With the men's NCAA Tournament arriving, it's time to do some wagering.
We've talked about the upsets to watch as you fill out your bracket. But now let's talk about which teams will be cutting down the nets as the Madness progresses.
When considering futures, I follow a time-tested formula to invest my cash as wisely as possible: Go with your gut. Like the name of a school's mascot? Toss a fin on them. Think one school has the best team but just can't stand their coach? Stay away!
Look, there's no real way to predict who is going to win this tournament every year, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably a huckster or a charlatan. Since sports gambling has become legal in most states across the country, a whole cottage industry of "gambling gurus" with special formulas, algorithms and hidden processes has cropped up. Truth is, most of them are full of crap. And doubly so if they tell you they can predict how an 18-year-old will do shooting free throws with no time on the clock and the game on the line.
With that soapbox out of the way, let's give out some gambling advice anyway, with the full disclaimers that: a.) I don't know what's gonna happen, b.) I'm just taking a couple of guesses, and c.) if you're turning to this (or any) website to get rich quick, you've really got to think of a plan B.
According to the oddsmakers, the four No. 1 seeds have the best chance at being crowned national champion in Houston in a few weeks. Which makes sense, because the tournament committee decided they were the four best teams in the country.
Houston checks in with the lowest odds at +500, meaning a $100 bet would net you $500. Next is Alabama at +750, followed by Kansas and Purdue at +1200. No. 2 seed UCLA is also listed at +1200, while an experienced Gonzaga squad checks in at +1500.
Houston is a deep, talented and tournament-tested team. But it may be an injured team. We still do not know the status of its star guard, Marcus Sasser, who missed the AAC Tournament final with a groin injury. Sasser is the first Cougar to be named First-Team All-American since 1984, and he's a big-time, prime-time shot maker who could swing the tournament. But considering they are the lowest return on your investment of any team in the tournament, I think I'd avoid throwing down on Houston given Sasser's questionable status.
? AP All-America, First Team:
? Zach Edey
? Trayce Jackson-Davis
? Jalen Wilson
? Marcus Sasser
? Brandon Miller pic.twitter.com/HrfAi24Jma
— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 14, 2023
I don't know — groins scare me. Even the word is just kind of uncomfortable sounding. People give "moist" a lot of crap, but "groin" is way worse in my opinion.
Alabama has looked like the best team in the country over the last few weeks. But the stink of the Brandon Miller situation and how callously the whole program has handled it just feels like bad juju. Sure, the Crimson Tide could be crowned champs in a few weeks, but will that feel good to anyone outside Tuscaloosa? Miller is an incredible talent and may have a long and successful NBA career ahead of him. But there's just a dirtiness and ickiness related to the way his whole situation was handled. We're already wading in ethically challenging areas by wagering on amateur athletics. Let's try to keep our consciences as clear as possible.
Can Kansas repeat? Head coach Bill Self missed the Big 12 Tournament with a reported heart condition, but he appears to be headed back to the sidelines for the NCAA Tournament. The Jayhawks certainly have the pedigree, talent and experience to win it all. History says going back-to-back as national champs is pretty rare. The last team to accomplish the feat was the Florida Gators in 2006 and 2007, led by Al Horford, Joakim Noah and Corey Brewer. Before that? The 1991 and 1992 Duke Blue Devils. Maybe you think every 15-ish years we should get another repeat champ. If so — a sprinkle on Kansas could be nice.
My pick out of these favorites is actually Gonzaga. This is not the deepest or most star-laden Zags team under Mark Few. But they actually lost a few games this year, which I think could toughen them up for March. I like the value at +1500, and I like Drew Timme's leadership and experience to get Gonzaga to Houston.
Reaching a little deeper into the tournament field, as much as it pains me to say, you might want to look at Duke. If Duke can get past a feisty Oral Roberts in the first round, its path to Houston might be pretty favorable. Now, +3300 is probably not the best value for a No. 5 seed (No. 4 Indiana is +5500, for comparison's sake), because Duke is Duke and a lot of people bet on the Dukies, driving their value down.
But wow, it would be kinda wonderful to watch Coach K be forced to celebrate his old team winning the national championship just one year after his retirement. Like, he would be so secretly annoyed but be forced to try to save face. Shoot, maybe we need a long Duke run.
Memphis is an interesting play at +7500. If you think Purdue is destined to pull a Purdue and be upset in the NCAA Tournament, Memphis may be the team to pull it off. The No. 8 seed Tigers will need to get past 31-3 FAU in the first round before a likely date with the Boilermakers in the second round. Penny Hardaway's team is peaking at the right time. It just won the AAC Tournament final — and it has fantastic uniforms.
— Memphis Basketball (@Memphis_MBB) March 12, 2023
A bigger long shot? You could consider Arkansas at +10,000. The Razorbacks have had an up-and-down season but possess top-tier talent. Head coach Eric Musselman has a strong track record of success in March, leading Arkansas to back-to-back Elite Eight appearances in the past two seasons. Can Muss get this team clicking at the right time? They'd have to get past Kansas in the second round. But if they can accomplish that, a trip to the Final Four is a real possibility.
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