Cam Spencer's Huskies are featured in the March Madness Bracket Analysis

March Madness Bracket Analysis: Is UConn a Smart Bet to Repeat?

The Midwest is ripe for upsets, the West could come down to a high-powered showdown between North Carolina and Arizona, and the South looks like a Houston-hued red carpet all the way to the Final Four. And as for the East? Let’s just say no top overall seed in recent memory has had a regional path strewn with as many landmines as Connecticut faces this year.

The defending champion Huskies remain the favorite in the March Madness odds to cut down the nets again on April 8 in Glendale, Ariz., and sportsbooks so love their body of work that UConn is a negative moneyline bet (-120) to make the Final Four. But goodness, will they have to work to get there. The East is so loaded that the tournament favorites are also the most likely No. 1 seed to not survive their own region, making the Huskies a vexing prospect for sports bettors on the eve of March Madness.

Connecticut has been the odds favorite to win the national championship for weeks now, and it’s easy to see why: the Huskies roll into this tournament having won seven straight and 21 of their last 22, dispatching their closest competitor in the Big East (Marquette) three times over that span and hammering opponents by an average of 17.1 points per game. While other top regional seeds stumbled in their respective conference tournaments, the Huskies just kept on rolling.

And their reward is—this? The East features 10 conference tournament champions, at least four more than any other region, so basically everyone is coming in hot. That group includes not just the Big East tournament champion Huskies, but also SEC champ Auburn, Big 10 champ Illinois, and Big 12 champ Iowa State. Of the top 10 teams at KenPom.com, four are in the East. So are three of the top six teams in the NCAA’s NET rankings. So are eight of the tournament’s top 20 teams in against-the-spread performance.

Odds To Win College Basketball - National Champion 2024-25
TeamOdds
Connecticut Huskies+1000
Duke Blue Devils+1100
Kentucky Wildcats+1400
North Carolina Tar Heels+1400
Houston Cougars+1600
Kansas Jayhawks+1600
Gonzaga Bulldogs+1800
Alabama Crimson Tide+2000
Auburn Tigers+2000
Arizona Wildcats+2200
Baylor Bears+2200
Iowa State Cyclones+2200
Arkansas Razorbacks+2500
Purdue Boilermakers+2800
Rutgers Scarlet Knights+3300
Illinois Fighting Illini+4000
Michigan State Spartans+4000
Texas Longhorns+4000
BYU Cougars+5000
Creighton Bluejays+5000
Florida Gators+5000
Marquette Golden Eagles+5000
Miami Hurricanes+5000
Tennessee Volunteers+5000
UCLA Bruins+6000
Michigan Wolverines+6600
Ohio State Buckeyes+6600
Saint Mary's-California Gaels+6600
St. John's Red Storm+6600
Wisconsin Badgers+6600
Maryland Terrapins+7500
Villanova Wildcats+7500
San Diego State Aztecs+8000
Texas Tech Red Raiders+8000
USC Trojans+8000
Memphis Tigers+9000
Mississippi State Bulldogs+9000
Missouri Tigers+9000
Texas A&M Aggies+9000
Clemson Tigers+10000
Kansas State Wildcats+10000
LSU Tigers+10000
Oregon Ducks+10000
Seton Hall Pirates+10000
Xavier Musketeers+10000
Georgia Bulldogs+12000
Indiana Hoosiers+12000
Louisville Cardinals+12000
Oklahoma Sooners+12000
Providence Friars+12000
Syracuse Orange+12000
TCU Horned Frogs+12000
Virginia Cavaliers+12000
Wake Forest Demon Deacons+12000
Washington Huskies+12000
West Virginia Mountaineers+12000
Cincinnati Bearcats+15000
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets+15000
Iowa Hawkeyes+15000
Mississippi - Ole Miss Rebels+15000
Nebraska Cornhuskers+15000
North Carolina State Wolfpack+15000
Notre Dame Fighting Irish+15000
Penn State Nittany Lions+15000
Pittsburgh Panthers+15000
South Carolina Gamecocks+15000
Boise State Broncos+20000
Butler Bulldogs+20000
Colorado Buffaloes+20000
Dayton Flyers+20000
Florida State Seminoles+20000
Nevada Wolf Pack+20000
New Mexico Lobos+20000
Northwestern Wildcats+20000
Utah Runnin' Utes+20000
Virginia Tech Hokies+20000
Central Florida Knights+30000
Georgetown University Hoyas+30000
Minnesota Golden Gophers+30000
Oklahoma State Cowboys+30000
Southern Methodist Mustangs+30000
Arizona State Sun Devils+40000
Colorado State Rams+40000
Florida Atlantic Owls+40000
Indiana State Sycamores+40000
Stanford Cardinal+40000
Utah State Aggies+40000
Vanderbilt Commodores+40000
Washington State Cougars+40000
Boston College Eagles+50000
California Golden Bears+50000
DePaul Blue Demons+50000
Grand Canyon Antelopes+50000
Oregon State Beavers+50000
UNLV Runnin' Rebels+50000
VCU Rams+50000
Akron Zips- -
Belmont Bruins- -
Bucknell Bison- -
Charleston Southern Buccaneers- -
Colgate Raiders- -
College of Charleston Cougars- -
Davidson Wildcats- -
Drake Bulldogs- -
Duquesne Dukes- -
Fairleigh Dickinson Knights- -
Fresno State Bulldogs- -
Furman Paladins- -
Grambling State Tigers- -
Harvard Crimson- -
Hofstra Pride- -
Howard Bison- -
Iona Gaels- -
James Madison Dukes- -
Kennesaw State Owls- -
Kent State Golden Flashes- -
Long Beach State- -
Longwood Lancers- -
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns- -
Loyola-Chicago Ramblers- -
McNeese State Cowboys- -
Montana Grizzlies- -
Montana State Bobcats- -
Morehead State Eagles- -
Murray State Racers- -
New Mexico State Aggies- -
North Texas Mean Green- -
Northern Kentucky Norse- -
Oakland Golden Grizzlies- -
Oral Roberts Golden Eagles- -
Princeton Tigers- -
Richmond Spiders- -
Saint Joseph's Hawks- -
Saint Louis Billikens- -
Saint Peter's Peacocks- -
Sam Houston State Bearkats- -
Samford Bulldogs- -
San Francisco Dons- -
Santa Clara Broncos- -
South Dakota State Jackrabbits- -
South Florida Bulls- -
Southeast Missouri State Redhawks- -
St. Bonaventure Bonnies- -
Stetson Hatters- -
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders- -
Texas Southern Tigers- -
UAB Blazers- -
UC Irvine Anteaters- -
UC Riverside Highlanders- -
UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos- -
UNC Asheville Bulldogs- -
Vermont Catamounts- -
Wagner Seahawks- -
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers- -
Wichita State Shockers- -
Wyoming Cowboys- -
Yale Bulldogs- -
Youngstown State Penguins- -

