There is no team in the country hotter than Duke. After finishing the season 24-8, the Blue Devils went on to defeat Clemson, Louisville, North Carolina and Notre Dame in a miraculous ACC Conference tournament run. This red-hot squad is one of the deepest in the NCAA tournament – Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum could lead this Duke team all the way. With the way they have been playing combined with their favorable draw, the Blue Devils are one of the best value bets in the tournament.
The Cardinals are pleased that they drew Indianapolis as their first stop in hopes of reaching the National Championship – the team has a 9-2 record in NCAA tourney games played there. One thing that separates Louisville from many others is their defense as they boast one of the best in the country. Rick Pitino has done this over and over again. The legendary head coach has a 53-18 record in the big tournament, helping a team that has reached 10 Final Fours and hoisted three National Championships. At +1600, this team is too good to pass up.
Iowa State (+4000)
The Cyclones continued to surprise all season long, finishing the year with a 23-10 record capped off by a Big 12 tournament title. The team faces a difficult schedule (they draw a tough Nevada team in the first round) but they have been rolling as of late, winning nine of their last 10 games. Monte Morris has been one of the best players in the conference and they are well-equipped with three-point shooters across the board.
After a mediocre regular season, the Wolverines ran through Illinois, Purdue, Minnesota and Wisconsin on their way to a Big 10 tournament title. They draw a tough matchup against an offensive-minded Oklahoma State, but with how well the team is playing, they could easily catch fire and make a Cinderella-type run. Head Coach John Beilein has done a great job in the latter half of the season for the 24-11 Wolverines. With 50-to-1 odds, Michigan makes for a great value bet.
The 30-4 Mustangs have been dominant as of late, taking home the AAC conference title this past week. This team is much better than their 6-seed would show, and if everything goes as it should (which never happens), they should face Baylor – a team SMU matches up very well against. After that, SMU could face Duke, and the Mustangs’ best player, Semi Ojeleye, is a transfer from Duke which would set up plenty of storylines. The Mustangs will be playing at the top of their game after missing out on the tourney last year, and could serve as a sneaky pick at 26-to-1.
The Bruins have all the makings of title team. They boast a great 7-man rotation headed by one of college basketball’s best, Lonzo Ball. Their offensive style makes them a tough team to match up against with only a couple of days to prepare for them. The South region looks treacherous, but the Bruins have traversed through a tough Pac-12 all season long.
Notre Dame (+4500)
One of the top teams in the best division in basketball, Notre Dame could make a massive run this postseason. The last two seasons, the Fighting Irish have made it to the Elite Eight – this year, they are gunning for a three-peat and their first shot at the Final Four since 1978.
This team had four players average over 10 points per game while also having one of the best players in the conference in Bonzie Colson. Along with Colson, the Irish have solid depth and are littered with players that have experience. Steve Vasturia, Matt Farrell and Rex Pflueger all shoot the ball with confidence and are well acquainted with the NCAA tournament. At 45-to-1, the Fighting Irish are an extremely solid value bet.
It’s hard to believe that the defending National Champions are sitting at +700 entering the first round of the tournament, but that’s where the Wildcats currently stand. No number one seed has ever lost in the round of 64, so they’re a lock to move on; but head coach Jay Wright and the Wildcats have National Championship aspirations once again.
Josh Hart has improved tremendously since last season, and Kris Jenkins provides the outside shooting they need to stretch the floor. The X-factor this year may be point guard Jalen Brunson, who has taken over the lead guard duties this year emphatically. After taking the Big East title, Villanova and their feisty defense should not be overlooked.
Sources: Anthony Gruppuso, Amber Searls, Stephen R. Sylvanie, Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports