It's down to the Final Four. Predictably, Kentucky head into the penultimate round as the NCAA Tournament odds on faves to win the Championship. Can anybody derail UK?
NCAA Tournament Odds Recap
At the start of the tournament, we previewed the NCAA Tournament Futures Odds. Kentucky emerged as the top faves at +110 odds to win the National Championship, after wrapping up their season undefeated. So far, they've punched at their weight class to reach the final four. Now, they are the indisputable odds on faves at -125 to win outright.
In the midst of the tournament, we previewed several selections to consider over Kentucky in outright basketball betting markets, of which Duke and Wisconsin, at +1000 and +700 respectively in pre-tournament NCAA basketball betting markets, were a couple identified. Happily, the pair have proved their considerable merit by reaching the penultimate round.
The Curious Case of Duke and Wisconsin
It's interesting to note that Duke has leapfrogged Wisconsin on the NCAA Tournament Futures board since, emerging as the second favourites at +300 while Wisconsin slips to third favourite at +450 basketball odds. That re-evaluation isn't necessarily down to any meaningful improvements by Duke that would have them all of a sudden look better than Wisconsin does on paper. Rather it's most likely down to the matchups in the final four: the Badgers are set to face off against the Wildcats while the Blue Devils take on the Spartans. Obviously, the Badgers have the tougher path to the final, which has caused this reshuffle on the NCAA Basketball odds board.
The outsider in this group is Michigan State. A side that started the tourney as the +6600 long shot basketball pick to win it all. Although they remain the long shots of the final four at +700 basketball odds, it would be callous to dismiss them out of the hand. After all, just like the rest, they are only two wins away from the National Championship and they might fancy their chances even if the bookies don't.
Keep in mind, the Spartans are going to avoid the tourney faves in the final four, which is a fortuitous NCAA bracket twist. It means they won't have to concern themselves with the Wildcats just yet, if at all. If they beat the Blue Devils, they'll move into the final where they'll have in theory a 50-50 chance to win it all at the expense of the Wildcats (the most likely finalists). If the unthinkable happens though with Wisconsin beating Kentucky on Saturday, then the tournament will be blown wide open. At that point, the National Championship would be there for the taking by either finalist.
Kentucky's Biggest Threat
As the final four took shape, Kentucky's basketball odds swelled to -125 to win outright, an extension of their continued favouritism in basketball betting markets that prompts the obvious question whether anybody can derail the Wildcats. Are they really a shoe-in to win it all or is there a threat they should be concerned about?
It's a debate that's gathering momentum this week and is sure to continue until Saturday's Final Four action kicks off. The Wildcats (38-0) hope to become the first team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers to go undefeated all the way to the National Championship and they are merely two wins away from realising this momentous feat.
On paper, they appear infallible. They haven't lost a game all season long. Winning has become a habit for them, so much so that it would be easy to suggest they have no big threats. However, that would be a grievous error. Another is if the Wildcats get caught up in the hype and start to look too far ahead.
In single-elimination tournament betting, the biggest threat is always the next opponent. In this case Wisconsin Badgers. Kentucky have to overcome this next threat before they can challenge for the National Championship. And there are those basketball bettors that are convinced this penultimate round could potentially be the stumbling block Kentucky has managed to avoid up to this point.
Indeed important to keep in mind when placing NCAA Tournament Picks, early consensus betting reveals an steep influx of money on the Badgers, which in turn has seen the NCAAB betting line move down for 8.5-points (at early doors) to 5-points. These betting lines are sure to swing like a pendulum this week as more and more college basketball picks are recorded, so it's important not to read too much into it. Besides, this isn't the first instance of a betting trend against the Wildcats. Throughout the tournament the public has been eagerly betting against Kentucky, whether it's because of conflicting loyalties, an ingrained belief that no team is infallible or a desperate hope to cash in on the attractive underdog odds. For what it's worth, Kentucky have risen to the challenge so far.