Odds as of April 14th, 2024 00:28am EDT.

A clear path for the Cougars

So why are the Huskies still an overwhelming odds choice to reach the Final Four? To start with, they won’t have to play everyone. Auburn, at +375 the No. 2 odds choice to win the region, faces a potential second-round game with 2023 Final Four darling San Diego State. Illinois and Iowa State are on a collision course for the Sweet 16. Morehead State, Drake and Florida Atlantic loom as potential chaos agents. A loaded region like the East also leaves the possibility of good teams beating up on one another, and opening a clearer path for the Huskies than what it looks like right now on paper.

Because on paper, it looks like Houston is the No. 1 overall seed. The Cougars are a +125 bet to get out of a South region the features the weakest No. 2 seed in Marquette, a reeling No. 4 seed in Duke, and just two—two!—teams in the top 10 of both KenPom and the NCAA’s own NET index. Marquette and Florida have injury issues. Kentucky is as streaky as it comes. Of all the top regional seeds, Houston right now feels like the safest bet to make it to Glendale.

The West is a bit more balanced, with No. 2 seed Arizona the odds +260 odds favorite to win the region over top-seeded and +300 wager North Carolina. There are legitimate questions about both teams, given that the Wildcats have dropped two of their last three and UNC turtled in the ACC final against a North Carolina State team playing its fifth game in as many days. Potential long shots to reach the Final Four include +1400 St. Mary’s, which has won 18 of its last 19, and +2500 New Mexico, one of the best teams in the field against the spread.

Upsets abound in Midwest?

Purdue is the +150 choice to win a Midwest region whose lower half appears loaded with upset potential. Pac-12 tournament champion Oregon, the No. 11 seed, has a dominant low post presence of the type that’s traditionally given South Carolina fits. No. 12 seed McNeese State is 30-3, coached by former LSU head man Will Wade, has lots of dudes that can man up with Gonzaga. No. 13 seed Samford with its high-tempo offense faces a Kansas team that’s been devastated by injuries.

In addition, don’t be surprised if a First Four winner knocks off No. 7 seed Texas, which limps in having lost 10 of its last 19. The 10, 11, 12 and 13 seeds all reaching the second round in the Midwest looms as a possibility—which would also clear the bottom half of the bracket for Tennessee, a +350 bet to make the Final Four. The Volunteers have that combination of inside-outside balance, physicality, and scoring ability—fueled by all-everything guard Dalton Knecht—to go toe-to-toe with Purdue in a potential regional final.

Beyond the regions themselves, some of the individual game lines speak to botched seeding on behalf of the NCAA selection committee. South Carolina opened as just a 1.5-point favorite over Oregon, a very narrow point spread for a 6-11 game. Drake, the No. 10 seed in the East, opened as a 1.5-point favorite over No. 7 seed Washington State. In the West, No. 10 Nevada opened as a 1.5-point favorite over No. 7 seed Dayton, and No. 11 seed New Mexico opened as a 1.5-point favorite over No. 6 seed Clemson. 

And there’s one other number worth watching: 174.5, the highest total of the first round, for West No. 4 seed Alabama against No. 13 seed Charleston. The Cougars hoist an average of 30.6 3-pointers per game, which ranks third nationally, while the Crimson Tide shoot an average of 30.3, which ranks fourth. Alabama has gone over the total in 10 of its last 11 and 75% of its games this season, according to TeamRankings.com, the highest such rate of any team in the field.

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