Dark Horses Worthy of NCAA Tournament Picks as Kentucky Tops Odds Market

Jason Lake

Monday, March 16, 2015 5:38 PM GMT

Monday, Mar. 16, 2015 5:38 PM GMT

Unsurprisingly, the Kentucky Wildcats are way ahead of the pack on the NCAA Basketball odds list for March Madness. Here are a few “value picks” out there who could take advantage and win the Tournament.

Champ Week turned out to be a little bit crazier than expected. After the Notre Dame Fighting Irish surprised everyone by winning the ACC title, the Selection Committee had to make some tough decisions about which four teams would earn No. 1 seeds at this year’s Division I men’s basketball Tournament. Kentucky, Duke and Villanova all made it in; they were joined by Wisconsin, much to the chagrin of Arizona supporters.

It doesn’t matter that much. Wisconsin and Arizona are both in the West Region, so they can sort things out amongst themselves in the Elite Eight, provided they make it that far. Meanwhile, the No. 1 overall seed from Kentucky is a 6-5 favorite on the March Madness futures market at Bovada, and an easy NCAA Basketball pick to win the Tournament. Easy, yes. But valuable?


It’s Time to Pay the Price
Anytime you have a clear favorite like Kentucky, especially one that’s gone undefeated (34-0 SU, 18-14-2 ATS) through the regular season and the conference tournament, you’re going to have to pay a premium to make that pick. Stat nerds have crunched the numbers and given the Wildcats a 41-percent chance of running the Tournament table, so 6-5 (45.45 percent) is a reasonable price to pay.

Moving a little further down the list, you can see why that potential Wisconsin-Arizona matchup in the West is so compelling. Arizona is the second favorite to win the Tournament at 15-2, followed by Wisconsin at 17-2. Not only that, Ken Pomeroy also has ‘Zona at No. 2 overall and the Badgers at No. 3 on his advanced Division I ratings. It’s a shame they can’t both be in the Final Four in Indianapolis.


Atlantic Coast Confidence
Then you’ve got those upstarts from Notre Dame. They beat Duke (–8.5) 74-64 in the ACC semis, taking their season series 2-1 SU and ATS. The Blue Devils (29-4 SU, 18-14-1 ATS) still earned the top seed in the South Region. The Fighting Irish (29-5 SU, 15-11 ATS) had to settle for No. 3 in the Midwest. Yet Duke (9-1) is way ahead of Notre Dame (25-1) on the NCAAB odds list.

Nobody from Virginia is allowed to complain, by the way. The Cavaliers (29-3 SU, 17-13 ATS) had their chance at a No. 1 seed, but they lost to Louisville (+2.5 at home) in the regular-season finale before honking one to North Carolina (+4.5) in the ACC tourney. Timing is everything. The Cavs are instead the No. 2 seeds in the East behind Villanova (32-2 SU, 24-9 ATS), but in what could be another fantastic Elite Eight matchup, both teams are tied at 10-1 to win the Tournament.


Hey Bulldog
If you want to put a dark horse in your NCAA Basketball picks for March Madness, or you’re filling out your bracket and looking for an edge with those tricky mid-major teams, can we interest you in a pair of No. 5 seeds? The Utah Utes (24-8 SU, 19-11-1 ATS) and the Northern Iowa Panthers (30-3 SU, 19-9-3 ATS) are both in good shape to reach the Sweet 16 in the South and East Regions, respectively. UNI is also a robust dark horse at 66-1 to win it all; Pomeroy has the Panthers ranked No. 12 overall.

Last, but not least, the Gonzaga Bulldogs (32-2 SU, 16-13-2 ATS). You can’t really call them Cinderellas anymore, not after reaching the Sweet 16 five times. But will this be the year the ‘Zags finally break through? The No. 2 seeds in the South are 16-1 to take down their first NCAA Tournament title, and Pomeroy has them ranked No. 6 overall in Division I, ahead of Duke at No. 7. Comparing the two teams is always difficult because of their different strengths of schedule, but if you believe in the advanced numbers, don’t put your money on the Blue Devils.

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