March Madness nears, and the excitement grows as the college basketball postseason has almost arrived. The stretch run and conference tournaments allow some teams to experience seed mobility between now and Selection Sunday. With the bracket reveal only four Sundays away, three teams will be peaking come tournament time.
Arkansas (+5000 to win the National Title)
One of the favorites entering the season, injuries and inconsistent play has plagued the Razorbacks all year. Eric Musselman, an elite recruiter, has assembled a very long and athletic group of players that play outstanding defense. However, shot-making has been an issue for most of the year, especially on the perimeter.
Enter Nick Smith. A projected top-ten pick in this year’s NBA Draft, Smith is the perimeter scorer that Musselman desperately needs. Pairing with Anthony Black, Arkansas could have one of the best one-two punches in the country. Currently, a projected 9 seed, the Razorbacks have the immense NBA talent that could overcome a one seed. On top of this, they have two away games with Alabama and Tennessee that could boost their tournament resume.
Memphis (+15000 to win the National Title)
Similarly to Musselman, Memphis coach Penny Hardaway needed time to fit new pieces together. With some new players, notably Kendric Davis, up to speed, the Memphis offense is running at lightspeed. Also, similarly to Arkansas, Memphis is awaiting the return of two crucial rotation pieces, Malcolm Dandridge and Alex Lomax.
Looking at the defensive efficiency stats for Memphis, one would assume that this is Penny’s worst defense in the past few years. However, in the 11 games Dandridge has played, the Tigers have the eighth-best adjusted defensive efficiency and are ranked eleventh overall, according to barttorvik.com. The return of Alex Lomax will take some ball-handling pressure away from stars Davis and DeAndre Williams on offense. Adding elite rim protection to their tough perimeter defense allows the Tigers to win in a wider variety of ways in March.
A projected 11 seed, Memphis has two dates with Houston down the stretch to improve their resume. With a similarly talented team last year, Memphis came very close to upsetting number one overall seed Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
San Diego State (+8000 to win the National Title)
After an average showing in the Maui Invitational Tournament, the Aztecs have elevated their level of play in conference play. Since a seven-point loss to Saint Mary’s, San Diego State is 13-2 and the fifth-best team in the country, according to barttorvik.com. Perhaps more importantly, they have been winning in a balanced fashion. The efficient offense has accompanied the great defense the Aztecs are generally known for.
The bench has been providing plenty of punch as well, as forward Jaedon LeDee and guard Adam Seiko have been providing explosive offense off the bench. With the Aztecs getting the consistent guard play necessary to win games in March, the 14/1 to make the Final Four price on Betonline seems very bettable. The Aztecs are primed to make a run in March.