As March Madness approaches, it’s time to start researching teams that could make deep runs in the NCAA Tournament, so you can get an edge in your pool. Or, perhaps you just want to lay a big bet on one team you think has a chance to win it all.
In some seasons, one NCAA team with more star power than the rest of the field steals all the attention, allowing some of the other top seeds to slide under the radar. In 2019, that team is Duke.
Led by stud NBA prospects Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish, and R.J. Barrett, the Blue Devils (+220 on FanDuel Sportsbook) are the favorites to win the NCAA title. Duke is drawing the bulk of futures bets on FanDuel Sportsbook (23%) and money on DraftKings Sportsbook (33%) ahead of the NCAA Tournament.
With so many wagers coming down in favor of the Dukies, other contenders suddenly represent extreme values. We take a look at the best futures wagers to win the NCAA title.
Five Teams That Could Win It All Other Than Duke
Gonzaga (+550 on DraftKings Sportsbook, +600 on FanDuel Sportsbook)
We begin with the second-most popular pick to win a national title. Gonzaga is the only team to defeat Duke at full strength and can equal or surpass the Blue Devils in terms of raw talent. But recently, the Zags were served a slice of humble pie in the form of a 60-47 loss to St. Mary’s in the WCC Championship, which could help them focus as they enter the West Region as the top overall seed.
Gonzaga has an experienced four-year point guard running the show in Josh Perkins. With steady guard play and two of the most dominant big men (Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura) owning the paint, the Zags led the nation in offensive efficiency. They’ll need to be efficient in a potential second-round matchup against stingy Syracuse and a potential Sweet 16 battle with lengthy Florida State. If Gonzaga makes it to the Elite Eight, they could face arguably the weakest No. 2 seed in the bracket in Michigan. Then, it would simply be a matter of edging Duke (or another East Regional winner) for the second time to make their second national title game in three years.
North Carolina (+600 on DraftKings and FanDuel Sportsbooks)
While the Tar Heels fell, 74-73, to Duke with Zion back in the lineup for the ACC Title Game, UNC has already beaten the Blue Devils twice this season. Now, the Tar Heels are flying under the radar in a winnable Midwest bracket. One thing is certain: if UNC happens to meet Duke in the NCAA Championship, the Tar Heels will not be intimidated.
UNC features a good blend of talented freshmen and experienced upperclassmen, led by seniors Cameron Johnson and Luke Maye. The Tar Heels defend as well as any top seed (other than cursed Virginia) and can pile up points in transition. With freshman guard Coby White coming into his own as a floor general, UNC is now dangerous enough in the half court to win close games in the later rounds.
Tennessee (+800 on DraftKings Sportsbook, +1700 on FanDuel Sportsbook)
The Volunteers are getting extreme value on FanDuel Sportsbook. Thus, they are one of our favorite bets to consider based on their tournament draw. Virginia is a No. 1 seed in name, but this is the same program that fell to a No. 16-seed last season and has glaring offensive deficiencies that show up in March.
Tennessee ranks third in offensive efficiency and shares the ball to the point that it’s nearly impossible to key in on one player. Even so, the Vols boast star power in SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams, as well as studs Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone.
If the Vols are able to get past Purdue, Villanova, or whomever they face in the Sweet 16, you can expect them to send Virginia packing. That would set up a potential matchup with UNC, or conference rival Kentucky, who the Vols have beaten twice in a row. As one of the 10 most likely teams to cut down the nets in April, Tennessee is getting great odds on some betting sites.
Michigan State (+1300 on DraftKings Sportsbook, +1200 on FanDuel Sportsbook)
If Duke goes down before the Final Four, it will likely be at the hands of second-seeded Michigan State and tournament-seasoned coach Tom Izzo. The Spartans just navigated the underrated Big Ten and have the tools to make a run in the Big Dance. After all, they rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
Michigan State will be led by junior point guard Cassius Winston in the backcourt. And with Nick Ward back in the lineup, Sparty has reinforcements down low to deal with Zion. Izzo has taken seven Michigan State teams to the Final Four and often does it without much star power. The narrative is in place for the Spartans to upset Duke in the Elite Eight, and if that occurs, those who backed Sparty will have the inside track to a potentially huge payday.
Texas Tech (+3300 on DraftKings Sportsbook, +2600 on FanDuel Sportsbook)
If you’re looking for some serious value on DK Sportsbook, Texas Tech provides great odds. The Raiders can hardly be considered underdogs if they get a shot at second-seeded Michigan in the Sweet 16. Should Gonzaga fall in a stunner to Syracuse or Florida State, Texas Tech would suddenly have a great chance to make the Final Four.
Betting on the Raiders to make it that far is a worthwhile endeavor, but their odds of winning it all are just 3 percent, according to Nate Silver’s projection. Still, we like No. 3 seeds Texas Tech and Purdue (+3900 on FanDuel Sportsbook) as the biggest longshot values to make a run for the NCAA title. Both are capable of playing with any team in the country.