The bracket has been released. Let what might be the most chaotic March Madness in recent history begin.
Whether you have been paying attention to this sport since the Champions Classic or you are just jumping in now, the NCAA Tournament should be a treat to all. This race is as wide-open as ever, which is great from both a betting and fan perspective.
There will be plenty of opportunities for you to have action on this 68-team tournament, which begins with the First Four on Tuesday. And The Playbook is here to provide plenty of betting content throughout the Big Dance.
But I wanted to start by giving you a chance at a bigger payday. We are going to look at the National Championship futures market at WynnBET, and see if there are any value picks ahead of the opening weekend. We know Gonzaga is the favorite as the No. 1 overall seed at +325 to win it all, but it might make more sense to go further down the board in this wide-open race.
WynnBET’s National Championship Odds
Texas Tech +2500
More selections available at WynnBET!
One Trend to Know
As I wrote in my college basketball futures update article on March 1, the secret is completely out on a noteworthy trend related to Kenpom and the college basketball champion. For those who don’t know, though, allow me to briefly explain.
Ken Pomeroy created a website for advanced metrics for every college basketball team, which includes both offensive and defensive adjusted efficiency. Dating back to 2002, all but two teams that went on to win the national title have ranked inside the top-20 in adjusted efficiency on both sides of the ball.
As of Monday, the teams that rank inside the top-20 on both sides of the ball are:
Gonzaga | No. 1 offense, No. 7 defense
Arizona | No. 5 offense, No. 20 defense
Baylor | No. 9 offense, No. 14 defense
Houston | No. 11 offense, No. 11 defense
UCLA | No. 15 offense, No. 12 defense
Power rankings for the contenders
At WynnBET, there are 14 teams that are 30/1 or better to win the national title. As wide open as this race might be, it would still be pretty shocking if a team outside the top-15 or so ended up cutting down the nets on April 4 in New Orleans.
Because of that, I thought I’d take a stab at ranking the contenders entering the NCAA Tournament. It is a useful exercise for all bettors, whether you are betting on the national championship futures market or just betting a side on each game.
My power rankings (in tiers):
Kansas, Baylor, Auburn
UCLA, Villanova, Tennessee, Houston, Purdue
Duke, Iowa, Illinois, Texas Tech, Arkansas
I could have been talked into Arizona being in the same tier as Gonzaga, but ultimately decided the No. 1 overall seed should have a slight edge.
The top-four tiers are probably the cutoff point for betting on national championship futures, but I feel especially confident in the top-three tiers.
I’m probably too low on Duke compared to the market, but their ACC Tournament showing was uninspiring and they lack effort on the defensive end. I plan to fade them in this year’s tourney, even though they got a favorable draw, but it is also worth acknowledging that Duke’s ceiling performance (a win over Gonzaga) could be there.
Championship Futures to Consider
Kansas (7/1) — Thanks to my winnings from my Kansas to win the Big 12 tournament wager, I actually placed this bet at a price of 14/1 on Saturday night. WynnBET had this future price at 15/1 just before brackets were released, but the price has moved to 7/1 due to a nice draw in the Midwest region. Considering how good conference tourney week was, along with KU's favorable path, I still wouldn't fault anyone for firing on the Jayhawks at their current price.
Last weekend went as well as the Jayhawks could have hoped, as they won three games by an average margin of 15.3 points on their way to locking up a No. 1 seed. Big man David McCormack was able to play limited minutes to rest his ailing foot before delivering 18 points and 11 rebounds during a win over Texas Tech in the Big 12 championship game. Remy Martin, who transferred from Arizona State and has not lived up to the Big 12 Preseason Player of the Year expectations, earned a bigger role and was dynamic in the title game when he recorded 12 points and four assists in 26 minutes of action.
KU still has defensive concerns, as it ranks 29th in adjusted efficiency. But if Martin is playing like this, there are few offenses more dangerous in the country. Bill Self might just have this Kansas squad peaking at the right time.
Kansas just a different beast with a healthy Remy. pic.twitter.com/86sQH14mOV— Eli Hershkovich (@EliHershkovich) March 13, 2022
Auburn (15/1) — If you don't want to pay the price on KU's national championship odds, allow me to introduce you to the No. 2 seed in the Midwest region. Auburn, which is 15/1 to win it all and valued in the same tier (on my rankings) as KU, might be the better play for those looking to get invested in this market now.
The Tigers have weirdly been a different team away from home, which includes neutral-site games as we saw in their early exit in the SEC Tournament. But I'm more comfortable taking on that risk at 15/1, compared to their 10/1 (or better) value for much of the last couple months.
Auburn is very good on the defensive end, and protecting the rim in general. This is a team that leads the nation in block rate and is eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency via Kenpom. Talented freshman Jabari Smith, who will be a top selection in the upcoming NBA Draft, headlines this impressive group of playmakers under Bruce Pearl.
The bottom half of the Midwest region could end up being a mess, but Auburn presents nice value in this futures market for those looking to buy low on a talented team out of the SEC.
Tennessee (20/1) — Just before the Selection Sunday show, the Tennessee Volunteers toppled Texas A&M in the SEC Championship game to win their first tourney title in 43 years. Many thought that Tennessee might have an argument for a 1-seed or the very least a 2-seed. Instead, the Volunteers are the 3-seed in the South region.
All things considered, that’s not a terrible draw for a Tennessee team capable of making a deep run. The Volunteers open with a matchup against Longwood, and will play the winner of Colorado St. and Michigan in the second round. Villanova, the No. 2 seed in the South, could be a possible Sweet 16 matchup.
Tennessee ranks third in adjusted defensive efficiency on Kenpom, thanks to its ability to force teams into mistakes. Tennessee has won seven games in a row since a 58-48 loss to Arkansas on Feb. 19. The Volunteers are playing their best basketball of the season right now, and they have to feel confident entering the Big Dance regardless of their seeding.
Other teams of note — Those are probably my favorite value bets entering the tourney, though I only actually bet on Kansas after making preseason wagers on both Purdue and Illinois at 20/1.
I think you could make an argument for multiple other teams, including Baylor who I identified as my favorite value back on March 1. The Bears were 15/1 back then, but it is hard to argue against betting the defending champs at their current price. But Baylor also got a brutal draw in the South region, which includes having to get through Kentucky in a possible Elite Eight matchup.
Gonzaga and Arizona are rightfully the favorites, and I wouldn’t blame anyone for just placing wagers on them to be invested in the Big Dance in some form. Regardless of what you decide to do, I wish you the best of luck and hope you found this article helpful.
Our NCAA Tournament cheat sheet
The Playbook is here to provide all the betting content you might need for the NCAA Tournament. We have published in-depth previews on all four regions of the bracket, best bets, and value articles for those wanting to place futures ahead of the Big Dance.
Here’s a rundown of all that content — in case you missed any of it.
Our region previews:
We will also have a betting preview for every matchup of the 68-team event, so make sure to stay tuned throughout the NCAA Tournament in order to make sure you are informed as a bettor.