Are Balanced Teams Really the Best Bets Come March?

Are Balanced Teams Really the Best Bets Come March? article feature image
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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

What’s the best recipe for a college hoops title? The Action Network’s Bryan Mears looked at three efficiency metrics (offense, defense or balance) to determine which was more predictive of success come March.

Balance trumps a great offense or defense. Since 2001-02, no title team ranked worse than 39th offensively or 18th defensively from an efficiency standpoint. Using these criteria, Mears identified Virginia, Tennessee, Michigan State, Purdue, Clemson and Ohio State as teams that rank in the top 40 on offense and top 20 on defense that could not only make a Final Four, but cut down the nets.

Potential is one thing but do any of these teams have value to win the NCAA tournament?

To determine if a team is a good bet we looked at what their current odds are to win the NCAA championship at BetOnline and compared that to our projected odds based on 10,000 simulations of Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology.

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These teams are currently offering value based on our most recent simulations.

Virginia Cavaliers

Current odds: +600, Implied Probability: 14.3%

UVA wins the tournament 23.3% of the time

The Hoos lead the nation in scoring defense, allowing 52.4 points/game and are third in field goal percentage allowed (37.5%). The Cavaliers are undefeated in ACC play and could be the new No. 1 team in the country next week after Villanova lost on Wednesday.

Purdue Boiler Makers

Current odds: +1000, Implied Probability: 9.1%

Purdue wins the tournament 12.1% of the time

Purdue blew a 14-point lead to Ohio State on Wednesday and lost for the first time in 22 home games and the first time in 15 conference games. The loss ended one of the best runs in school history but don’t get down on the Boilermakers. Matt Painter’s team is hyper-efficient as one of three in the nation to rank in the top 25 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

Sometimes No Bet Is a Good Bet

You got to know when to hold’em, know when to fold’em. These teams are a pass at their current prices.

Michigan State Spartans

Current odds: +650, Implied Probability: 13.3%

MSU wins the tournament 6.6% of the time

No team is more balanced than Michigan State. According to KenPom, Sparty is the only squad in the country that is top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Tom Izzo’s group also has the third-best odds to win the tournament (not a lot of wiggle room) and as the bracket is currently constructed, a brutal path to the championship game: Clemson/Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, Villanova in Elite Eight and Purdue/Duke in Final Four.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Current odds: +1400, Implied Probability: 6.7%

Ohio State wins the tournament 1.2% of the time

Last week Ohio State was +4000. After an impressive win over Purdue as 10-point underdogs, the Buckeyes odds to win the NCAA tournament have improved to +1400. If you buy now you’re getting the worst of the line movement.

Tennessee Volunteers

Current odds: +2500, Implied Probability: 3.9%

Vols wins the tournament 2.8% of the time

After going 31-35 in his first two seasons in Tennessee, Rick Barnes is starting to build something on Rocky Top. The Vols have won nine of their last 10 games and sit behind Auburn for second in the SEC. The future is bright in Knoxville as four of the team’s top five scorers are sophomores, but this isn’t their year.

Clemson Tigers

Current odds: +6600, Implied Probability: 1.5%

Clemson wins the tournament 0.7% of the time

In the preseason version of Bracketology, Clemson was on the outside looking in after going 17-15 the year before. The Tigers already have more wins than in 2016-17, with impressive showings against North Carolina, Miami and Florida. Everybody loves a longshot but according to the simulations, Clemson should be closer to +14000 than +6600.

Photo via Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports