Countdown To 2019 NCAA Tournament – No. 3 Seeds

Projected NCAA Tournament No. 3 Seeds

As selection Sunday approaches and the NCAA Tournament brackets are unveiled, we’ll have just a few days to put our brackets and pool picks together and study the match-ups. Sharp handicappers and bettors that have done preliminary homework on teams will offer NCAA Tournament betting tips and fire in early bets as the sports books release the lines Sunday night and Monday. Those that are prepared with insight and info on the teams and understand some of the keys to NCAA Tournament success will have an edge. Stat profiles from top shooting teams to defensive dominators may assist you in some of your match-up analysis, and hopefully the overview and insight provided with the top-seeded NCAA Tournament teams will assist you further in your pursuit of profit when betting and NCAA Tournament pool success.

The NCAA Tournament ‘officially’ begins Thursday, March 21 following the ‘First Four’ play-in games. And while those First Four teams and other higher-seeded tournament teams are big long shots to win the national title, it’s a rewarding accomplishment if any team seeded 8 or higher can advance to the second weekend of tournament play and the Sweet Sixteen. Yet the past two years we’ve seen No. 11 seed Loyola Chicago and No. 7 seed South Carolina make surprise runs to the Final Four and not only bust all brackets, but produce much profit for their betting backers.

We’ll try to identify and evaluate some long shots that could pull some upsets once the seeds and pairings are announced, but our countdown to the NCAA Tournament will cover the top-16 teams starting with the No. 3 seeds.

As I outlined in my article at Forbes, the big betting continues in the major conference tournaments as college basketball fans and bettors prepare for the NCAA Tournament. Evaluating the top teams is a focus, as many fans and much of the media attention and support in the NCAA Tournament pools, brackets and betting interests are on the major conference teams.

Our countdown and projected seeds are taken from ESPN and Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology for the week of March 11 (edited).

 

The projected No. 3 seeds are: Houston, LSU, Purdue, Texas Tech

Three of these teams are top-20 in adjusted defensive efficiency ratings at KenPom, with Texas Tech No. 1 in the nation. The Red Raiders lost in the Big 12 conference tournament quarterfinals, but that’s not a downer come NCAA Tournament time as they will be fresh and ready for the big dance.

Last year and 3 seeds history opening round

Houston and Michigan met in last year’s round of 32 and the Wolverines escaped with a near miracle victory late in a very close contest throughout. Houston (+3.5) led 63-61 with four seconds remaining and a Cougars player was at the free throw line. He missed both FT’s, and Michigan’s Jordan Poole set off the wild celebration for the Wolverines and Michigan fans when he nailed a 3-pointer to win the game at the buzzer, 64-63. That propelled Michigan to the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four where the lost in the championship game to Villanova.

So good fortune is clearly part of the process for teams and bettors in the NCAA Tournament, and these four teams are all capable of making a deep run, and all are very-well coached.

Over the past 14 years in the NCAA Tournament, #3 seeds are 48-8 SU vs. #14 seeds in opening round action with an average margin of victory of more than 14 points. The past two years have been clean sweeps by the #3 seeds, and last year two were close contests and two were blowouts including Michigan’s win as a 3-seed. The four previous years saw a #14 seed pull the upset in each NCAA Tournament. Tennessee won big as a 3-seed last year, and the Volunteers could end up dropping to a 3-seed after getting upset in the SEC conference tournament quarterfinals this year.

Odds to win the national title are taken from the South Point sportsbook effective March 12, so you can compare to recent adjusted odds and see how they evolve into NCAA Tournament week. However, if you’re wagering on teams to win the NCAA Tournament or regions, be sure to compare odds and make wagers at the leading online sportsbooks.

This year there is no RPI used by the NCAA Tournament Committee, Instead, a new rating system and NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) is used. The NET relies on game results, strength of schedule, scoring margin, net offensive and defensive efficiency, game location and the quality of wins and losses in determining NCAA Tournament teams and seedings. You’ll see a teams NET ranking listed below.

Houston Cougars

Key wins: Cincinnati (2x), Temple, UCF, LSU, Utah State
Season ATS: 20-10-1
National Title Odds: 30-1
Twitter: @UHCougarMBK

Overall Record 29-2
AAC Record 16-2
Head Coach Kelvin Sampson
NET 4
KenPom Score 13
Adj Off Efficiency 19
Adj Def Efficiency 17

Overview: After having Michigan (National runner-up) on the ropes in last year’s NCAA Tournament second round, the Cougars failed to finish the deal. Now Houston is back with another strong and balanced team with just two losses as the American Athletic Conference tournament continues. Coach Sampson won’t make any All-American favorite coaches list for his cheating and scandal while at Indiana, but he’s revived the Houston program and players now have much better facilities as well. A NCAA Tournament 3-seed would be Houston’s highest in 35 years since Phi Slama Jamma rocked college basketball. Houston has elite stats defensively, but the Cougars are not a great shooting team, and that will be put to the test against longer, stronger and better teams than they beat during the season if Houston advances to the second round and beyond.

