March Madness 2020: College Basketball Teams With The Most At Stake This Weekend

High-Low is not merely a kitchen-parlor table card game.

In the shadow of March Madness, there are two different targets New Jersey bettors may want to place a wager on for the final weekend of the college basketball men’s regular season:

  • High target
  • Low target

High target teams are trying to solidify a No. 1 bracket position for the Big Dance that begins March 19.  A win enables them to take a major, perhaps final step, in snaring a valued top seed for the post-season. These teams are hungry.

Low target teams are equally compelling. They are the bottom qualifiers, teams potentially slated to eke their way into the final playoff tournament if it started now. But a loss would be costly.

Who fits into which category?

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Top teams heading into March Madness

Kansas knocked Baylor from the top spot in the AP ratings with a three-point win a couple of weeks ago. It has enjoyed the distinction of being considered the nation’s top team since.

The Jayhawks try to ensure a No. 1 seed in the post-season bracket by beating host Texas Tech on Saturday. It’s an interesting contest because Kansas only won the teams’ first encounter by three points at home.

Third-ranked Dayton hosts George Washington and fourth-ranked Baylor visits West Virginia on Saturday.

Kansas, Dayton, and Baylor may be prohibitive on the moneyline.

New Jersey sports betting customers may consider a multiple moneyline parlay to back these favorites, who want to win their last game before the conference tournaments begin next week. The payout won’t be large but would beat laying perhaps 2-1 or more on the heavy favorites.

The ratings jockeying will be interesting to observe after the weekend.  Second-ranked Gonzaga and fifth-ranked San Diego State finished their campaigns.

One of these top five teams, at least, won’t get a number one post-season seed. Those that do are practically guaranteed a first-round victory in the Big Dance. A 16 seed has toppled a number one seed just once.

Life on the March Madness bubble

Another world exists on the fringes of post-season contention. Who needs to come up big this weekend?

Saturday is a carnival of teams feeling P-R-E-S-S-U-R-E, such as:

  • Syracuse (at Miami)
  • St. John’s (at Marquette)
  • Clemson (Georgia Tech)

Outside-looking-in teams like UCLA (at USC), Washington (at Arizona) and Oklahoma State (at Texas) also fit the desperate description.

They will all be interesting moneyline and spread considerations. Teams at this level lose often enough that they can’t be considered locks, even when they must win the game.

How unofficial March Madness rankings emerge

Sixty-eight teams will make the final tournament.  Several are close to the cutoff point, either barely in, or out, according to NET (NCAA Evaluation Tool).

The NET is a results-oriented team-ranking metric that churns out a daily hierarchy of the 353 basketball teams.

Key components:

  • Wins
  • Scoring margin
  • Net offensive and defensive efficiency
  • Strength of schedule
  • Location of games

The beauty of the NET rankings: they are comprehensive, but not etched in stone.

UCLA, for example, may be ranked 76th but would get a share of the PAC 12 title with a victory Saturday. That would be a bargaining feather in the cap.

And of course, teams winning their conference tournaments bypass the tension of Selection Sunday, when the final tournament field is announced. Conference tournament winners are, for the most part, in.

With so much at stake, many teams will rise up and take care of business this weekend.

Some will surprise.

New Jersey sportsbooks expect large wagering volume, spread across a complex slate of games.

So, who needs a victory the most?

“That’s a really hard question,” Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill US (now Caesars), told Thursday.

“My opinion is it’s the teams on the bubble, fighting to pad their resume to get into the big tournament.

Others might say it’s the battle for a number one and better tournament position, which is legitimate, but for me?

I think it’s the teams ranked 50-80. That’s where the pressure lies.”

The Net rankings may not be the final word on at-large tourney berths, but they serve as a highly-regarded reference point, and, in the spirit of March Madness, a hot topic for debate.

“Every year it’s different in the men’s basketball college season but, without question, this is one of the most level playing fields of all time,” Bogdanovich said.

“The wonderful thing is so many teams are bunched together, power-ratings wise. People who play dogs blindly are doing very well. The dogs and the moneyline have been live.”

Who will NET a Big Dance invite

Let’s take a look at some teams whose entire season rests on a good final weekend and strong conference tournament.

At number 60, South Carolina is 18-12 and has some margin for error.

Syracuse, Liberty, and Furman probably have none. Welcome to Pressure Land, kids. They represent the 66-68 positions, in theory, the final three to obtain an at-large berth via the play-in round.

Furman is 22-6, while Syracuse, at 17-13, is ranked two slots ahead of it.  Syracuse plays in the ACC, more respected than Furman’s Southern Conference.

From the outside-looking realm comes St. John’s, Clemson and UCLA.

St. Johns, only 15-15, destroyed Creighton by 20 points a week ago.  Creighton had just moved into the 10th spot in the country earlier that day. St. John’s put the “Just Visiting” tag on Creighton’s top 10 status with a convincing triumph.

Turns out St. John’s was just visiting the Net 68 too. The Red Storm then got blasted by Butler, by 22 points.

Clemson toppled sixth-ranked Florida State and 10th ranked Louisville but is 15-14.

Safe for now

  • Alabama 16-14
  • Mississippi State 19-11
  • Saint Louis 21-8
  • Indiana 19-11
  • Texas 19-11
  • Rhode Island 20-9
  • Tennessee 17-13
  • Notre Dame 18-12
  • NC State 18-12
  • South Carolina 18-12

No margin for error

  • VCU, 18-12
  • Georgetown, 15-15
  • UConn, 17-12
  • Yale, 20-6
  • Memphis, 20-9
  • Syracuse, 17-13
  • Liberty, 26-4
  • Furman, 22-6

Needing a little help

Teams close enough to leapfrog with a win and a loss by teams just above them:

  • Washington
  • St. John’s
  • Oklahoma State
  • Oregon State
  • UCLA

March Madness Betting: The future is almost here

Although uncertainty reigns when it comes to March Madness betting odds, it’s worth a stab to make a futures wager on a team to win the championship.

Biggest recent movers up the line include Brigham Young and Dayton.

BYU was barely in the top 25 awhile back and, because of upsets, rocketed up to ninth on the NET list.

The Cougars toppled second-ranked Gonzaga by 13 points in February and has been under the radar. BYU is still a 60-1 choice but it has beaten one of the nation’s top teams.

With official March Madness action just off in the distance, there is a lot for bettors to sort through this weekend.

About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.