The bracket is set, the odds have been posted and we’re ready for the college basketball season’s crowning moment: the NCAA Tournament. There are 68 teams in the field, but let’s see if we can narrow that down to find a few good ones to bet on – both in the favourites and sleepers category.
Duke (+225) is the heavy favourite to win the 2019 NCAA Tournament. As a matter of fact, they’re as heavy a favourite as we’ve seen since Kentucky in the 2014-15 season. They deserve to be in this role as they’re stocked with the best player in the country (Zion Williamson) and two other players expected to be draft in the top five of the 2019 NBA Draft. Williamson makes Duke a supremely tough team and given the pedigree, the coaching and the talent of the rest of the team, the margins for Duke’s opponents will be very, very small.
Gonzaga (+600) is second in line at +600, but keep in mind that they would have to get through Duke in the Final Four. They field the nation’s best offence, according to the KenPom ratings, and already beat Duke once this season. So, it is certainly possible for the Zags to do it again. They’re the only team to beat Duke with Zion, so that’s a feather in their cap.
North Carolina (+750) beat Duke without Williamson and pushed them to the limit in a rematch when he returned. Needless to say, they have a very talented roster capable of winning it all. Cameron Johnson drains 47% of his threes, while Luke Maye is a terror on the inside. They’re quite balanced, ranking top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency.
Virginia (+600) is among the favourites but this team tends to disappoint. They lost to a No. 16 seed last season and have had a tough time getting past the Sweet Sixteen – even with highly ranked teams. Their bracket lines up favourable for them, though, which could pave the way for a Final Four.
Kentucky (+1200) is a team that’s improved as the season has progressed. They lost by 34 to Duke in their season-opener, but ended up beating North Carolina, Kansas, Louisville and Tennessee. They field a star-studded roster who is clicking at the right time. They could be offering good value at 12/1.
Villanova (+5000) could be a solid sleeper pick. The Wildcats have proven players, national championship experience, while playing in a South Region where the other teams don’t have a lot of NCAA Tournament success gives them plenty to build on. Virginia got knocked out in the memorable 16-over-1 upset last year by UMBC; second-seeded Tennessee didn’t even make the Sweet 16 last year and will be under enormous pressure to perform in 2019; and third-seeded Purdue typically struggles to get beyond the Sweet Sixteen. Add in that No. 4 Kansas State has a star player who is not 100-percent healthy; and No. 5 Wisconsin looked awful in the Big Ten Tournament – and there’s a case for the Wildcats at 50/1.
No. 4 Florida State (+3300) is a team that could bust brackets in the West Region. They upset Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 last season and is again loaded with talent, athleticism and length. They excel at the defensive end, finishing ninth in the KenPom defensive ratings and had the ACC’s best defence for two-point field goals. A second consecutive Elite Eight appearance wouldn’t be a huge surprise.