LSU

Key wins: Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn, Florida, St. Mary’s
Season ATS: 19-12-1
National Title Odds: 50-1
Twitter: @LSUBasketball

Overall Record 29-4
SEC Record 15-4
Head Coach Will Wade (susp)
NET 5
KenPom Score 18
Adj Off Efficiency 10
Adj Def Efficiency 62

Overview: LSU went a nation-best 9-1 on the road and was able to win the SEC regular season title. That included a win at Kentucky, handing the Wildcats their only home loss. But the quarterfinal loss to Florida in the SEC Tournament likely drops the Tigers to a No. 3 seed. Still, that would be their highest NCAA Tournament seed since 1981 when they were a No. 1. Issue for the Tigers is coach Will Wade is suspended, and the off-court distractions don’t help. The Tigers choice to replace Wade is incompetent Tony Benford already showed he’s not ready for prime time by taking a costly technical in the loss to Florida. The Tigers are not a good 3-point shooting team, and they allow too many offensive rebounds by the opponent along with second chance opportunities. Poorly coach teams don’t win 3-4 games in a row at tournament time against quality opponents starting in the second round, and that’s what LSU is now without coach Wade

Purdue Boilermakers

Key wins: Michigan State, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Maryland, Ohio State (2x)
Season ATS: 17-13-1
National Title Odds: 20-1
Twitter: @BoilerBall

Overall Record 23-8
Big Ten Record 16-4
Head Coach Matt Painter
NET 12
KenPom Score 10
Adj OFf Efficiency 5
Adj Def Efficiency 31

Overview: You don’t hear Matt Painter’s name mentioned as much as the blue-blood coaches or even Izzo and Beilein in the Big Ten. But Painter is an exceptional coach and represents what Purdue is all about; well-coached, fundamentally sound, determined and solid on defense with good ball movement and shot selection on offense. Purdue led the Big Ten in 3-point attempts and 3-point shooting percentage, and were near the top in turnover margin, steals, blocked shots and scoring margin (+8.0 in league play). Guards Ryan Cline and Carson Edwards, a 23 PPG league-high scorer, led Purdue’s league-best 3-point shooting team and league-high attempts. Both players have nearly 100 assists and 100 three pointers, but plenty of cohesiveness, strength and balance inside with center Matt Haarms the league-leader in blocked shots and shooting (63% FG Big Ten). Non-conference losses to Virginia Tech, Florida State and Texas was before the Boilers started playing better ball. Purdue can win high-scoring or low-scoring grinders, and the Boilers are a Final Four sleeper that won’t be included in a high-percentage of brackets.

Texas Tech Red Raiders

Key wins: Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Oklahoma (2x), Texas (2x), TCU (2x), Baylor
Season ATS: 15-16-1
National Title Odds: 20-1
Twitter: @TexasTechMBB

Overall Record 26-6
Big 12 Record 14-4
Head Coach Chris Beard
NET 9
KenPom Score 9
Adj Off Efficiency 35
Adj Def Efficiency 1

Overview: This is the #3 seed I like best, and I picked up the Red Raiders at 75-1 to win the NCAA Tournament just prior to March. Few futures for me, but this one had great value and projection, as Texas Tech is a defensive dominator and No. 1 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings. Three years ago coach Chris Beard took over at Texas Tech. He’ll take the Red Raiders to their second-straight NCAA Tournament, and have a dangerous sleeper that has balance on offense and the nation’s No. 1 efficiency defense according to Kenpom. Last year TT went to the Elite Eight, but was without their top player when they lost to eventual National Champion Villanova. The co-Big 12 champs lost in this year’s conference tourney in the quarterfinals. That matters very little as the Red Raiders will only be more rested and ready for the big dance. Texas Tech won the Big 12 regular season as co-champs, and were the league’s No. 2 shooting team behind another sleeper Iowa State. The Red Raiders have the Big 12’s No. 2 scorer in Jarrett Culver and No. 1 3-point shooter in fellow guard Davide Moretti, an game icer at the free throw line to close out games hitting 93% FT in league play. Very well-coached and so many positive stat profiles for Tech, including steals and shot blocking with Tariq Owens inside. Texas Tech finished the regular season playing their best ball on a 9-0 SU/8-1 ATS run while scoring at least 80 points six times. Impressive for a team that does not play fast and features a dominant defense.

Article posted at osga.com.

Author: FairwayJay

FairwayJay is a leading national sports analyst and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful handicappers and professionals. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay