That time of year has arrived, folks! The time of year when even non-gamblers become sports bettors. The time for NCAA Tournament betting. March Madness is upon us and after missing out in 2020, college hoops fans and bettors are ready.

Before seedings begin to roll out, let’s take a look at the NCAA Tournament futures odds, as well as odds to make the Final Four from FanDuel Sportsbook. Where is the smart money at? Let’s find out!

NCAA Tournament Betting Odds: The Top 8

  • Gonzaga Bulldogs (+280)
  • Baylor Bears (+310)
  • Michigan Wolverines (+700)
  • Villanova Wildcats (+1100)
  • Illinois Fighting Illini (+1600)
  • Iowa Hawkeyes (+1600)
  • Alabama Crimson Tide (+1800)
  • Houston Cougars (+1900)

If you plan to place your bets pre-tournament on a winner, the Gonzaga Bulldogs come in as a 3-to-1 favorite. The West Coast Conference regular-season champs finished the season undefeated at 24-0, 15-0 in conference play. The question is, are they the smart play at only (+280)?

The Bulldogs haven’t played a close game since December 2nd of last year when they beat West Virginia by only 5. Gonzaga won every other game this season by double digits which is insane, but they haven’t played a ranked opponent since December 26th. They only played 4 teams that are currently ranked all season. 

The Low-Risk, Low-Reward Pick

If you’re going to take a low-risk, low-reward team, you may want to look at the Baylor Bears at +(310). Baylor has proven that they can play top-ranked opponents in close games and still come out on top. They have played 8 teams that are currently ranked in the AP Top 25, and came out 7-1 in those battles. Including a 13-point win over 4th ranked Illinois.

The Kansas Jayhawks were the only team that was able to 1-up Baylor this season. The Bears will close out the regular season playing 2 ranked opponents at home. Fortunately for the Bears, they’ve already beaten Oklahoma State and Texas Tech on the road, so they should be able to take care of business at home.

The outliers in favor of Gonzaga are that they remain ranked #1 on KenPom and are 5-0 at neutral sites this season. That being said, Baylor is 3-0 at neutral sites and Baylor’s Big 12 schedule was a much more difficult path than Gonzaga’s West Coast schedule.

ncaa tournament betting

KenPom rankings as of March 3rd.

Of the top few teams, Baylor at (+310) is where my money would go. Gonzaga has a slight edge on offense, but Baylor’s defense may have the upper-hand, and defense travels.

Upping Your Return

If you’re going to stay near the top for better odds of a win, but would like a higher return, there are 2 teams you should keep an eye on. It must be the 80’s again because we’re talking about the Illinois Fighting Illini and the Houston Cougars.

Whether either of these teams will live up to the “Flyin’ Illini” or “Phi Slama Jama” remains to be seen, but both teams dominated their conferences this season and both are currently in 2nd in their respective conferences. Both teams have one game remaining on their schedule with Illinois’ matchup against #7 Ohio State being the tougher of the two games.

While Houston may have the more attractive odds, they have only played 1 currently ranked team all season. They beat Texas Tech on November 29th, in their 3rd game of the season.

Illinois has had a much tougher schedule in the Big Ten, which has been absolutely ferocious this season. The Illini are 4-2 against ranked opponents including a dominant win over the #2 Michigan Wolverines.

Illinois’ only question mark heading into March Madness is Big Ten and National Player of the Year contender Ayo Dosunmu’s status. Dosunmu suffered a facial injury during Illinois’ recent loss to the Michigan State Spartans. However, they were also without him when they wiped the floor with Michigan.

If Ayo is on the floor for the NCAA Tournament, you should consider putting your money on Illinois at (+1600). If he is unable to return, maybe consider Houston at (+1900). Great odds for such a good team.

Top 10 Odds to Make the Final Four

  • Baylor Bears (-300)
  • Gonzaga Bulldogs (-300)
  • Michigan Wolverines (+100)
  • Villanova Wildcats (+190)
  • Texas Longhorns (+230)
  • Ohio State Buckeyes (+230)
  • Houston Cougars (+280)
  • Alabama Crimson Tide (+300)
  • Illinois Fighting Illini (+300)
  • Iowa Hawkeyes (+350)

Not much changes as we look at Final Four betting odds. Baylor and Gonzaga are the favorites at (-300), and either team is a worthwhile bet if you’re betting enough to maximize your return.

A little further down the list, you have Illinois at (+300) and the Iowa Hawkeyes at (+350). With 2 of the best players in the tournament in Dosunmu and Luka Garza, both of these feel pretty safe as well, and of course, your betting account would look much nicer if one of these teams makes a run for you.

Let the Madness Begin

As conference tournaments begin, and regions are seeded and put together on Selection Sunday, our March betting picture will only become clearer. As the odds change in the weeks leading up to the tournament, the teams that are locks don’t. Regardless of the odds and matchup, any of these top-tiered teams could become a moneymaker for you in the tournament.

So let’s wait for the seedings and matchups, and revisit these odds as Vegas and FanDuel update the lines. Let’s see if we can maximize that return for you. Let the March Madness begin!



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