NCAA Tournament Predictions and Sweet 16 Futures Odds
by Dave Schwab - 3/23/2011
The original 68-team field for this year’s NCAA Tournament has been pared down to the Sweet 16. There are three No.1 seeds left as well as four double-digit seeded teams, and no region has followed suit will all top four seeds advancing on. The following is a look at my NCAA Tournament predictions for the remaining teams that have a legitimate shot at winning a national title along with the value their current futures odds provide. All odds quoted are courtesy of Sports Interaction.
Kansas remains the odds-on-favorite to win it all at +250. The Jayhawks have cruised through their first two games with a 72-53 win over Boston University as a 23 ½-point favorite and a 73-59 pasting of Illinois as an eight-point favorite. Their path to the Final Four starts with Friday’s game against No.12 seed Richmond in a game they are favored by 10 ½ points. Kansas would then face the winner of No.11 VCU/No.10 Florida State, so it is safe to say it should be in Houston at the end of the month.
It’s still anyone’s guess which team comes out of the Southeast Region since No.1 seed Pitt went out in the third round, but it is also safe to say that the Jayhawks would be favored in this game as well. While there is not a tremendous amount of value in the current odds, banking on Kansas to be in the title game makes the most sense.
Ohio State is the second favorite at +325, just slightly ahead of Duke at +350. The Buckeyes have also cruised to this point with a 75-46 win over UT-San Antonio as a 24 ½-point favorite and a 98-66 romp over George Mason as an 11 ½-point favorite. They will now face Kentucky in the Sweet 16 as a 5 ½-point favorite. Should they get past the Wildcats, a potential matchup with No.2 seed North Carolina awaits them in the Elite Eight.
Either one of these matchups are potentially dangerous traps for Ohio State that sap most of the value out of its current odds, not to mention that Duke or even Connecticut could be waiting down the road in the Final Four.
Speaking of the Blue Devils, much of their chances to repeat as National Champions could depend on freshman guard Kyrie Irving’s ability to assume a larger role in the team’s offensive scheme over the stretch run. Duke has to scare you a bit after struggling to get by Michigan, 73-71, as a 12 ½-point favorite. It should get by Arizona this Thursday, but could run into a wall from there unless Irving gets hot. There is just too much uncertainty with this team to consider it a value pick at +350
The next five teams; San Diego State, Kentucky, Connecticut, Wisconsin, and Florida are all listed at +1600. Each one has a chance to make a run, but the true value in this group is with Kemba Walker and the Huskies. They are a really good team that is playing their best ball at the right time of the year. In the first two rounds of this tournament they showed little sign of any fatigue from a five-game run through the Big East Tournament and Walker actually appears to be just warming up. They face a stiff test on Thursday against the Aztecs, but are more than capable of running the table all the way to the Championship game. From there anything can happen in a one-game tournament.
If you are looking for a longshot with value in the remaining eight teams, your first instinct might be to latch onto VCU at +6600, but the clock is getting very close to striking midnight for this Cinderella. The obvious choice is a team that, as recently as last year, has proved it has what it takes to make a run at a title; the Butler Bulldogs at +4000. This team is not nearly as talented as the one that lost to Duke, 61-59, in last year’s finals, but still has the heart and drive that could easily carry it to a matchup with Kansas in the Final Four. The Bulldogs would be hard-pressed to take out the Jayhawks to return to the championship game, but at +4000 they are definitely worth a second look.
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