Weekend loaded with key matchups

We’re just days away from Selection Sunday and the 68 teams that will create March Madness 2018.

This weekend’s conference tournaments will go a long way in deciding the final picks for the annual single-elimination event. The committee reveals the seeds and regional draw March 11 at 6 p.m. ET.

Right now, it looks like Virginia, Michigan State, Villanova and Xavier will claim the No. 1 spots in the four regions, but we know better. Anything can happen at this time of year — it always does.

North Carolina overcame poor shooting in the opening half to win the 2017 championship over Gonzaga 71-65. Both teams will be among the higher seeds again this year.

Oddsmakers currently have Michigan State (+550) as the favorite to capture their third championship (1979, 2000). The Spartans have reached the Final Four nine times (odds provided by Bovada).

Virginia and Villanova are right behind at +600. The Wildcats have also claimed two titles (1985, 2016) along with five Final Fours. The Cavaliers have never won it all, even though they have been to the Final Four twice.

With a full slate of conference play this weekend, let’s try to pick a winner against the spread (ATS) in two games involving top-ranked schools and cash a winning parlay ticket.

**VGB’s college basketball parlay pick — Take Notre Dame (+9.5) over Virginia and North Carolina (+7) over Duke. If both teams cover the spread, the payoff is $66.13 for a $25 bet. If either team loses against the spread, the ticket is void.

Fighting Irish Seek Spot In Tourney

Notre Dame (+9.5) at No. 1 Virginia — The Cavaliers (27-2) are 16-1 in ACC regular season play for the third time in five seasons.

They also won a heartstopper earlier in the week. Virginia, down four with 0.9 seconds left, completed a miraculous comeback over Louisville. The Cavs now meet a team fighting for their tournament life.


The Fighting Irish (18-12) have won five of their last seven. A victory or even a close game at John Paul Jones Arena would do a lot for their March Madness hopes.

Injuries to some of their top players have hampered Notre Dame all season. Bonzie Colson, who missed 15 games after breaking his foot in January, returned earlier this week — and at just the right time.


Another Chapter To Great Rivalry

No. 9 North Carolina (+7) at No. 5 Duke — This is the definition of a marquee matchup.

These two storied programs have collided many times with much more than bragging rights on the line. This meeting is no different. This may have been a matchup for a top regional seed if both teams hadn’t lost earlier this week.


The Tar Heels (22-8) scored an upset win at Dean Smith Center 82-78 on Feb. 8. The Blue Devils (24-6) will be out to get even at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Duke, which is 5-1 in its last six and 6-4 ATS in its last 10, is led by Marvin Bagley, who averages 20.7 points a game. Joel Berry (18.2) and Luke Maye (17.9) are the leading scorers for North Carolina, which is 6-1 in its last seven but 5-5 ATS in its last 10.

VGB’s Top 10 NCAA Basketball Teams

(Current odds to win the Men’s NCAA Basketball Championship listed after team record. Odds provided by Bovada.)

  • Michigan State (28-3) +550 — Capture first Big Ten season title since 2009.
  • Virginia (27-2) +600 — Cavaliers never panicked down 10 with 4:28 to go.
  • Kansas (24-6) +1000 — First school ever to win 14 straight league titles.
  • Villanova (26-4) +600 — Lose to Creighton, squeeze past Seton Hall.
  • Xavier (26-4) +1800 — 11-1 in last 12 games, have lost twice to Villanova.
  • Gonzaga (27-4) +2500 — Bulldogs one of the hottest teams in the nation.
  • Duke (24-6) +700 — Five straight victories before loss to Virginia Tech.
  • Purdue (26-5) +1000 — Perfect in three after losing three straight games.
  • Cincinnati (26-4) +2500 — Three straight wins, key matchup vs. Wichita St.
  • Wichita State (24-5) +2000 — Shockers creating buzz, win seven straight.