With the NCAA college basketball season set to tip off on November 5, the time has come to handicap contenders for the 2020 Men’s National Championship Tournament title. Sure, “March Madness” is still five months away and America’s college basketball season spans 35 some odd regular season and postseason games – including both conference tournaments and championship games.
Nonetheless, oddsmakers have been hard at work since last March – when the Virginia Cavaliers cut down the nets as national champs for the first time in the school’s 114-year history – and lines are posted for 49 of the country’s top teams.
Top-5 Betting Favorites Offer a Pair of Outliers
Per the oddsmakers at Bovada, the slim favorite to win it all next March is Michigan State (+650), after the Spartans played their way into the Final Four last time around.
In his 25th year at the helm, head coach Tom Izzo has guided the Spartans to four Final Four berths, including a National Championship in 1999-2000. Izzo will have the services of senior guard Cassius Winston – Big Ten preseason player of the year and overwhelming Coaches Poll honoree as the “Best Player in the Country” – who opted against entering the NBA Draft in favor of chasing a title for his Associated Press (AP) preseason rankings leading alma mater.
Kentucky (+750) and Duke (+850) – NCAA Futures Odds 2020
Next up on the betting board are Kentucky (+750) and Duke (+850), the AP’s #2 and #4 ranked teams, respectively.
Kentucky and Duke both reached the Elite Eight last year, with the Wildcats losing in an upset to Auburn and the Blue Devils bested by Michigan State. These two programs – led by Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski (five) and Kentucky head coach John Calipari (one) – have accounted for six career NCAA Tournament victories.
Throw in four runner-up finishes for Krzyzewski along with two more for Calipari, and it’s easy to see why Duke and Kentucky are atop the preseason title totem pole once again.
But after the 1-2-4 trio in terms of AP rankings, the futures odds shift dramatically in favor of middle of the road candidates.
Memphis (+1000) and Virginia (+1100) – 2020 March Madness Odds
AP #14 ranked Memphis is listed at (+1000), while defending champion and #11 ranked Virginia trails close behind at (+1100).
Rookie head coach and former NBA superstar Penny Hardaway inherited a talented Memphis Tigers roster and guided them to their best season (22-14) in the last five years.
As for the defending champion “Wahoos,” Virginia experienced the type of turnover all top-tier college basketball teams must cope with at their peak. De’Andre Hunter, Kyle Guy, and Ty Jerome all entered the NBA Draft, Marco Anthony transferred, and Jack Salt graduated as a redshirt senior.
That significant attrition explains Virginia’s middling AP preseason ranking, as well as the lukewarm reception from major sportsbooks.
Dark Horses and Longshots That Just Might Have a Chance
Bettors interested in backing a longshot with legitimate hopes of beating the odds should look no further than #24 Auburn at (+4000), after the Tigers turned a #5 seed in last year’s tourney into a Final Four berth.
Auburn had Virginia on the ropes at halftime in that pivotal contest before falling one point short at the final buzzer. And while a deep senior class has departed for greener pastures, veteran head coach Bruce Pearl will have several four-star rated recruits at the ready for an instant rebuild.
Other longshots boasting tournament experience and top-line talent include #8 Gonzaga (+2300), #10 Villanova (+1900), and last year’s title game runner-up #13 Texas Tech (+3300).
See the table below to see where your school’s hoops squad ranks on the latest 2020 NCAA Tournament betting board.
2020 NCAA Tournament Odds at Bovada
(AP Preseason Ranking)
|NCAA Tournament Championship Odds (as of 10/31/2019)|
|Michigan State (#1)||+650|
|North Carolina (#9)||+1400|
|Texas Tech (#13)||+3300|
|Ohio State (#18)||+4500|
|Seton Hall (#12)||+6000|
|New Mexico State||+25000|