March is just two weeks away, which means the college basketball futures market is starting to heat up as the 2023 NCAA Tournament rapidly approaches.
This year’s tournament is shaping up to be one of the widest open in recent years, as teams continue to shuffle around atop KenPom’s ratings along with the polls. Tennessee added to the drama by snapping its two-game losing streak with a win over Alabama on Wednesday night, covering the spread as a short home favorite.
The Vols are in fourth place in KenPom’s metrics due to their nation-leading defense, sitting behind UCLA, Alabama and Houston. Offshore sportsbook BetOnline has the Cougars listed as the +750 ‘chalk’ to win the Big Dance, which puts the betting market in congruence with the metrics. The Crimson Tide and the Boilermakers are both listed at +900, while UCLA (11-1), Kansas (12-1) and Arizona (14-1) are all viewed as title contenders as well.
Purdue lost its second straight game last night at Maryland, 68-54. Arizona easily covered as a double-digit home favorite in an 88-62 win over Utah, while UCLA rallied from a four-point halftime deficit to beat Stanford, 73-64.
Tennessee is lower in the betting market than the metrics, entering Thursday night’s slate with the seventh-shortest title odds (16-1). The Vols have been burned by their tendency to go ice-cold offensively, ranked outside the top 50 in offensive efficiency.
Alabama is sitting atop the polls, although that will likely change when Monday’s new rankings come out. The Crimson Tide opened the season with 25-1 title odds, but those have continued to shorten in SEC play. They are -2000 favorites to win the league’s regular-season title at FanDuel, sitting ahead of Texas A&M (10-1).
The Aggies have put together an impressive run since conference play began, but they are still on the bubble as far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned due to their poor non-conference resume. They are priced at 120-1 to win the title and are No. 33 in KenPom’s ratings.
Defending national champion Kansas is the fifth choice in the BetMGM market, but the Jayhawks have the top ticket count, according to Vegas Insider’s Patrick Everson. Some perennial contenders farther down the market include Virginia (28-1) and Gonzaga (35-1). The Bulldogs opened with the fourth-shortest odds, and only Kansas’ Bill Self has won more NCAA Tournament games than Mark Few since 2010.
Indiana has shot up the board since opening at 66-1, entering Thursday’s slate at 25-1. The Hoosiers picked up a win at home over then-No. 1 Purdue earlier this month, and they are led by one of the nation’s premier players in Trayce Jackson-Davis.
As for longshot picks, MajorWager’s Brian Edwards is high on Miami and Providence. The Hurricanes are available at 65/1 (DraftKings), while Providence is 100-1 at FanDuel.
“Miami made an Elite Eight run last year and goes into this weekend on a five-game winning streak,” Edwards said. “The Hurricanes have an elite head coach, two of its three best players from last year (Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller) and two outstanding transfers in Nijel Pack (13.0 PPG, 41.3% 3-pointers) and Norchad Omier (13.8 PPG, 9.9 RPG & 1.3 BPG).”
I’ll suggest a wager on a team near the top of the market by taking Arizona, which is 22-1 at Circa Sports. The Wildcats can get as hot as anyone in the country, making them a dangerous team to deal with if they can pick up some steam at the right time. I think their ceiling is as high as any team in college hoops, and they are underrated due to their late tipoffs on the West Coast.