2012 College Basketball: NCAA Tournament Futures Betting Odds
by Darin Zank - 2/15/2012
We've come to the stage in the sports betting season where college basketball now gets it's time in the spotlight. And as the din of the upcoming March Madness begins to grow, now might be a good time to size up the field for the upcoming NCAA Tournament and maybe get a read on some decent championship prices.
TopBet is offering one of the best NCAA Championship betting boards I've come across, with listings on 100 teams, many at very tempting prices.
A Little Recent Tournament History
The NCAA and its television partners love to play up the David-vs.-Goliath aspect of the tournament, and the upsets, but in reality the vast majority of tournament champions have come from the chalky side of the board. Some folks out there – not me - got upwards of 20/1 on eventual-champion Connecticut going into the tournament last year, and that's a nice price. But UConn's victory snapped a string of four straight tournaments won by No. 1 seeds. And, as you might expect, you don't get great odds on No. 1 seeds.
The numbers say No. 1 seeds have won nine of the last 13 tournaments, and 16 of the last 22.
Overall, since the expansion of the tournament from 32 teams to 64 and beyond, No. 1 seeds have won 17 of the 27 championships.
The Usual Suspects
As for this season a gang of usual suspects top the betting on TopBet's Big Dance board. Kentucky, at 25-1 and ranked No. 1 in the latest popularity contests (otherwise known as the polls); just this week got bet down from +400 to +200. Ohio State comes next at +500. North Carolina just got bumped up from +500 to +1,000. Syracuse just got pushed from +600 to +800. And Kansas is also getting +800;
Now, all-in-all, those prices aren't too prohibitive. One of those five teams is very likely to eventually win the upcoming tournament, and some bettors out there may feel fine getting 5/1 or 8/1 on some of the top teams in the land. But for our discussion here I'm going to take a shot at teasing out some larger potential payouts among some of the longer shots on the board.
New Head Coach Frank Haith inherited a pretty full cupboard in Columbia, and he's cookin' up something pretty good. The Tigers, with five starters back from a team that won 23 games last year, are 23-2 (through Feb. 13) this year, and I'm rooting for them to break Kansas' seven-year streak of Big 12 regular-season titles.
You have to like that Mizzou is shooting 50 percent from the field as a team, and 39 percent from three-point land, although I am a bit concerned about their work on the boards. And I wish they were getting a little better price. Last week you could get the Tigers at +800 at TopBet to win the tournament; now they're only getting +600.
Staying in the Big 12 we have the BU Bears, who are trying to do big things in what will probably be their last season with pro-bound Perry Jones III roaming the middle. Baylor won its first 17 games this season before losing to Kansas and Missouri, then they won four more in a row. But the Bears might have revealed themselves as more pretenders than contenders when they recently lost back-to-back to KU and Mizzou, again, by a combined 29 points. The Bears were victims of a 28-4 run by the Jayhawks and a 20-6 second-half spurt by the Tigers.
What does that say to me? It says that while Baylor is certainly good enough to survive the first weekend of the tournament, it might have a tough time getting any further. The Bears are also getting +800 on TopBet's tournament board.
Feelin' Lucky With Louisville
When considering an NCAA futures bet, this is the exact time of the season I start looking for teams that are getting hot. And the Cardinals fit the bill.
Louisville began the season with some regard, ranked in the top dozen or so in various polls, and they started 12-0. The Cards then went through a rough stretch, losing five of seven games. But the 'Ville then won six straight, after beating West Virginia on the road Saturday. They did piss one away Monday night vs. Syracuse, but overall I'm liking what I'm seeing.
The Cardinals have six guys averaging nine points per game or better, and they rank fourth in the country in holding opponents to 37 percent FG shooting. And after losing in the first round of the tournament the last two years I think they might be due for a run. And I like their price. At +2,500 on TopBet's board. Louisville is a play for me.
