Selection Sunday was not without its normal drama as the field of 68 teams for this year’s NCAA Men’s Tournament
was unveiled. Despite the fact the field was extended by three teams this season to form an eight-team first round play-in, controversy still surrounded the inclusion of UAB and VCU at the expense of Colorado and Virginia Tech.
Regardless of the rationale behind the selection committee’s decisions, the field is set and futures odds for each team’s chances to win this year’s championship have been set.
While everyone loves the bracket busters and Cinderella’s that are lurking out there, the reality is that past history tells us there are just a handful of teams that have a legitimate shot at winning the national title. The lowest seed to ever win this tournament was Villanova in 1985 as a No.8, and while it is rare that all four No.1 seeds advance to the Final Four, there is
always a good chance that at least one or two of them will get there.
Speaking of No.1 seeds, the Ohio State Buckeyes
are the top team for this year’s tournament. They have also been opened as the co-favorite to win it all at plus 400. The defending champion Duke Blue Devils, who just so happen to be one of the other four No.1 seeds, share the plus 400 odds.
Ohio State will anchor the East Region and should have a clear path to the Sweet 16 with a potential matchup against Kentucky (plus 1600) in that round. Assuming the Buckeyes take care of the Wildcats, they will most likely face the winner of No.3 Syracuse (plus 2500) versus No.2 North Carolina (plus 1800) game to advance to the Final Four. Either of these teams would be a stern test, but it is hard to see Ohio State bowing out at this point.
Duke will come out of the West Region and should advance to the Sweet 16 with relative ease. The No.4 Texas Longhorns (plus 1800) could prove to be an obstacle in this round if they can regain their midseason form, but stick with the Blue Devils to make it into the Elite Eight where things could unravel for the Blue Devils if No. 3 Connecticut continues to play like it did in the Big East Tournament.
Right now the big question for the Huskies at plus 2500 is how much did playing five games in five days take out of them? If Kemba Walker and Co. have anything left in the tank, then UConn has to be considered one of the most dangerous teams in the field.
The Kansas Jayhawks, seeded No.1 Southwest Region, are the third-favorite to win it all at plus 450. Look for them to tangle with No. 4 seed Louisville (plus 2500) in the Sweet 16 and No.2 seed Notre Dame (plus 1800) in the Elite Eight. Kansas will get by the Cardinals before running into a highly experienced and motivated Irish team that is out to prove it should have been a No.1 seed.
The final No.1 seed and fourth-favorite at plus 600 is Pittsburgh. The Panthers will have to navigate their way through the Southeast Region, which is filled with potential traps after the first round. No.9 Old Dominion (plus 12500) matches up extremely well with the Panthers in the second round and No.5 Kansas State (plus 3300) can present a serious challenge in the Sweet 16.
Assuming that Pitt survives those two games, it actually has pretty smooth sailing all the way to the Final Four with a depleted No.3 BYU (plus 2800) and an overrated No.2 Florida (plus 2500) standing in its way.
The teams that offer the greatest value in this tournament are Notre Dame and Connecticut. Both schools are deep in talent and well-coached. Most importantly, coming out of the highly competitive Big East they are battle-tested and have already proven they can stand toe-to-toe with the best teams in the country.
If you want to stick with a favorite, then ride Ohio State all the way to a national title. It has been the most consistent team all season long and offers the best value of any of the top four teams.