I’ve watched as the odds to win the tourney have changed dramatically for some teams while hardly at all for some. Most recently was the dramatic change with UCLA and Baylor. It’s amazing what a couple of wins can do to the betting odds for a team, isn’t it?
In my opinion, Baylor shouldn’t have been posted at the high odds they were given at the first of the year. They certainly have proven themselves against such formidable top 25 teams as Oregon, Louisville, Michigan State and Xavier, all of whom they handled readily.
The Bears big wins have all come on their home court. The only question in Baylor’s team is how they will play on the road, away from the home court advantage of the tiny Ferrell Center. Meanwhile, the Bears are sporting highly athletic team with the seemingly boundless amount of energy and endurance that will propel them to remain competitive throughout the entire 40 minutes. This should bode well for them as the season ears on and the competition gets tougher with each passing game.
The Big 12, as usual, is a balanced conference where an undefeated run is unlikely from any team. Baylor is led by junior forward Jonathon Motley and has a depth chart loaded with experience. They are a team with the two biggest indicators of a successful team, depth, and experience. Considering their resume thus far in the season, there is a case that they will have the resources to make a deep run in the March showdown.
Steve Alford’s UCLA is sporting a taller, but less-experienced team. UCLA is led by guard Lonzo Ball and his uncanny aim at hitting to a goal from anywhere he pleases. The run and gun offense is putting an average PPG of more than 93. Having only dropped 1 game so far this season against the Oregon Ducks, 1 of only 3 ranked teams they play during the regular season, they seem to have a lock on taking PAC 12. By the time the tourney rolls around this March they should have honed their skills well enough to compete in a strong field.
It’s a nice prediction of a coming #2 seed would further pave the way for UCLA to have a formidable run to the final four, assuming that their lights out shooting barrage holds out for the entire season. Look for UCLA to prove their weight as the season rolls along allowing UCLA to improve their numbers without much of a threat of dropping more than 1 game.
UCLA’s chances of improving to a 1 seed are greater than most of the teams in the top 8 as their schedule gets a little weaker as it goes on, which will give the higher ranked teams ample time to drop a game or two. Assuming that this scenario plays out, UCLA could go into the tourney with a #1 seed.
As you know the early betting odds to win the tourney can get adjusted quickly. It just goes to show the betting doesn’t always indicate the relative strengths of those teams. I like to look at the team matchups as a line by line comparison. Another greatly important evaluation is a conference and schedule comparison.
Both Baylor, as well as UCLA, has shown that they have the resolve to compete strongly throughout the season and make strong bids at the title. Depth and experience are mainstays in the run for the championship trophy. The regular season and the tourney are a marathon and can’t be won or lost on the basis of a single game or two in the early going of the season.
Endurance and high athletic skills will eventually rule over the hit and miss wins and upsets along the way. I look for both of these teams to be in the final four and for one of them to walk with the title of National Champion. My money will usually stick with the team who has the winning basics down as second nature, in this case, UCLA.