LAS VEGAS (AP) — March Madness isn’t just about filling out — and later trashing — brackets. There are more ways to bet the field in the NCAA Tournament, an event that will consume basketball fans over the next three weeks. Here’s a look at the favorites, underdogs and long shots.
WHO’S FAVORED TO REACH THE FINAL FOUR?
Earlier this week, top-seeded Houston was the plus-135 favorite to emerge as the Midwest Region representative and play in Houston, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. That means a $100 bet pays $135. The next top team in the region is No. 5 Texas at plus-350.
Alabama, the No. 1 overall seed, was plus-150 to come out of the South.
The most competitive region appears to be the West. Top seed Kansas opened as a slight favorite but later shared that spot with 2-seed UCLA at plus-330 (before the Jayhawks were ousted). No. 3 seed Gonzaga wasn’t far behind at plus-400.
Top seed Purdue was at plus-300 to come out of the East, but the Boilermakers lost in the first round.
WHO’S FAVORED TO WIN THE TITLE?
After a batch of upsets, the favorites heading into the Sweet 16 are (in order, as of March 19): Alabama, Houston, UConn, UCLA, Gonzaga and Texas, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.
WHO IS THE BIGGEST UNDERDOG?
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Nineteen teams were listed at plus-50,000: Arizona State, Charleston, Colgate, Furman, Grand Canyon, Howard, Iona, Kennesaw State, Kent State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Montana State, Nevada, Northern Kentucky, Oral Roberts, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas Southern, UC Santa Barbara, UNC Asheville and Vermont. Furman did advance to the second round with a big win over 4th-seeded Virginia but that was it. Princeton, anyone?
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST SPREAD DIFFERENCE?
Alabama was a 23 1/2-point favorite over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Kansas was favored by 22 1/2-over Howard in their first-round matchup — the same spread Fairleigh Dickinson faced against Purdue before its shocking 63-58 win.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST OVER/UNDER?
The old saying is that life is too short to bet the under, but it’s often the wise play. Some of these totals may give bettors second thoughts before taking the over, but that doesn’t mean it’s the wrong move.
The highest totals heading into the tourney were Gonzaga-Grand Canyon, Missouri-Utah State and Texas A&M Corpus Christi-Southeast Missouri State at 155 1/2 each, Xavier-Kennesaw State at 153 1/2, Auburn-Iowa at 151 1/2 and Florida Atlantic-Memphis and Colgate-Texas at 150 1/2 each.
NOT REAL UNDERDOGS
Just because the committee seeds one team over another doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the better team in the minds of the oddsmakers. Games where the lower seed was the favorite on the early line: Tenth-seeded Utah State by 1 1/2 points over seventh-seeded Missouri (Missouri won), ninth-seeded West Virginia by 2 1/2 over eighth-seeded Maryland (Maryland won) and ninth-seeded Auburn by 1 1/2 over eighth-seeded Iowa (Auburn won 83-75).
Circa Sports in Las Vegas likes the chances of the 5-12 opening-round upset trend continuing, posting the odds of a No. 12 seed winning at minus-510. Odds also are in the favor of a No. 13 beating a four-seed at minus-250.
A victory by a No. 14 (plus-110), No. 15 (plus-195) and No. 16 (plus-745) aren’t as likely but that’s March Madness: A 15 and a 16 won in the first round, after all.
The Big 12 had the highest total for number of tournament wins by a conference at 11.
The chase for the perfect bracket in office pools and everywhere else ended before the second round this year. Wins by the likes of 15-seed Princeton, 13-seed Furman and 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson’s near-historic win over No. 1 seed Purdue left the number of perfect brackets at 0 late Friday in the major contests run by ESPN, CBS Sports, the NCAA and others.
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