It should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed college basketball this year that Gonzaga (+200), Baylor (+600), and Michigan (+600) are considered the betting favorites to cut down the nets at the end of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, but as is always the case, it’s the other teams below them on the odds board — from the sleeper picks to the long shots — who are more intriguing to those looking to wager on March Madness (or get guidance for their bracket pools). 

Perhaps the biggest risk-reward teams on the board are Virginia (+3000) and Kansas (+4200), two powerhouses that withdrew from their respective conference tournaments because of positive COVID tests but are still expected to compete in the NCAA Tournament. They will be without the player(s) who tested positive, plus close contacts of those player(s), for at least the first two rounds, but they could be at full strength after that if they advance. Obviously, their thinned-out rosters make them more vulnerable in the early rounds, but if they make it to the second weekend, both teams could be considered slight values at their current odds, especially Kansas. 

BRACKET TIPS: KenPom | Play the odds | Idiot’s guide

Of course, “value” is one thing; actually winning your bets is another. That’s why Gonzaga sits atop the odds board at +200. After dominating the regular season en route to a 26-0 record, Gonzaga will be looking to become the first undefeated Division 1 men’s college basketball champion since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. Despite playing in the relatively weak WCC, the ‘Zags boast an impressive resume that includes wins over Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa, Virginia, and BYU (three times). They’re the favorites for a reason, though a potentially tough region that features Iowa and aforementioned Kansas and Virginia might cause some bettors to fade the ‘Zags. 

Just behind Gonzaga is Baylor (22-2), who lost just once during the regular season (at Kansas) before getting upset in the Big 12 tournament by Oklahoma State, and Michigan (+600), whose national title hopes took a hit when it indefinitely lost second-leading scorer Isaiah Livers to a foot injury in the Big 10 tournament. Michigan has a very large public following, though, which is perhaps why it still came in tied for the second-best odds to win.

MORE: Get your printable NCAA Tournament bracket here

Updated March Madness odds 2021

Gonzaga, Baylor, and Michigan might have separated themselves from the rest of the college basketball pack this year in many people’s minds, but advanced stats site kenpom.com actually ranked Illinois ahead of Baylor — and that was before the Illini defeated Ohio State to win the Big 10 tournament. As such, it’s no surprise the other No. 1 seed is fourth on the odds board at +700.

Two more Big 10 teams, Iowa (+1600) and Ohio State (+2400) are among the next four teams, with Houston (+1800) and Alabama (+2100) sandwiched between them. Alabama is the No. 2 seed in the East region, where Michigan is the No. 1, so if you think the Livers injury is enough to crush Michigan’s hopes, then Alabama at +2100 makes for an intriguing bet. 

Many will likely target the East region for their “sleeper” bets, with No. 3 seed Texas (+4200), No. 4 Florida State (+3000), and even No. 5 seed Colorado (+4800) all in consideration as “value” options. If you’re looking for real value in that region, you can try a blue blood like Michigan State (+10000) or UCLA (+7500), who will face each other in a play-in game on Thursday. The winner of that game will face BYU, and given the unpredictability of the East region, has a chance to make some noise as a long shot.

Below is the complete initial odds board, courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook. These odds will certainly change as bets come in throughout the week.

TeamOdds
Gonzaga+200
Baylor+600
Michigan+600
Illinois+700
Iowa+1600
Houston+1800
Alabama+2100
Ohio State+2400
Florida State+3000
West Virginia+3000
Virginia+3000
Oklahoma State+3000
UConn+3200
Texas+3500
Creighton+4200
Texas Tech+4200
Arkansas+4200
Kansas+4200
Wisconsin+4200
Purdue+4200
Villanova+4400
Tennessee+4800
Colorado+4800
San Diego State+4800
Loyola-Chicago+4800
USC+4800
BYU+4800
North Carolina+5500
Oklahoma+5500
Oregon+6500
LSU+7500
Clemson+8000
Georgia Tech+8000
Florida+8000
Maryland+8000
Rutgers+8000
Syracuse+8500
Missouri+10000
St. Bonaventure+10000
Utah State+11000
VCU+11000
Georgetown+12000
Virginia Tech+12000
Michigan State+12000
UCLA+12000
Drake+18000
Wichita State+18000
Oregon State+18000
Appalachian State+20000
UC-Santa Barbara+20000
Drexel+20000
Grand Canyon+20000
Morehead State+20000
Cleveland State+20000
Winthrop+20000
Hartford+20000
Abilene Christian+24000
Colgate+24000
Iona+24000
Eastern Washington+25000
Norfolk State+24000
Ohio+25000
Liberty+25000
UNC-Greensboro+25000
Mt. St. Mary’s+25000
North Texas+25000
Oral Roberts+25000
Texas Southern+25000

Of course, we know that no team is truly a “sure thing” during March Madness, so betting on several teams at a variety of value points makes sense. You obviously don’t want to bet much on any team in the +20000 range, but trying your luck with a few teams in the +4000 to +9000 range usually won’t crush you — assuming you don’t go all-in and/or not bet on the favorites, too. 

Good luck!





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