephen Brown (14.9 points, 4.3 assists and 3.4 rebounds) and clutch junior guard Kimbal MacKenzie, who scored 23 against West Virginia last year and capped an incredible comeback win over Colgate in the regular season this year.
Michigan State is a national-championship contender and likely has at least a few future NBA players on its roster, but the spread here is too enticing. While Bucknell has a tall task to win outright, the Bison will surprise folks and keep this one in doubt until the final minute.
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March 14, 2018 at 10:49AM