Using Futures Odds to Fill Out Your NCAA Tournament Bracket
by Dave Schwab - 3/19/2013
The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee not only decides which at-large teams make it into the field of 68 after all the automatic bids have been handed out, but they also rank every team from No.1 to No.16 within one of the four regions based on past performance and future potential to make it out of that part of the bracket all the way to the Final Four.
The oddsmakers also rely heavily on what a team has already done on the court and how that might impact its chances in this tournament, but their numbers are based on a team’s chances to win it all. If you filled out your bracket strictly based on a team’s futures odds verses their opponent’s odds for that given round, you would pretty much go chalk all the way to the Final Four teams. However, the exceptions that do exist are important to take into consideration as they could mean the difference between winning or losing your office pool.
Starting in the Midwest Region, the glaring mismatch that exists is the No.9 Missouri Tigers against No.8 Colorado State. Usually the 8-9 pairing consists of two teams that match up extremely close to one another, but using each team’s futures odds as provided by Bovada as the benchmark, Missouri has the clear edge at 100/1 to win it all verses Colorado State’s 200/1 odds. While picking the Tigers on your bracket is probably a one-and-done thing with No.1 Louisville most likely their next opponent, you might also want to place a wager on this game with Missouri only giving three points to Colorado State on the latest line.
According the odds, the West Region should go chalk in the first round, but another huge mismatch in the 8-9 paring has No.8 Pittsburgh at 33/1 to win this tournament taking on No.9 Wichita State, which has been listed as a 300/1 longshot. The line on this game has Pitt favored by 4.5 points, which could be another gift on an individual game bet.
Things get a bit more interesting when we shift to the other side of the bracket. Many of the bracketology experts are already touting No.11 Minnesota as an upset gift over No.6 UCLA in the South Region, and the futures odds bear this out as well. Minnesota has been listed at 75/1 to stun the world by cutting down the nets in Atlanta a couple of weeks from now as compared to the Bruins 100/1 odds to do the same thing. The spread for this game also swings the Golden Gophers way as three-point favorites over UCLA.
The East Region game that caught my eye according to the futures would be No.10 Colorado over No.7 Illinois. The Buffalos are actually 1.5-point underdogs against the Fighting Illini, but both teams are listed at 200/1 to win it all. Even though each has the same odds, the rationale would be to take the flyer on the lower seed since they are considered equal in the eyes of the oddmakers.
While the games mentioned above only affect four picks in the Round of 64, the odds also provide some clues in terms of a few teams you might want to pencil in a bit deeper than their current seeds suggests.
The two teams at the top of my “let it ride” list at least until the Sweet 16 are Pittsburgh and the No.8 seed in the South Region, North Carolina. The Panthers will most likely get a shot at No.1 Gonzaga in the Round of 32. The Bulldogs have been listed 10/1 to go all the way, which does not instill a ton of confidence in their chances.
The same exact scenario could play itself out in the South Region with North Carolina listed at 60/1 to win it all. Assuming the Tar Heels get by Villanova in their first game with the Wildcats listed at 200/1, they would most likely face No.1 Kansas over the weekend. The Jayhawks are also listed at 10/1 to win the national title, which is double the odds of the other two No.1 seeds, Louisville and Indiana at 5/1.
If you are looking for a team that is not a No.1 or No.2 seed to ride all the way to the Final Four, my pick would Florida. The Gators are the No.3 seed in the South Region, but 7/1 second-favorites to the Cardinals and Hoosiers to win this year’s championship.
A couple of high seeds that you may want to reconsider advancing too deep into your bracket are Marquette, Kansas State and Oklahoma State. The Golden Eagles, who are the No.3 seed in the East, have been listed at 66/1, which are far greater odds than the other No.3 seeds.
At 75/1, the No.4 Wildcats (West Region) and No.5 Cowboys (Midwest Region) also have much higher odds of any of the other fours and fives in the tournament.
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Read more articles by Dave Schwab
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