These three teams are teams that are just good at grinding out wins, or they are just incredibly lucky, either way, they just win games. Baylor looks to stay number one, while Auburn and LSU look to get back to the Sweet Sixteen again, with ambitions of the Final Four.
#1 Baylor (+1200): The Baylor Bears are for real. Being atop the NCAA rankings for the fourth week in a row due to their commanding 23-1 overall record and 12-0 record in the Big 12. Baylor is just one of those teams that is good, and I don’t know how they’ve been doing it, but they are doing it. After starting the season 1-1 after losing to Washington 67-64, the Bears are on the warpath destroying every team in front of them. Baylor then beat #17 Villanova and people were impressed, then they beat #12 Arizona and #18 Butler back to back, and the country took notice after completing one of the hardest non-conference schedules in the country. After defeating Kansas 67-55 at Allen Fieldhouse, something that has only happened twelve times in Bill Self’s tenure as Kansas’ head coach. Baylor’s scoring is led by guards Jared Butler (15 ppg) and MaCio Teague (14.4 ppg). Baylor’s ability to play at a fast pace and run with teams while also being able to slow themselves down to grind out a victory on the road in conference makes them a matchup nightmare. In a season where so many teams are being upset and the #1 ranked team being a revolving door, Baylor doesn’t comply with either of those trends and looks to be the top seed in March Madness. Baylor’s next big test is this weekend as they host the #3 Kansas Jayhawks.
Auburn (+1600): The Auburn Tigers are still here. After losing Bryce Brown, Chuma Okeke, and Jared Harper, many expected Bruce Pearl’s Tigers to fall off. This season, the Tigers are 22-3 overall and 9-3 in the SEC. After a cakewalk of a nonconference schedule, Auburn entered conference play 12-0. After squeaking by many times this season with five of their games going to overtime, Auburn fans have had to watch every minute of action this season. Nearly every game comes down to the wire, so one has to wonder how they keep winning these games. Auburn is such an odd team as when they lose, they don’t show up losing their three games by a combined 53 points, all on the road to inferior opponents, Alabama, Florida and Missouri. Senior Samir Doughty has led the Tigers this season with his 16 ppg, but many people (including myself) would argue the X-Factor for Auburn to have another deep tournament run is Isaac Okoro. Isaac is a freshman forward who’s averaging 12.9 ppg this season. Okoro was the 40th recruit in the nation according to ESPN, and the current 15th ranked prospect by Tankathon being mocked to the Boston Celtics (via Memphis) with the 17th pick. If Okoro can become more selfish and impose his will on the opposition, there’s no reason why the Tigers can’t make it to back to back Final Fours.
LSU (+5000): The LSU Tigers are just like Auburn as they keep somehow winning games. I know that seems odd with their record being 18-7 but entering the month of February, the Tigers were atop the SEC with an 8-0 record and 17-4 overall record. Haters of LSU would say that record is the work of their easy schedule to open conference play, but still, a win is a win. Their losses were at VCU by 2, #15 Utah State by 2, USC by 2, at #11 Auburn by 1 in overtime on a buzzer beater, and to Alabama by 6. Their other two losses were to Vanderbilt 99-90, and East Tennessee State 74-63, both unacceptable losses. LSU is an offensive powerhouse but poor defensively as most of their games are in the eighty’s or even ninety’s. Their offensive barrage features five players with above 12 ppg and is led by senior guard Skylar Mays. Similarly to the other Tigers, Auburn, LSU lost their two best players in Naz Reid and Tremont Waters, both to the NBA Draft. At +5000 or 500-1 odds to win the tournament, there is incredible value in the Tigers as they have the ability to win games they shouldn’t be in, a skill all the best March Madness teams possess. However, their poor defense could allow for scares or even upsets early, but their ability to score could help them stay in games against the better teams.