Finding Value in Betting on a National Champion (Kentucky)

Rainman M.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018 12:09 PM UTC

Wednesday, Mar. 21, 2018 12:09 PM UTC

With only 16 teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament, we take a closer look at investing in a future wager. Read on for a pick and insight into possible longer-shot betting options.

Bovada Odds to Win the 2018 NCAAB Championship
  • Duke +325
  • Villanova +450
  • Kentucky +700
  • Gonzaga +700
  • Michigan +800
  • Kansas +850
  • West Virginia +1600
  • Purdue +1600
  • Texas Tech +2200
  • Texas A&M +2500
  • Clemson +2500
  • Nevada +2500
  • Kansas State +2800
  • Florida State +4000
  • Loyola-Chicago +5000
  • Syracuse +6600

In order to select a hopeful champion, I first eliminated the probable losers. They did not fit my most important criterion, which in looking over the recent list of champions was completeness. Tournament champions tend to be elite on both sides of the ball without being too vulnerable. A team makes itself more vulnerable by slacking in the little things -- free throws and turnovers -- that add up to cost a team. Elite on both offense and defense means ranking in the top 40 in both offensive and defensive efficiency per KenPom's number.

So the teams that do NOT get eliminated by the above criteria are Duke, Villanova, Kentucky, Gonzaga, Michigan, West Virginia and Purdue. Kansas' defense is too poor and they are a poor free-throw shooting team.

From here on out, if you were to try to determine which team was the very best, you might as well pick a name out of a hat because these teams, measured by overall quality and resume, are so comparable that there is no real edge in simply choosing the best team. Instead, let's pick the team with the most value, the one that we could hedge in the national championship game to be on the safe side, and the one that is most likely to get to that game in the first place.

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#BBN, your home for the week. The last two times we played in #Catlanta in the NCAA Tournament were in 2012 and 1998. What happened those years? 😼

— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 20, 2018

In my opinion, Villanova is probably the "best" team overall. While +450 is an OK number, my problem with the Wildcats is the competition which they will have to deal with in order to get to the title game. Nova has yet to prove that it can deal with or cover the spread against a high-pressure defense. The Wildcats went 0-2 ATS and 1-1 SU against St. John's, which ranks in the top 20 in steal percentage and turnover percentage. Their next opponent, West Virginia, also ranks highly in these two categories. If the Wildcats survive WVU, their potential next opponent (Texas Tech) could rank in the top 40 in the steal and turnover categories. Then, the Wildcats would likely have to survive a top-seeded team out of the Midwest in either Duke or Kansas to make it to the title game. Sounds exhausting, right? In fact, that whole right side (Midwest and East) of the bracket sounds exhausting to me.

On the other side of the bracket, Gonzaga looks great on paper. But their strength of schedule ranks outside the top 100 in terms of both defensive and offensive quality that they have faced. Without strong victories on their resume, the Zags might actually be paper thin. Michigan looks more appealing, despite notoriously poor free-throw shooting. But what worries me is that the Wolverines live and die by the three. They have the 59th-highest proportion of threes attempted. Their next opponent, Texas A&M, ranks 20th in opposing three-point percentage. If you like UM against the Aggies or don't mind waiting another week, Michigan is another strong consideration.

At +700, Kentucky is a great value pick, meaning that I think they are the strongest pick in relation to the odds available. They rank in the top 25 in both defensive and offensive efficiency. Their turnover numbers are poor, but they are strongly improving in the category. In four of the past five games, the Wildcats have turned it over 10 times or fewer. Kentucky won't face higher than a seven seed en route to the Final Four. They should have no problem in their upcoming game against K-State with or without the still somewhat injured Dean Wade, who will have to rediscover chemistry with a K-State lineup that had stepped up its game without him. K-State ranks 75th in offensive efficiency and cannot compete with Kentucky's offensive talent. K-State is heavily reliant on scoring inside, where Kentucky is strong, ranking 18th in block percentage behind its length as a team and individual shot blockers like Wenyen Gabriel and PJ Washington. Kentucky is offensively and defensively elite despite having the strongest strength of schedule of the remaining teams on its side of the bracket (South and West).

Free NCAAB Pick: Kentucky +700Best Line Offered: Bovada

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

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