NCAA Tournament Title Odds: 3 March Madness Value Plays to Win the National Championship
Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Buddy Boeheim.
After the NCAA Tournament was taken from us in 2020, we deserve all the mayhem that happened on the first weekend this year.
No. 1 seed Illinois was eliminated, along with No. 2 seeds and fellow Big Ten schools Ohio State and Iowa. Meanwhile, there are four double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16, including No. 15 Oral Roberts.
Given how many brackets are now busted and numerous futures tickets are worthless, it’s a perfect time to re-examine the national-championship market. Is there any value to be found in the updated national championship odds before the Sweet 16 tips off this weekend?
Updated National Championship Odds
Odds are courtesy of DraftKings.
The Chalk: Can Anyone Beat Gonzaga?
Gonzaga is cooking right now.
Mark Few’s Bulldogs beat Norfolk State by 43 and Oklahoma by 17. Now, they’re favored by 13 over Creighton on Saturday. Gonzaga is now +37.35 in adjusted efficiency margin, per KenPom, more than seven points better than second-ranked Baylor.
Overall, the ‘Zags are -450 to make the Final Four and +150 to win the National Championship on BetMGM. It’s a steep price to pay for any team to conquer March Madness, but it’s fair for Gonzaga.
So, what would it take for a team to beat Gonzaga?
Our own Mike Randle wrote about the four keys to beating Gonzaga and included a few teams in the field that could do it.
Mike’s list featured Oregon, who Gonzaga could play in the Elite Eight. The Ducks are currently +750 to make the Final Four and +3300 to win the national championship.
The list also features Alabama, who Gonzaga could play in the Final Four. The Crimson Tide are currently +2100 to win the national championship.
While Gonzaga is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field, I wouldn’t play the Bulldogs at that price and believe there are better values out there.
McGrath’s Top Plays Heading into the Sweet 16
I love the Orange at this price.
Not just because I love how Syracuse is playing right now, but also because BetMGM has the Orange at +3000 to win the national championship. There’s definitely value in a play on Syracuse.
Jim Boeheim’s zone defense is firing on all cylinders, giving both San Diego State and West Virginia enough trouble to send them packing. Meanwhile, Buddy Boeheim is leading an offense that averaged 1.22 points per possession over the last four games, per Torvik, and the Orange shot 29-for-58 (50%) from 3-point range in their first two tournament wins.
Syracuse is peaking at the right time, but it’s the draw that makes this play very interesting.
In the Sweet 16, Syracuse is set to play a shorthanded Houston team. While Houston’s offense can beat the zone by shooting a lot of 3s (56th in 3PA/FGA) and its defense guards the perimeter well (12th in defensive 3-point percentage against), the Cougars are reeling.
Houston relied on a clearly hurt Dejon Jarreau to sneak past a weak Rutgers team. Jarreau himself has claimed he’ll be about 75% for Saturday’s matchup, but Syracuse will be a much tougher out than the Scarlet Knights, making this looking like a prime spot for a third straight Orange upset.
After that, Syracuse would meet either Loyola Chicago or Oregon State in the Elite Eight, both higher seeds that won’t be heavily favored. If they win in the Elite Eight, the Orange would likely meet Baylor in the Final Four.
Before the tournament, I wrote a piece about which offenses can exploit Baylor’s defense, and Syracuse fits that profile. It takes and makes a lot of perimeter shots, and the younger Boeheim is a bigger ball-handler who will attack the smaller Baylor guards.
The +6000 number on Syracuse is great value. If the Orange make it all the way to the national championship, it provides a hedging opportunity, regardless of which team they play there.
Florida State Seminoles
The Seminoles are the most underrated team in the Sweet 16.
Over its past 10 games, Florida State is 21st in offensive efficiency and 11th in defensive efficiency, per Torvik. Leonard Hamilton has assembled a team of lengthy and athletic two-way players who are playing great on both sides of the floor.
The Seminoles will play Michigan on Saturday, and a win sets up a likely matchup with Alabama in the Elite Eight.
Michigan’s win over LSU was impressive. However, it required Eli Brooks and Chaundee Brown to play hero ball, as the duo that normally takes a back seat in scoring combined for 42 points and eight made 3-pointers. I think it’s unlikely those two replicate that production.
The Wolverines are still very vulnerable without Isaiah Livers, and I think Florida State matches up with them better than LSU did. The Seminoles have the interior size with 7-foot-1 Balsa Koprivica to contain Hunter Dickinson and will likely use their size to target 5-foot-11 Mike Smith on offense.
If it manages to beat Michigan, Florida State has size advantages over an Alabama team that can be too 3-point dependent. Plus, it just dismantled a perimeter-heavy offensive team in Colorado, and the Seminoles should be prepared to do it again.
The best number you can get on the Noles to win the national championship is +2500 at FanDuel, where they’re +350 to make the Final Four, which I believe it a likely outcome.
Coach Eric Musselman is a wizard who has built a special team in Fayetteville. Arkansas is 14-2 straight up in its last 16 games and just defeated a talented Texas Tech team as two-point underdogs.
Similarly to Florida State, Arkansas pairs a great offense with a great defense, having finished third in the SEC in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
This weekend, Arkansas plays Oral Roberts. Unless you believe the Golden Eagles are a team of destiny, it seems likely the Razorbacks end this Cinderella run.
If Arkansas strolls to an easy Sweet 16 victory, it should be well-rested for an Elite Eight matchup with Baylor. Musselman will look to put the ball in the hands of Moses Moody and Jalen Tate throughout that game, and the two can definitely beat up on the smaller Baylor guards.
If they can somehow sneak past Baylor, the Razorbacks will have a great Final Four matchup. One of Loyola Chicago, Oregon State, Syracuse or a weak Houston team will come out of the region below them, and Arkansas can beat any of those schools on its way to the championship game.