Many Others to Choose From
I thought Vanderbilt might do good things this year, with basically the entire team back after winning 23 games last year, and I've backed them a few times. Unfortunately, I’ve been on the wrong side on a couple of their efforts. So my view might be a bit skewed.
The Commodores seem to have many of the necessary ingredients for a tournament run, and of their eight losses three came in overtime and four others were close. Then again, they're only 3-4 over their last seven games. My problem is while I like Vandy, I also don't trust them. Vanderbilt is getting +4,000 on TopBet's NCAA board.
Duke lost three key players from last year and still started off this season ranked in basically every Top 10. Duke is still Duke, and you know what that means; tons of praise from the betting public, the books and the referees.
The Dukies, if I remember right, won the NCAA Tournament somewhat unexpectedly just a couple years ago; so why wouldn't you think this outfit isn't perfectly capable of pulling the same trick this year? You think I want to bet on Duke? I'll admit it, I'm with the schadenfreude crowd whenever Duke loses. But I'm also a capitalist. And at +1,200 the Dukies might be worth an investment.
When it comes to Michigan, I've been a fan of Coach Beilein since long before he took over in Ann Arbor. And as a bettor I've backed his Wolverines many times. How far has that gotten me? Not too far. I could go either way with Michigan. They win a game, they lose a game, and so on for the last month or so. But do they have a tournament run in them? I'm skeptical, and so is TopBet, which is listing the Wolverines at +7,500 on their big board.
Staying in the Big Ten, Michigan State looms as one of those teams that when they eventually make the Final Four (again), you look back and say, “why didn't I see that coming?” The Spartans lost to North Carolina and Duke to start the season, then they won 15 games in a row. And after a win at Ohio State last Saturday MSU is now tied for first place in the Big Ten with the Buckeyes. I don't think you can argue with the idea that, like in horse racing, pedigree goes a long way in college basketball. The last four National Champions are UConn, Duke, North Carolina and Kansas. The Spartans, who have gone to the Final Four six times in the last 13 years, certainly fit in with that group. Michigan State is getting +1,000 at TopBet to win it all.
I like teams that play defense, and Florida State does that. My problem with FSU is that this program has no prior record of tournament runs; so why would I think they'd pull one off this year? The Seminoles are getting +3,000 on TopBet's NCAA board.
And in the “Way out West” department I offer up the 49ers of Long Beach State. This is one of the most experienced teams in the country, with four seniors who have combined to start over 400 games! The Niners have lost six games so far this season; five of those came against tournament probables San Diego State, Louisville, Kansas, North Carolina and Kansas State. And they've won 12 in a row heading into a BracketBuster game Saturday at Creighton. Hey, George Mason, VCU and Butler (twice) have all made the Final Four in recent seasons, and I would think Long Beach State is at least as good as any of those teams. TopBet is taking the 49ers seriously enough to price them at +5,000 on its NCAA Championship board.
2012 NCAA Tournament Predictions and Pick
To begin, I'll throw this out there; I think bettors interested in playing NCAA basketball futures should be careful about getting their bets in too early. While you might want to grab what you think is a good price with some outfits, there's always the danger of the unexpected.
What good would it be to back Ohio State now, only to have, say, Jared Sullinger go down with an injury as the Buckeyes close out their regular season? So bettors might want to wait until shortly before the tournament starts to, as they say, “get down.” That being said, I'll throw out five mythical units of NCAA Tournament Championship futures bets for consideration.
Bottom line, I think when all is clicking Ohio State is the best team in the country. So I'll put two stones on the Buckeyes at 5/1. I'm also tempted by what I've been seeing from Louisville, so I'll throw a stone at the Cardinals at 25/1.
I'll also toss a stone at a team I didn’t discuss above, the Marquette Warriors. I mean Golden Eagles. Can I make a case for “the Explorers?” Whoever they are, they're 21-5 overall and have rather quietly moved into second place in the Big East. And they're getting +5,000 on TopBet's Big Dance board.
And finally I'll take a flyer bet on Tony Bennett's Virginia Cavaliers at +15,000 (150/1).
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