Has there ever been a more wide-open race for the top prize in college basketball? It seems like just about anyone can win this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. At press time, there are three teams tied at +700 atop the March Madness futures market, with a pack of big-name programs in hot pursuit. And the race got even tighter after Wednesday’s results. Here’s a look at the three co-favorites in question, and the teams trying to overtake them.


Duke Blue Devils

Duke jumped to the top of the NCAAB odds list at +600 after winning seven straight, but they came back down to earth when they went to Syracuse and lost 78-75 to the Orange as 4.5-point favorites. The Devils are already an overvalued betting commodity at 22-6 SU and 11-16 ATS; they could find it even harder to cash in during the Tournament once all that public money starts rolling in.

Gonzaga Bulldogs

Could Gonzaga (29-0 SU, 20-5-1 ATS) end up running the table? They won their 20th straight game by double digits on Thursday, crushing the San Diego Toreros 96-38 as 25-point road favorites. This team is devastating on both sides of the ball. They’re No. 1 in the rankings and No. 1 according to just about every advanced metric available – and look at that ATS record.

Kansas Jayhawks

The Jayhawks (25-3 SU, 9-16-1 ATS) have one of the best straight up records in college basketball, but they’re drowning in red ink. They have many of the same issues as Duke: high expectations, question marks on defense, and poor conduct from some of the players. Kansas can’t seem to hit a free throw, either. They’re just 65.5% from the line, which is No. 307 among the 351 teams in Division I.

The Contenders

The North Carolina Tar Heels (24-5 SU, 15-12-1 ATS) and the UCLA Bruins (25-3 SU, 14-14 ATS) are next on the March Madness odds list at +900. From a quality perspective, North Carolina is definitely the superior team; UCLA have the best offense in the country, led by a potential No. 1 overall NBA pick in freshman guard Lonzo Ball (17.5 points, 8.7 assists, 7.0 rebounds per 40 minutes), but the Bruins’ defense falls well short of elite status.

The defending champion Villanova Wildcats (26-3 SU, 14-14 ATS) are probably still a bargain at +1000, although they won’t be No. 2 in the polls for much longer after losing 74-66 to the Butler Bulldogs (+10 away) on Wednesday. That’s twice Butler has beaten Villanova this year. The Kentucky Wildcats (23-5 SU, 14-14 ATS) were already drawing more betting action than their namesakes; that gap will likely grow as we sink deeper into March Madness. Kentucky is tied with the Oregon Ducks (25-4 SU, 17-11 ATS) at +1200 to win the Tournament – watch out for the Ducks, though. They’re on a 14-2 SU and 13-3 ATS run since the holidays, starting with that wild 89-87 win at home over UCLA (–2.5).


*Odds as of February 24, 2017