Kentucky College Basketball National Championship Futures Odds: Even Worth a Bet?
by Trevor Whenham - 3/30/2015
Kentucky is favored to win the NCAA tournament. Shocking. They have been since before the season started, and that has never changed. Why would it when they have yet to lose and have looked downright terrifying at times? At Sportsbook.ag, right now they are at -150 to win it all. Those are odds much lower than those for Duke (+360), Wisconsin (+400) and Michigan State (+800). The obvious - and very interesting - question, then, is whether there is any reason to bet on them at this price. Does it make any sense at all?
This is really where I would begin and end the discussion, because it tells you all you really need to know.
To understand what this futures bet really means, and to be able to evaluate it accurately, you need to think about parlays. By betting on Kentucky to win the NCAA Championship you are just betting on them to win their next two games - the Final Four game and the Championship Game. With that understanding, we can quickly figure out if this makes sense.
As I write this, the Wildcats are at -250 against the Badgers in their Final Four rematch. If you look at the futures bet as a two-game parlay and you know the final payoff will be -150, then you can calculate that the moneyline in the championship game would be about -510. That's a point spread of between nine and 10 points.
Now, we can compare that to what would happen if, instead of betting the futures odds we were to make our own two-game parlay - bet on the first game and then reinvest the winnings and the original bet on Kentucky in the second game. If the moneyline in the championship game was, say, -700, then the payoff in a two-game parlay would be less than a futures bet at -150. That would mean that the futures bet would be attractive because it would pay better than the parlay. If the moneyline in the Championship Game was something like -250, though, then a two-game parlay would pay better than the futures bet, so the futures bet would not be attractive.
Confused? To simplify it, all you need to think of is this. Assuming you think Kentucky will win the title, if you think that the Wildcats are going to be favored by more than about 9.5 points in the championship game then betting the futures odds make sense. If you expect Kentucky to be favored by less than that, though, then you would be better off betting on them to win against Wisconsin and then reinvesting your winnings from your original bet on them in the Championship Game because that will pay better than the futures bet will.
So, what does that mean? Well, it really comes down to what you think will happen in the other semifinal game. If you think Duke is going to win against Michigan State then you really can't bet on Kentucky at -150 in the futures odds. It's all but impossible to imagine a scenario in which Kentucky is favored by more than a couple of points against the Blue Devils. For the Wildcats to be double-digit favorites, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow would need to both be run over by the bus that is supposed to drive them to the Championship Game.
If you like Michigan State then things aren't quite as clear because there is a better chance that the Spartans could be double-digit underdogs. Michigan State will have beaten Duke, though, so unless you think Kentucky is going to pummel Wisconsin like they did West Virginia it's hard to be confident that Michigan State will be a 10-or-more-point underdog. Michigan State is only a five-point underdog against Duke right now, so bettors have a fair bit of respect for them, and that wouldn't diminish with another win. Kentucky also lost some spark in the eyes of public bettors with their close call against Notre Dame, so it will be harder for them to be overwhelming favorites without a signature effort against the Badgers.
So, what does it all mean? Well, the math is fairly clear - this futures price doesn't make a lot of sense given the price Kentucky is at in the Wisconsin game. There is a chance that -150 could wind up being a decent price, but it seems more likely that you could get a better price - and perhaps a much better price - by doing your own two-game parlay.
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