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Best of the Rest Betting Roundup: No. 1 Houston Eyeing 10th Straight Win

Big East Teams Ready for Wild Conference Tourney

Houston and Marquette have wrapped up the top seeds in the American Athletic Conference and Big East Conference, respectively. Some of the other races outside the Power-5 conferences are still up for grabs. March Madness betting could be impacted by some of the results this weekend.

The UConn-Villanova and Houston-Memphis games could be the most interesting ones to keep an eye on.

Roberts #13 of the Houston Cougars high fives Chaney #32 - Bob Levey/AFP
Roberts #13 of the Houston Cougars high fives Chaney #32 - Bob Levey/AFP

According to the March Madness predictions, Houston (+650) continues to have the best odds to win the national title. UConn (+2000), Gonzaga (+2200), Creighton (+3500), Saint Mary’s (+3300), Marquette (+3500) and Xavier (+4000) are other teams to keep an eye on.

Nine of the top 20 teams in the NCAA NET rankings, a formula used to select and seed the March Madness bracket, are from teams outside the Power-5 conferences.

Houston remains at No. 1 in both national polls with the Cougars picking up 76 of the 94 first-place votes. Marquette is sixth in both polls, moving up four spots in the Associated Press rankings and three positions in the coaches’ poll.

Gonzaga is 10th in both polls while UConn, Saint Mary’s, San Diego State and Xavier are in the top 20 in both rankings.

Here’s a look at the best teams outside of the Power-5 as the regular season comes to an end.

The odds and predictions in the article are based on the time of writing and publication. They may differ as to when the actual event takes place.

1. Houston

  • Record: 27-2 (15-1 American Athletic Conference)
  • NCAA NET Ranking: 1
  • Remaining schedule: vs Wichita State (Thursday) and at Memphis (Sunday)

The top-ranked team in the national is listed by the sportsbook as a 16½-point favorite against Wichita State in the last home game of the season. Perhaps the most impressive number associated with the Cougars is a 10-0 road record.

Houston goes after its 10th win in a row on Thursday and has already secured the top seed in the American Athletic Conference tournament.

Marcus Sasser has scored more than 20 points in each of the last two games as the Cougars won by 19 and 30 points. It is no wonder that Cougars will be favored to make a deep tournament run.

2. Marquette

  • Record: 24-6 (16-3 Big East)
  • NCAA NET Ranking: 13
  • Remaining schedule: vs St. John’s (Saturday)
  • Marquette has clinched the regular-season title in the Big East and can finish 16-1 at home with a win against St. John’s on Saturday.

Sophomores Kam Jones and Tyler Kolek have played starring roles for the Golden Eagles. Kolek is averaging 21.5 points and 12 assists over the last two games.

Marquette has a five-game winning streak, the longest active run among Big East teams. A 5-2 record against ranked teams will make Marquette a popular team when it comes to the odds to win March Madness.

3. Gonzaga

  • Record: 26-5 (14-2 West Coast Conference)
  • NCAA NET Ranking: 9
  • Remaining schedule: Regular season over. Next up: WCC semifinals on Monday.

Gonzaga earned a share of the West Coast Conference with a win against Saint Mary’s behind 19 points from All-American Drew Timme.

The key for the Bulldogs is the perimeter shooting of Julian Strawther, Anton Watson and Rasir Bolton. When they are hitting shots, Gonzaga can beat anybody in the nation.

The Bulldogs tend to be a popular choice when it comes to March Madness picks. However, this is a year when they might be flying a bit under the radar.

4. UConn

  • Record: 23-7 (12-7 Big East)
  • NCAA NET Ranking: 7
  • Remaining schedule: at Villanova (Saturday)

It has been an interesting season for UConn as the Huskies could finish fifth in the Big East standings while being in the top 10 in the NCAA NET rankings. The Huskies lead the Big East in NET ranking so this is going to be a tough team to figure out when it comes time to make March Madness predictions.

UConn goes after its fifth win in a row and picking up a road victory against a Villanova team that is playing at a high level would be a huge confidence boost heading into the Big East tournament.

UConn put up 51 points in the first half in a convincing win over DePaul the last time out with a 27-0 run ending things early on.

5. Saint Mary’s

  • Record: 26-5 (14-2 West Coast Conference)
  • NCAA NET Ranking: 8
  • Remaining schedule: Regular season over. Next up: WCC semifinals on Monday.

With just four games against ranked teams (two against rival Gonzaga), it will be interesting to see how those making March Madness expert picks view the Gaels.

Logan Johnson ended the regular season with 27, 29 and 27 points in the last three games while shooting 31 of 44. Aidan Mahaney might be the most productive freshman in the country that barely anybody is talking about.

The defense could carry the Gaels in the postseason.

6. San Diego State

  • Record: 23-6 (14-3 Mountain West)
  • NCAA NET Ranking: 17
  • Remaining schedule: vs Wyoming (Saturday)

San Diego State is coming off a six-point loss to rival Boise State as the starters not named Matt Bradley were 6 of 19 from the field. The good news is that there is a game against a nine-win Wyoming team for the Aztecs to play before the Mountain West tournament gets underway.

Bradley has six straight double-digit scoring games. He also has committed two turnovers or less in each of the last 12 games so the ball will be in his hands late in games.

7. Xavier

  • Record: 22-8 (14-5 Big East)
  • NCAA NET Ranking: 19
  • Remaining schedule: vs Butler (Saturday)

Xavier is coming off an impressive win at Providence as Souley Boum and Colby Jones combined for 62 points and eight assists.

A big question for those making March Madness picks centers around Zach Freemantle. The Musketeers’ second-leading scorer has missed the last eight games with Xavier going 5-3 in those contests. The three losses came by two, one and one points so it could be suggested that Xavier would be perfect during that stretch with Freemantle in the lineup. He appears to be nearing a return.

One of those losses came against Butler so keep that in mind heading into the rematch as the Musketeers eye the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Big East tournament.

8. Providence

  • Record: 21-9 (13-6 Big East)
  • NCAA NET Ranking: 40
  • Remaining schedule: vs Seton Hall (Saturday)

Among the ranked teams in the Big East, the Friars are languishing a bit behind the others when it comes to quality wins.

This will not go down as one of the elite defensive teams in the country as the Friars have 87 and 94 points in their last two losses. However, Providence can score points in a hurry. Coming off their first home loss of the season, expect to see the Friars get back to rolling at home with Seton Hall coming to town.

9. Creighton

  • Record: 19-11 (13-6 Big East)
  • NCAA NET Ranking: 14
  • Remaining schedule: at DePaul (Saturday)

Creighton just put up 99 points on Georgetown and now face another of the teams at the bottom of the Big East standings.

All five starters scored in double figures against the Hoyas with Trey Alexander leading the way with 25 points. The balanced scoring among the starters is why Creighton could be a dangerous team in the postseason.

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