With March just two weeks away, the college basketball action is really starting to heat up! This year, more than another other in recent memory, the race for the Men’s Basketball National Championship is wide open. You can make a case for at least a dozen teams as legitimate threats to take home the title this year, with another thirty or more teams that have at least some chance, at winning it all.
We all love to fill out those brackets in March, but right now is the best time to bet your team to win it all, as the prices for the contenders are only going to drop as we get closer to the Final Four. In this article, we are going to breakdown the teams that you should bet, the teams you should stay away from, and give you a couple of longshots that are worth a high risk, high reward play. Let’s get started!
Teams You Should Bet
In this first section, I am going to give you several teams that you should consider backing at their current price. These teams are all going to be teams that are priced at 40-1 or less, making them the betting favorites.
Gonzaga Bulldogs +800
- West Coast Conference (12-0)
- AP Poll: 2
- Kenpom: 3
- Top 100 Wins: 7
- Offense Rank: 1
- Defense Rank: 35
The Zags are the betting favorites right now, and it is easy to see why. This team has no real weakness, and they score the ball more efficiently than any other team in the country. Betting the favorite is rarely the right play, but the Zags are the most complete team in the country. They haven’t lost since November, and they have dominated all of the best teams on the West Coast, with victories over Oregon, Washington, Arizona, BYU, and St. Mary’s.
The only knock on Gonzaga is that their SOS is a bit low at 127th. But that has been the knock on Mark Few’s squad for years, as the WCC is still a mid-major conference. And this year, the WCC is as good as it has ever been, as they are currently projected to get three teams into the NCAA tournament.
That's 1⃣8⃣ points for @PetrusevFilip
1st, 7:30 | GU 28-20 pic.twitter.com/rIHNXmK1tL
— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) February 16, 2020
The weak conference didn’t stop Gonzaga from going to the Final Four in 2017, and it’s not going to stop them this year either. At the current price, they are a bargain, and this number is only going to drop as there aren’t many losable games left on their schedule. Back the Zags now, before the price drops.
Maryland Terrapins +2000
- Big 10 (11-3)
- AP Poll: 9
- Kenpom: 8
- Top 100 Wins: 12
- Offense Rank: 34
- Defense Rank: 5
There is always a lot of value in backing the best team from the best league, and right now, that team is Maryland, and that league is the Big 10. The Terrapins have pulled away from most of the Big 10, as they are in sole possession of first place, with only Penn State having any shot at catching them before the end of the regular season. Maryland has won eight straight games, including signature wins against the likes of Michigan State, Illinois, Iowa, and Rutgers.
— Maryland Basketball (@TerrapinHoops) February 16, 2020
All four of the Terrapins losses came in true road games to top-30 teams, so they aren’t a team that loses fluky games. When the Selection Committee did their February sneak preview, a couple of weeks ago, Maryland was a three seed. But if they can run the table in the Big 10 and win the regular-season title, they will move up at least one spot, possibly two, by Selection Sunday.
Kentucky Wildcats +2000
- SEC (10-2)
- AP Poll: 12
- Kenpom: 30
- Top 100 Wins: 9
- Offense Rank: 32
- Defense Rank: 51
Don’t look now, but once again, John Calipari has a team full of young guys that are starting to play well as March approaches. Coach Cal is known for taking a bunch of young, inexperienced players, and getting them playing well just in time for March Madness. This Kentucky team has now won eight out of their last nine games. The fluky early-season losses to Evansville, Utah, and South Carolina are behind them, and they are focused on tournament success.
— CBS Sports HQ (@CBSSportsHQ) February 13, 2020
After seeing both Auburn and LSU stumble down the stretch, the Wildcats are in first place in the SEC and seem to be poised to swap places with Auburn, who was projected as a four seed by the Selection Committee in the preview. Are you telling me you wouldn’t want to back Kentucky against say, San Diego State, in a one four matchup in the Sweet 16? I know I would.
Butler Bulldogs +4000
- Big East (7-6)
- AP Poll: 19
- Kenpom: 27
- Top 100 Wins: 12
- Offense Rank: 29
- Defense Rank: 55
I always value battle tested teams very highly in the NCAA tournament. You don’t want to be a team that has played cupcakes all season long and gets your first taste of real competition in the tournament. And this Butler team has been through it all this season. While the Big East has hampered the hype on this team a little, after they started out 15-1, this team is the real deal.
