Florida is atop the list of most oddsmakers, but we think that a #2 seed will jump up and steal the championship trophy.
There will be 68 teams competing in the NCAA tournament this year. Those are a lot of contestants to choose from when picking a winner. Luckily, you don’t need to take the time to sift through every team before making your predictions. Thrilling upsets do happen, but in most games the higher-seeded teams win. There have been a few cases of a #15 seed beating a #2 seed, most recently in 2012 when little-known Lehigh University in Philadelphia beat basketball juggernaut Duke University. It seems that every year at least one #12 beats a #5.
But Davids have seen little success against Goliaths. Never in the 74-year history of the tournament has a #16 beat a #1. Six of the last seven national champions have been #1 seeds, and the lowest-seeded team to ever win the national championship was #8 Villanova in 1985. While #8 is relatively low, it is still in the top half of qualifying teams. Without question, the tournament is dominated by heavies, not underdogs.
While the selection committee won’t issue its rulings until March 16th, we have a pretty good of which teams will receive the highest seeds, and bookmakers have been making odds all season long. So, which team to bet on in March Madness? Let’s take a look at the top teams.
The University of Florida
The perennial powerhouse from the Southeastern Conference and two-time national champion Florida Gators recently jumped Syracuse to top the lists of most oddsmakers. Bovada’s most recent odds give Florida a 5-1 chance of leaving the big dance with the trophy. There are a few games left to be played before Selection Sunday, and there is chance that Florida’s position could change. But you can be confident that they will get a #1 seed, which history would tell us gives them a pretty good chance of winning the whole thing.
The boys from upstate New York led by legendary coach Jim Boeheim always seem to be near the top of the rankings year in and year out. Led by first-year guard Tyler Ennis and star forward Rakeem Christmas (whom I consider to have the best name in sports), the Syracuse Orangemen have spent most of the season ranked #1 in the country. They slipped behind Florida after losing two games last week. Their odds currently stand at 15/2.
The University of Kansas
• Florida is the consensus favorite among oddsmakers to win the NCAA tournament
• Despite being undefeated and likely to receive a #1 seed, Wichita State is not highly regarded by most bookmakers
• We’re putting our money on the Kansas Jayhawks to win the title this year
The Jayhawks of Manhattan (that’s Manhattan, Kansas, not New York) are considered by most to be the most talented team in the country. They boast two of America’s best players: Canada’s finest forward Andrew Wiggins and center Joel Embiid of Cameroon, whom has been compared to basketball legend Hakeem Olajuwon. They are also coached by Bill Self, who has brought two national championships home to Manhattan.
Why aren’t they favored to win? The answer is pretty simple. They are a young, inconsistent and unpredictable team which has lost some very winnable games. Their odds currently stand at 8-1, although most analysts expect they will receive only a #2 seed come Selection Sunday.
No list of top-ranking basketball teams is ever complete without Duke. They did lose that stunner to Lehigh a couple years back, but since Olympic gold medal-winning coach Mike Krzyzewski took over in 1980 they have won four national championships. This year’s squad features forward Jabari Parker, my choice for player of the year, as well as fellow forward Rodney Hood. They have a talented roster as well as arguably the best coach in NCAA history, which is why they have 8-1 odds. They are likely to receive a #2 seed on Selection Sunday, but keep them near the top of your list when filling out your bracket.
Wichita State University
The other team from Kansas (I don’t understand how that humble state attracts so many good basketball players) has been the Cinderella story of the season. The MGM Mirage sportsbook gave them only 100-1 odds prior to their first game back in November. They Shockers have shocked fans and analysts all season, currently standing with an undefeated 29-0 record. They will receive a #1 seed on Selection Sunday, but they don’t seem to be a favorite of online sportsbooks in America. The Mirage has now bumped their odds up to 6-1, behind Florida, Kansas and Syracuse. The Las Vegas Hotel sportsbook gives them only 12-1 odds of winning.
Kansas is the team to bet on in March Madness
We are putting our money on the Kansas Jayhawks, regardless of whether they receive a #2 seed. They are consensus the most talented team in the country, and when people ask me how to bet on March Madness, I usually tell them to follow the talent. Wiggins and Embiid have good chances of becoming superstars at the professional level, and Nadir Tharpe has been of the best point guards in the country this season. Sure, they are young and have played erratically at times, but Bill Self will have them playing their best basketball in the highest-pressure games. While Bovada put them behind Florida and Syracuse, the gap is very small. No one will be surprised if they win the championship.