This article is part of our NCAA Tournament Preview series.
March Madness is here and the odds are updated. Oddly, since the bracket was revealed, some odds look a lot better than they did earlier Sunday. Michigan had anywhere from -112 to -200 odds to make the Final Four on Sunday morning. Following the bracket reveal, they were +200 at DraftKings.
Betting on NCAA tournament futures is all about finding value. There's no reason to take Gonzaga at -335 or Baylor at -250 to make the Final Four. However, because of Gonzaga's huge odds to win it all at +205, there is some value to be found.
Then again, I don't really want to bet against Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are for real, and I wouldn't believe anyone who tells you otherwise. They can shoot, rebound and have NBA talent. Their lone downside is defense, but when you can score 90 points on almost everyone, that doesn't matter.
The first places I'd look for value are the regions where top teams are dealing with injuries like Michigan (Isaiah Livers) and Villanova (Collin Gillespie). In the East region, that points to Alabama, Texas and Florida State as lower seeds, or if you want to go for it, LSU. The Crimson Tide have the sixth-best odds to win it all, but I'm staying away from it. They're a good team, but they also rely a lot on three pointers, something that doesn't condone to winning six-straight games. I think whoever they play in their second game (Connecticut, Maryland) will provide a legitimate threat because of defense.
Unfortunately, Texas has the same odds to advance, which means there's no value as the 3-seed. Still, the Longhorns just won the Big 12 tournament and showed they could take down a string of top teams, meaning +450 on them to make the Final Four is at least something to think about.
FINAL FOUR BETS
The bigger stretch is LSU, who has a legit shot to take down Michigan in the Round of 32. The Tigers just went toe-to-toe with Alabama in the SEC title game and have been able to score on pretty much everyone this season, led by Cameron Thomas. The Tigers are +1400 to make the Final Four and they have more than enough to beat someone like Florida State or Colorado, neither of which showed much consistency this season.
Elsewhere, I think there's some value in Purdue at +800 to make the Final Four. I didn't think the Boilermakers were good earlier in the season, but they're a freshmen-heavy team with a stud big man in Trevion Williams, which is usually a recipe for success in March. They're also in the same region as Villanova, which is a boost. The other part is that North Carolina has a legitimate shot to beat Baylor because of its size. But no matter who the Boilers would face in the Sweet 16, they're a great defensive team with size and an NBA talent in Jaden Ivey (and possibly Williams).
It also wouldn't be surprising if the bottom of the South region beat up on each other. Ohio State's lack of defense puts them as an upset candidate in every game, while Arkansas and Texas Tech are good teams, but ones who probably don't have the quality to make the Final Four. Of any region, I think the South is most likely to beat up on itself and that could lead to a solid, all-around team like Purdue advancing.
In that same region, North Carolina is +1500 to make the Final Four. The Tar Heels are far from consistent, but they have size and talent, and sometimes that's all you need to string together a couple upsets.
A lot of people are hyping Oregon as something of a Cinderella, and while I don't think that highly of them, there is a chance for the bottom of that region to open up. Iowa is known for not playing defense, which means it's a prime upset candidate, while Kansas is dealing with COVID-19 issues and USC hasn't closed the season on a great note. Again, I'm not a huge fan of the Ducks, but they're +2500 to make the Final Four and Dana Altman knows how to get there. Still, I don't think they're a team that will beat Gonzaga.
I haven't mentioned Illinois yet, mainly because they probably have the toughest route to the Final Four of the 1-seeds. The Illini will get two conference tournament winners in their second game and then a possible matchup with Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State. That being the case, it's usually best to bet on talent than against teams who are in tough regions.
Illinois has one of the more complete teams in the country and that's what wins national championships. Instead of taking them to make the Final Four at +150, they're a team I'd consider at +700 to win it all. The main thing is that you know they're good enough to win it all. Whether they can do it or not, remains to be seen, but led by Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, the players are there. And for those taking Oklahoma State above Illinois in the Sweet 16, consider the Big 12 Championship game when the Texas bigs, namely Jericho Sims, absolutely torched the Cowboys, who don't have a true center. Good luck against Cockburn.
I suggested betting against Alabama earlier, but you can get them at +2000 to win it all and if everything goes right for them, they can surely do it. The Tide scored 100 points multiple times in the SEC this season and there will be at least one game in which all of the shots fall for them. That could be against Iona or it could come against Michigan (or whoever) in the Elite 8.
This may be a bit extreme, but Alabama is somewhat comparable to the 2018-19 Villanova team who won it all. The Wildcats were good on both ends of the court and more importantly, they could rain threes when the matchup was right, which is why they surpassed 80 points in four of their six games en route to the title. If the Tide catch fire like that, they'll definitely be in play to take down anyone, including Gonzaga.