Less than one month remains before college basketball’s all-important Selection Sunday on March 12, when a committee of experts will reveal the 68 teams invited to the 2017 NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball tournament.
And even though March Madness hasn’t tipped off just yet, the final month of the regular season represents a sprint to the finish line.
Elite teams like undefeated Gonzaga (26-0), Villanova (24-2), and Kansas (22-3) will be jockeying to secure top seeds. Meanwhile, perennial contenders and former champions such as Syracuse (16-11) and Michigan State (15-10) find themselves on the proverbial bubble.
The next four weeks will be pivotal in determining exactly how the bracket stacks up, and which 68 teams will earn the right to play for this year’s national championship.
But the linemakers at online sportsbook Bovada can’t wait to handicap the field, so the site currently has 49 squads listed as title contenders.
Obviously, some of those are longshots with little chance to win the six straight high-pressure games required to win the tournament – like Butler (19-6; +7500).
The Bulldogs sat at +20000 before 2011’s March Madness commenced, however, before embarking on a classic Cinderella story en route to the Final Four, and even the national championship game. That miraculous run was cut short by Duke in the finals, but by virtue of overcoming such steep odds, Butler proved that any talented team in the field has a chance to win it all.
Leaving aside the longshots, the real focus of Bovada’s early odds is to identify the top tier teams with the highest likelihood of cutting the nets down come April.
By virtue of a spotless 26-0 overall record, the top spot goes to another pack of Bulldogs, as Gonzaga (+700) is the odds-on favorite to finish off a feat nearly two decades in the making. The Zags burst onto the national scene with a stellar run as a 10-seed in the 1999 tournament, and they’ve been back every year since, but the Elite Eight has been Gonzaga’s limit thus far.
This year, Bovada expects Gonzaga to cap off what has been an undefeated season through 26 games with the program’s first national championship.
Other teams with favorable odds of 10-1 or better include UCLA (23-3; +800), Kansas (22-3; +850), Duke (20-5; +1000), and Louisville (20-5; +1000). Other than the Bruins, each of these teams is led by an experienced, title-winning head coach – making them likely candidates to navigate the tournament minefield and make their way to the Final Four and beyond.
You can review the current odds assigned to all 49 NCAA tournament contenders, as listed on Bovada, in the table below:
2017 NCAA Tournament Winner Odds
|Team||NCAA Tournament Odds on 2/14|
|Saint Mary’s CA||+10000|