The Best NCAA Tournament Bets to Make Right Now

The Best NCAA Tournament Bets to Make Right Now article feature image

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Virginia Cavaliers guard De’Andre Hunter

  • Offensive and defensive efficiency metrics have highlighted Duke, Kentucky, Virginia and six other college basketball teams as national championship contenders.
  • Using The Action Network simulations, we determine if there is value betting these squads to win the NCAA tournament.

One way to identify true college basketball title contenders is to look at efficiency metrics. My colleague Ryan Collinsworth created a statistical profile of a national champion based on KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency (AdjO), adjusted defensive efficiency (AdjD) and adjusted efficiency margin (AdjEM).

By correlating each metric with NCAA tournament performance, he found that well-balanced teams are more successful in the postseason. Teams capable of winning the national championship usually have an AdjEM score of 23.81 or higher. These same teams also have AdjO scores of 114.0 or higher and an AdjD score of 96.2 or less.

Using these criteria, nine teams currently qualify as title contenders.

Now that we’ve highlighted potential teams to cut down the nets, do any of these squads have value to win the NCAA tournament?

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

These teams are currently overvalued by the betting market based on our projections:

  • Duke +200
  • Kentucky +800
  • Michigan State +1000
  • North Carolina +1200
  • Tennessee +1600
  • Purdue +3000
  • Virginia Tech +8000

That leaves two teams offering bettors value.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

  • Current odds: +700, Implied Probability: 12.5%
  • Zags win the tournament 18.8% of the time

Mark Few’s team is once again No. 1 in the AP Poll. Gonzaga has won 18 straight games with each contest being decided by double-digits. The Zags get it done on the offensive end of the court, leading the nation in scoring (90.7 points per game).

Of course, the Bulldogs aren’t half bad at defense either, ranking in the top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Virginia Cavaliers

  • Current odds: +800, Implied Probability: 11.1%
  • UVA wins the tournament 17.9% of the time

If balance is key to winning the national championship then Virginia may have the best shot come March. The Cavaliers are one of two teams that rank in the top 5 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency (Duke is the other).

Tony Bennett’s team is also battle-tested, having compiled an 8-2 record against ranked opponents this season.