The first three rounds of this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament are in the books and with the original field of 68 teams now reduced to the Sweet 16, it is time to reshuffle the deck and take a closer look at each team’s odds to win a national title.
Kentucky +200, Ohio State +500, North Carolina +600, Michigan State +600, Kansas +800
The clear-cut choice in this group is the Kentucky Wildcats despite such a low potential return on investment. They have been the favorite to win this year’s national championship before the preseason polls were even released and after posting a 34-2 record through the first three rounds of this tournament including blow-out victories over Western Kentucky and Iowa State in their last two games, there is little reason to expect anything to change in their next three games.
Kentucky’s only real obstacle to the Final Four is No.3-seed Baylor, but the Bears do not have the depth or level of talent to hang with the Wildcats for 40 minutes. Michigan State would be a likely opponent in the semifinals and offer some value at +600, but if Kentucky does gets past the Spartans, the other side of the bracket has been weakened by the wrist injury to North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall, making the Wildcats’ path to the title that much easier. Ohio State remains a viable threat to face Kentucky in the Finals, but it could have its hands full trying to get by Cincinnati in the Sweet 16.
Marquette +1200, Syracuse +1200, Baylor +1800, Florida +1800
The Syracuse Orange at 33-2 would appear to have the most value in this group, but with 7-foot center Fab Melo out of the lineup due to an eligibility issue, the value drops dramatically. The Orange did not even look that good in the Big East Tournament with Melo playing and will be hard-pressed to get by Wisconsin in the next round.
The true value lies in the Marquette Golden Eagles, who have been battled-tested in victories over Colorado State and a very talented Murray State. They face Florida in the next round and would most likely have to get by Michigan State to get a shot at Kentucky. That is no easy road to hoe, but Marquette, led by Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder, appear to be up to the task.
Louisville +2500, Wisconsin +2500, Indiana +3000, NC State +4000, Xavier +4000, Cincinnati +4000, Ohio +7500
There is some solid value scattered throughout this final group, but just like everyone else left in the tournament, they would still have to get by Kentucky to have a chance to cut down the net in New Orleans. Two teams in this group that could very well be on a collision course with one another to meet in the Final Four are Wisconsin, out of the East Region and NC State, out of the Midwest.
The Badgers’ defense gives them an excellent chance to get by Syracuse in the next round and they have already proven they can beat Ohio State. The one wrench in this plan could be Cincinnati, which is playing as well as anyone in that region right now .The big if for the Wolfpack is taking-out Kansas, but if they can somehow pull-off the upset, it would most likely set-up a fourth meeting against North Carolina in the region finals. This time around, the clear advantage would be with NC State after losing the first three games with healthy Marshall in the Tar Heels’ lineup.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.