The most wide-open NCAA Tournament in years -- hey, two No. 4 seeds, Michigan State and Louisville, are national title betting favorites at sportsbooks over three of the No. 1 seeds -- began Tuesday night with the First Four in Dayton. Here's a look at some interesting props for the Big Dance from Bovada and our picks on NCAA basketball odds.
You're The One
We all know that a No. 1 seed has never lost to a No. 16, although there have been a few close calls. Thus we can't recommend the prop that a No. 16 will advance past the Round of 64 at +600. The most interesting prop involving the four No. 1s is which will be eliminated first. And in no surprise, Midwest Region No. 1 Wichita State is the -110 favorite to be bounced first.
It does appear that the NCAA Tournament committee punished Wichita State a bit as the Shockers could have to play Kentucky in the Round of 32, then defending national champion Louisville and then possibly either Duke or Michigan to reach the Final Four. Wow. Backers of WSU will point to the fact the team is unbeaten, is a very veteran group, reached last year's Final Four and pushed Louisville to the limit there. Detractors will say that WSU played no one this season. Its best wins are likely against BYU, at Saint Louis and vs. Tennessee. Those in the glass half-empty side also may point out that Wichita State had a fairly easy road to last year's Final Four, beating No. 8 Pitt, the worst No. 1 seed in Gonzaga and No. 13 La Salle. The only "tough" opponent being No. 2 Ohio State in the Elite Eight.
Arizona is +200 on NCAA basketball odds to be the first one knocked out and the Wildcats could have a major task on their hands in the Round of 32 against a very talented Oklahoma State team that will have a better backcourt than Arizona does. That's if OSU beats Gonzaga. After that, however, Arizona might have fairly smooth sailing to the Final Four. ACC champion Virginia is +300 to be the first to go, and No. 1 overall seed Florida is +600. We like Wichita State here and expect the other three No. 1s to at least reach the Sweet 16.
Bovada also offers an over/under of 1.5 top seeds to reach the Final Four, with the under a -150 favorite. From 2007-2009 at least two No. 1s made it each year, including all four in 2008, the only time that has happened (+5000 to do so again). However, the last four years only a single No. 1 made it in three of them and none in 2011, only the second time that has happened since 1979. We recommend over on this prop, expecting two top seeds to make it to Dallas.
The sum of the Final Four seeds is listed at 12.5, with both at -120. It has exceeded that number in three of the past four years. From 2001-2009 it did so just once (2006 thanks to No. 11 George Mason). Obviously the key here to get a lower-seeded team in to the Final Four like Wichita State last year or Butler and VCU in 2011. A No. 11 is the lowest seed to make the national semifinals. Presuming two No. 1s make it as projected above, that leaves a total of 11 to bet the over. That seems unlikely. We lean under.
Name That Conference
The Big Ten is the 7/2 favorite to be the winning conference in this year's tournament despite the fact no Big Ten team has won it all since Michigan State in 2000. That it's favored this year is based largely on the Spartans being the second overall favorite for sports bettors plus having Michigan and Wisconsin as No. 2 seeds. Theoretically all three could reach the Final Four, but hard to imagine any other Big Ten team has much of a chance.
The SEC is at 5/1, which is essentially all based on Florida. Ditto the American Athletic Conference at 5/1 with Louisville. The ACC is 15/4 and seems somewhat undervalued with the likes of Virginia, Duke, Syracuse and North Carolina all capable of cutting down the nets. The Big 12 has the most bids with seven but is 7/1. That number would be lower, likely, if Kansas center Joel Embiid was healthy. The longest shot is the Mountain West at 33/1.
Purely on overall depth, we like the ACC. Just wait until next year when that conference gets scary good with the addition of Louisville.