NCAA Title Hopes - Favorite, Long Shot, and Cinderella

by ASA, Inc.

Wednesday, Mar 06, 2024
Tennessee (+1200)
The Vols opened the season at +3300 to win the NCAA Championship, and after three straight ranked losses early in the year, they rebounded to be a top tier team throughout SEC play. That task has not been easy with the SEC currently having five teams ranked in the top 17 in the AP Poll. Tennessee checks all the boxes when looking at a team with tourney winning potential. Battle tested, with a player of the year candidate, along with veterans who have made postseason runs in the past. Knecht (20.6ppg), Josiah-Jordan James (8.8), and Santiago Vescovi (7.2) are all fifth year seniors, combined with Ziegler (11.4), Aidoo (12.1), and Gainey (7.4) who are all juniors. Knecht is a lottery pick who can take over games when needed, scoring 37+ points three separate times this season against UNC, Florida, and Auburn. Securing a one seed will be huge if the Vols can end the regular season strong. Only five of the previous eighteen Champions have come outside of one seeds, of those, only one two-seed has taken home the trophy (Villanova 2016). 

Mid Tier 
Washington St. (+10000)
The PAC 12 may have been the worst Major conference in College Basketball this year. Arizona who is currently ranked 5th, and Washington St. are the only PAC 12 teams slated to get a tournament bid. This is the main reason that the Cougars are flying under the radar, getting very little media attention despite sitting 18th in the AP Poll, while being winners of 13 of their last 15 games. Fifth year coach Kyle Smith has seen improvement each season with Washington State and has let redshirt freshman Myles Rice (15.5ppg) lead the Cougars on offense. Rice stands 6’3 and the rest of the key rotation is huge measuring 6’8 or taller. This length played a fundamental role in why they were able to beat Arizona twice this year, showing the potential to take down top tier competition. Isaac Jones (15.3ppg) and Jaylen Wells (12.3) make up a three headed scoring monster that can make a serious bracket run for a team that many have little insight about. They are projected to get a 5th or 6th seed. 

Vermont (+100000)
Mid Major runs happen every year, but are nearly impossible to predict. Vermont will need to win the American East Tournament but went 15-1 during the regular season and is the number one seed. If that first step is completed, the Catamounts will be primed to bust brackets as a likely 14 seed. Seven players play over 20 minutes per game and all average 7+ ppg, showing one of the most balanced scoring outputs in the nation. They rank 9th in the entire country in scoring defense and 35th in Assist/Turnover. A fundamental conference winner with fantastic chemistry, Vermont has as good a chance as any Mid Major to do some damage in the first weekend of the tourney.  If the Catamounts can get by the first weekend, we’ll have some serious hedging potential moving forward. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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