The world of sports moves fast, and it is now less than two months until one of the highlights of the US sports calendar: the NCAA March Madness tournament.
Sportsbooks are already offering NCAA basketball deals such as the Caesar’s March Madness Promo 2023 and there will be plenty of betting action over the next few weeks as betting fans and basketball fanatics try to work out which teams will be favored going into the tournament.
At this stage, it is possible to make some tentative predictions, but the odds are changing rapidly as games take place across the US. Here’s a quick look at the NCAA state of play at the beginning of February, with just six weeks to go until March Madness:
Houston served warning of their ability in 2021 when they reached the Final Four and again last season when they made smooth progress as a number five seed before they eventually lost to Villanova. That performance was even more impressive when you consider that key players Tramon Mark and Marcus Sasser were injured during the course of the season.
At the start of February, Houston has a 20-2 record and is looking better than ever, with Sasser and Mark both back and healthy, supported by new recruit Jarace Walker. They are strolling through the AAC this season and it is no surprise to see sportsbooks have them penciled in as the favorites at +900.
As last season’s champions, the Jayhawks had a bad run in the middle of January, losing to Kansas State, TCU, and Baylor, but got back on track with a win over Kentucky in the second Sunflower Showdown. They are now tied with Kansas State and Texas at the top of the Big 12.
Kansas State’s performance has made things tougher, as they were not expected to be a factor this year, but as March Madness draws closer, it is Kansas, with its impeccable NCAA heritage, that is starting to look to be the strongest challenger in this Division. They are rated at +1000 by bookmakers.
At the beginning of February, Purdue was one of only two teams to have just one loss on their record. Since losing to Rutgers at the start of January, the Boilermakers have picked up notable wins over Duke and Gonzaga as well as a Big Ten success against Ohio State. An eight-game winning streak has been enough to set Purdue a long way clear at the top of the standings. According to some bookmakers, the program is bracketed with Kansas State and Alabama as the main challengers to Houston.
Alabama was rated a strong favorite to be an automatic qualifier from the SEC, which would practically guarantee the Crimson Tide a number one seeding. Those expectations are being fulfilled in style as Alabama leads the SEC with a 19-3 record at the start of February.
Alabama is better known for its football program and hasn’t reached the Elite Eight since 2004, but is on course to be a major contender this time around. They have a perfect 9-0 record against SEC opponents and two notable wins, over Houston and Michigan State. There are still some obstacles in the remaining schedule, however, in the form of two games against Auburn and tricky matchups against Texas A&M, Tennessee, and Florida.
Tennessee doesn’t have quite the same impressive SEC record as the leader Alabama but has only lost once so far to rivals Kentucky. They have an 18-3 record, which has been built primarily on a solid defense. The Volunteers have the best defensive stats in the NCAA, conceding an average of just 54.5 points per game. That defense will be tested severely over the closing weeks with a string of key games, particularly during their encounter with Alabama on February 15th, which could be the SEC decider.
The battle at the top of the ACC appears to be between Virginia and Clemson, although Virginia holds the edge having lost three to Clemson’s five. Seven consecutive wins have given Virginia the advantage in the ACC but the penultimate game on its schedule, against Clemson, could turn out to be the decisive matchup. Victory in the ACC tournament will give the winner a number one seed.
As we move into the last six weeks before March Madness, there’s a packed schedule as all the conferences reach their conclusion. We can expect the odds to fluctuate dramatically over the next few weeks and dedicated NCAA basketball fans will be watching the action unfold.