The Kansas Jayhawks are favorites to win the NCAA title. Flickr

Now that the NCAA tournament’s odds-on favorite Duke has been eliminated, along with overall No. 1 seed Villanova, bettors have different options at the top of the handicapping pool.

Kansas, which entered conference tournament week as many experts’s top pick, is now Last Vegas’ top team left in the tournament.

The Jayhawks edged North Carolina after making it to the second weekend, generating a +475 number, compared to the Tar Heels at +500. North Carolina’s odds aren’t much better than before the tournament, when it was +600. However, Kansas has far less value, going from +800 to its current odds.

While Kansas made a big jump, no team made a bigger jump than South Carolina. After defeating favorite Duke, the Gamecocks went from +20,000 to +1,500. South Carolina currently owns the second-worst odds among Sweet 16 teams (only ahead of Xavier at +7,500), but it’s far cry from where the Gamecocks started. The value isn’t near the level it was at the beginning of the tournament (good luck to anyone who put even just a $5 bet on South Carolina), but it’s still good odds for a team currently in a region that is in shambles.

That’s part of trying to find the best teams to move forward. Kansas is probably the best team still in the tournament and has a decent path to the Final Four, but if it makes it to the final weekend, it would likely have to go through either UCLA, Kentucky or North Carolina — three teams that would be on par with Kansas’ talent level.

I’m avoiding the teams in the South, based on how many quality programs are still available, as seen above and that’s not even including a Butler team that defeated Villanova twice this season. The best bets come on the other side of the bracket, based on value and chances of reaching the title game.

Gonzaga and Arizona own the best odds on that side of the bracket at +650, which are still solid value bets. For my money, the Wildcats offer the best chances at delivering with value and odds of winning. The Wildcats must defeat No. 11 seed Xavier, then likely defeat at good Gonzaga team, before facing the dismembered East in the Final Four. And if you can pick a team to just make the title game, you’re well on your way to taking home the championship prize.

If Arizona offers the best opportunity to bring home the championship, Florida delivers the best dark-horse candidacy. The Gators have plenty of talent. It’s been that way all season. Florida couldn’t beat Vanderbilt this season, but the Gators have beaten several other teams along the way. Scoring is at times difficult, but Florida has one of the easiest paths to the Final Four against Wisconsin and either Baylor or South Carolina, and then they have the athleticism to compete with quality teams like Gonzaga, Arizona or any team from the other side of the bracket.

The Gators are +1,200, up from +2,800 when the tournament started. Florida has dismantled each opponent in the tournament and in games not against Vanderbilt in the last stages of the season, the Gators went 10-1 to close out the season, with their only loss at Kentucky.

Florida should have been more widely talked about before the tournament, but we were so focused on its inability to beat the Commodores, that we sold them as a favorite before the tournament started. Don’t make the same mistake in the Sweet 16.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *