It doesn’t happen very often that a school secures a regular season #1 Associated Press ranking and gets a #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. It happened this year to a school that’s been in the headlines for the wrong reasons. That would be the University of Alabama.
The Crimson Tide rolled through the SEC tournament demolishing all-comers while Houston, the previous week’s top team, fell to Memphis in the AAC championship game. But don’t feel too bad for the Cougars who finished second. They were awarded the #1 seed in the Midwest Regional where they are heavy favorites to prevail.
Top Four Solidified
The next two on the final AP Top 25 also earned top regional seeds in the tournament. #3 Purdue is atop the bracket in the East while #4 Kansas received the top nod in the West. Noticeably absent from the Top 25 are Kentucky and North Carolina. The Wildcats fell out from #23 after losing again to Vanderbilt. But despite losing to the Commodores for the second time in a week, John Calipari’s team received a favorable #6 seed in the East Regional.
Memphis’ win in the AAC final in its third meeting with Houston this season earned the Tigers a No. 24 spot. The only loss the Tigers have suffered to a team not named Houston was back on Feb. 4 in a 90-89 overtime loss to Tulane. Look out for them in the tournament.
Cougars are favored to cut down the nets
It’s dependent on where you wager but in an informal survey of sportsbooks (both on and offshore) Houston enters the NCAA tournament as a roughly 6-1 favorite. Those 6-1 odds are tied for the longest for a pre-tournament favorite since 1985 when the field expanded to 64 teams. The four No. 1 seeds are the top four betting favorites, with the West housing four of the top nine favorites: Kansas (+1000), UCLA (+1200), Gonzaga and UConn (+1500).
Two of the previous three times, one of the favorites won (Arkansas won at 7-1 in 1994; Villanova won as the +570 favorite in 2018). However, in 2014, Florida entered as the +550 favorite but the biggest pre-tournament longshot ended up cutting down the nets since seeding began in 1979 (UConn: 95-1).
Houston has been consistent
When the season began, Houston was the third favorite behind Kentucky and North Carolina. The Tar Heels didn’t even make the tourney while the Wildcats getting a No. 6 seed. Houston methodically moved up from 10-1, 8-1 and 6-1, never giving up its spot as the betting favorite.