2015 NCAA Basketball National Championship Contenders with Futures Odds and Predictions
by Dave Schwab - 3/16/2015
The brackets have been set for this season's NCAA Tournament with 68 teams vying for a national title. Since half that field will be gone by the end of this Friday's action and there will only be 16 teams left standing when Sunday's games are decided, there is a huge difference between a team that is in this tournament as opposed to one that has a legitimate shot at winning it.
Fortunately, Bovada has helped break things down by releasing its futures odds to win a National Championship. The following is a look at a few of my top contenders based on their current betting odds.
The Best of the Best
You can pick against a team that has already won 34 of 34 games this season in an effort to beat the consensus in whatever bracket contest you enter, but I would have to think long and hard about going against Kentucky as a 6/5 odds-on favorite to complete its run to perfection with six more wins.
The Wildcats have only picked up steam heading into this tournament with nine double-digit victories in their last 10 games while going 8-1-1 against the spread. Kentucky is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, and it appears that the only real competition in that section of the bracket could come from No. 2 Kansas or possibly No. 3 Notre Dame, so I see a pretty clear path to the Final Four. From there, Kentucky would be smelling perfection with just two more wins to go, so there could be no stopping this team from that point.
Duke Blue Devils
Duke made an earlier-than-expected exit from last week's ACC Tournament with a 74-64 loss to the Fighting Irish in the semifinals as an 8.5-point favorite, but its overall resume was still strong enough to earn the No. 1 seed in the South Region. Bovada has opened the Blue Devils as 9/1 fourth-favorites to win this season's national title, and I think there is some solid value in those odds.
The main competition in that region should come from No. 2 Gonzaga or No. 3 Iowa State, which to me, presents a pretty clear path to the Final Four. From there, the Blue Devils might get another shot at Virginia (which they have already beaten) or they might face Villanova. No matter which team Duke would face from that half of the bracket, it should come into that game as a favorite. That would leave a showdown against Kentucky in the title game. From there anything can happen with a Blue Devils' squad that is deep in talent and experience in big-game situations.
The Best of the Rest
The Badgers made short work of the Big Ten in both the regular season and the recent conference tournament en route to a SU record of 31-3. This earned them the No. 1 seed in the West Division, and their betting odds to win a national title have been set at 17/2, which are the third-best on the board.
The one big caveat to a smooth ride to the Final Four is the selection committee's decision to include Arizona as the No. 2 seed in this region. I see both of these teams making their way to an eventual showdown in the Elite 8 Round, with Wisconsin being slightly favored in that matchup. The biggest difference with the Badgers this season is a highly-productive offense to complement a shutdown defense. Senior forward Frank Kaminsky is the type of player that can carry a team all the way to a championship, so as he goes the next few weeks so go the Badgers.
The Wildcats have had very productive regular seasons in the past and strong runs in their conference tournaments, but they have tended to fizzle under the bright lights of the Big Dance. This year's team could be the one that breaks through with a deep run as a 10/1 fifth-favorite to win it all on Bovada's board.
Villanova earned the top seed in the East Region on the strength of a current 15-0 SU run, and they earned the betting public's nod after going 13-2 ATS during this same stretch of games. The Wildcats biggest obstacle to keeping this run going all the way to the Final Four would probably be No. 2 seed in the East Region, Virginia. I like their chances in a matchup against the Cavaliers, but from there it could be a tall task to seal the deal against first Duke and then Kentucky in the title game. Nonetheless, Villanova remains a team to watch over the next few weeks.
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