The field of 68 for the NCAA Tournament is set and the 64-team edition will tip off on Thursday. It’s no surprise that ACC teams are the favorites at the top of the board as they sent nine teams to the field – the most of any conference this year. Let’s take a closer look at who the oddsmakers expect to win the national championship.
Duke (+600) is the favorite, which is quite a surprise as they’re a No. 2 seed with eight losses. North Carolina (+700) comes in right behind them but it’s still a bit of a shock to see a No. 2 seed favored ahead of all four No. 1 seeds. Duke and UNC have met three times this season with the Blue Devils winning twice, including in the ACC Tournament. They could meet a fourth time but they’ve never met in the NCAA Tournament before. Duke is a No. 2 seed in the East, while the Tar Heels are the top seed in the South.
Kansas (+800) enters the tournament after winning their 13th straight Big 12 regular season title. They were unexpectedly ousted in their first game of the conference tournament – by TCU, no less – but the bracket lines up very well for them. To start, their first two games are in Kansas City, so they’ll have home court advantage until the Sweet 16. Looking at the landscape of the Midwest Region, the Jayhawks may have to deal with No. 2 Louisville, who has been wildly inconsistent this year, or No. 3 Oregon, who just lost a double-digit scoring starter to injury. If they run into No. 5 Iowa State, they’ve already defeated them once this season.
The defending champions from Villanova (+800) and the Arizona Wildcats (+800) share the same odds as Kansas, while Gonzaga (+900) is right behind them. The Wildcats (Villanova), Bulldogs and Jayhawks are all No. 1 seeds with Villanova coming in as the No. 1 overall seed. Villanova showed that their win last year was no fluke, winning the regular season and postseason titles in the Big East. Gonzaga lost only one game all season, but as usual, there are plenty of skeptics that point to their conference (the WCC) even though they have a win over Arizona.
Speaking of Arizona, they quietly won the Pac-12 Tournament with wins over UCLA and Oregon, and are the No. 2 seed in the West. They are 13-2 with Allonzo Trier back in the lineup (he missed the first 19 games due to suspension) and are as good as any No. 1 seed.
Kentucky (+1000) isn’t far behind after rolling through the SEC. If all goes to plan, Kentucky as a No. 2 seed in the South will meet North Carolina in the Elite Eight in a rematch of their 103-100 game from December, won by the Wildcats. UCLA (+1000) has similar odds to Kentucky and the Bruins’ 11 titles are the most of any school. They also join North Carolina and Kentucky in the most top-heavy region of the bracket in the South. That puts three teams in the top eight favorites in one region.
Louisville (+1600) is the last team inside of 20/1 and their pressure defense is their signature. Their field goal defense ranked 14th in the country and they’ll be looking to clamp down on opponents and slow the pace of their games down.
Then there is a bit of a leap in the odds to Oregon (+2200), Purdue (+2200), West Virginia (+2500) and Michigan (+2500). The Ducks, however, might have suffered the biggest blow heading into the tournament as Chris Bouchard, one of the best shot-blockers in the country, tore his ACL in the Pac-12 Tournament. West Virginia might be one of the most underrated teams according to the odds; the highly-respected rating systems of Ken Pomeroy and Jeff Sagarin have them ranked as one of the top five teams in the country.