Kamar Baldwin Named to Naismith Trophy Midseason Watch List
— Butler Basketball (@ButlerMBB) February 13, 2020
None of their losses are bad ones, and they have a nice collection of quality wins, including wins over Villanova, Marquette, Creighton, and Florida. But what I like most about this team is their tenacity. They are never out of a game, and they fight until the last second. They don’t win every game, but they do give a full effort every time out. And at the current price of 40-1, it is hard not to like this team as a potential sleeper.
Teams You Should Stay Away From
In this second section, we will focus on highly ranked teams that you should stay away from. We all know that betting a team like Chaminade or South Dakota State, at any price, is a poor investment. So, here we will focus on teams priced at 40-1 and lower, that you should not back.
Michigan State Spartans +2000
- Big 10 (9-6)
- AP Poll: N/A
- Kenpom: 10
- Top 100 Wins: 9
- Offense Rank: 22
- Defense Rank: 17
For much of this season, I have been screaming that Michigan State is overrated. And for much of the season, everyone laughed at me. But look who is laughing now, as the Spartans have lost six out of their last ten, including four out of their last five. After starting the season out as the nation’s top team in the preseason, the Spartans aren’t even in the top-25 anymore of either major poll.
Yet, despite their recent collapse, they are still priced as one of the betting favorites to win it all. There are only six teams with a lower price to win the title right now that Michigan State, and that folks, is absurd. And when you look forward to the rest of the schedule, I see several more losses still to come. Don’t be surprised if the Spartans sputter into the tournament and make an early-round exit.
San Diego State Aztecs +2200
- MWC (15-0)
- AP Poll: 4
- Kenpom: 4
- Top 100 Wins: 9
- Offense Rank: 8
- Defense Rank: 7
Full disclosure here, I am a huge fan of small conference college basketball, and I feel like the mid-major teams don’t get nearly the credit they deserve. But I just don’t think this is the fourth-best team in the country right now. Close your eyes and imagine something for one second. It’s a completely neutral floor and I’ll give you the Aztecs and I’ll take Duke, Louisville, Maryland, or even Dayton or Seton Hall at even money. Would you take the bet? Neither would I.
And the fact that the Selection Committee loves to screw over the little guys means this team will have a brutal path to the Final Four. I could see a potential two three matchup with Dayton in the Sweet 16, and then having to play a Gonzaga or Kansas in the Elite Eight? Yeah, no thanks. This is a fun team, and they are certainly the class of the MWC this year, but they aren’t winning the national title, so save your money.
Auburn Tigers +2800
- SEC (9-3)
- AP Poll: 11
- Top 100 Wins: 13
- Offense Rank: 28
- Defense Rank: 68
I am not going to come right out and call this Auburn team frauds, but when you take a close look at that 22-3 record, they have some explaining to do. They don’t have a single win over a team currently ranked in the top-25 on Kenpom, and two of their three losses came to teams that are bubble teams at best, in Alabama and Missouri.
Wins are wins, right? But when you look at how close so many of these games have been for Auburn, their record could look very different. The Tigers have five, count ‘em, five overtime victories this season! Six more of their wins have come by double-digits. If you swing all eleven of those games the other way, all of the sudden this team is 11-14. Now, there is certainly something to be said about a team that can win close games, but this record is inflated, and the Tigers are a team you want to stay away from at this price.
High Risk, High Reward
In this final section, we are going to give you a couple of high risk, high reward, lottery ticket type of bets. It is very rare that a true Cinderella makes it all the way to the Final Four, and even rarer, do they actually win the national title. But we all love having a little bit of sweat, and these are the teams you want to back, to sweat it out profitably. All of these teams offer at least 50-1 odds.
You wanted sharp betting advice, and you got it! Here we have given you some high-value favorites to bet, some teams to steer clear of, and a couple lottery tickets to make the March Madness sweat that much sweeter. Make sure to get your bets in now as these odds are sure to drop as Selection Sunday draws near. Thanks for reading and good luck betting college basketball the rest of the way out!