March 9

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Best Value Plays on NCAA Tournament Champion


It seems that some of the professional sports parity has seeped into the collegiate ranks, at least on the college hardwood. In the last few years, there have been no clear-cut favorites in college basketball heading into March and the 2022 field may be more wide open than ever.

That makes betting on March Madness an interesting proposition, one that can be daunting or valuable depending on your viewpoint.

And after a recent weekend in which all of the top six-ranked teams fell, the value is available for college b-ball bettors. According to most book’s odds, there are four teams projected to be a cut above when cutting down the nets on the first Monday of April: Gonzaga, Kentucky, Arizona, and Purdue.

The Zags have the shortest odds after falling in the championship game a year ago, but for the purposes of this piece, we’re going to look at the teams we believe offer the best value as we flip the calendar to the sport’s best month.

Auburn Tigers (+1200)

It’s a perfect time to jump on Bruce Pearl’s group, despite their recent play. Heading into the first week of March, they lost three of six with all three losses coming on the road. Auburn has been pedestrian on the road, but keep in mind they’ve excelled on neutral sites. And where are the games played during the SEC and NCAA Tournaments? Neutral sites.

This number may not go any higher the rest of the way so the 12-1 odds may be the best value you’ll see heading down the stretch. The Tigers are in the mix for the one line and Jabari Smith is as capable as any player in the country to carry a team on his back all the way to New Orleans.

Baylor Bears (+1500)

The Bears get the nod over fellow Big 12 power, Kansas, primarily because of their head-to-head win over the Jayhawks on February 26. Yes, Bill Self and company dominated Baylor back at the beginning of February, but it’s all about what have you done for me lately.

Sure, we haven’t had a repeat champion since Florida in 2006-07, and that may be a factor in the 15-1 odds. But the Big 12 may be the best conference in college basketball this year, preparing the Bears for another deep run in the Big Dance.

Tennessee Volunteers (+3500)

Kennedy Chandler and Zakai Zeigler make up one of the best backcourts in the country and you need quality guard play to advance in the bracket. The Vols haven’t lost to a single team below the projected 6-line AND they’ve beaten the likes of Arizona, Kentucky, and Auburn!

All three, as noted, have shorted odds than Tennessee, and while they may not have the pedigree, they should not be dismissed, especially at this juicy price.

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    UConn Huskies (+7000)

    Dan Hurley’s group has skyrocketed up the standings, power rankings, and projected seedings after closing out February with five consecutive wins. After floating around the peripheral bubble for much of the season, they now have a legitimate opportunity at a top-4 seed.

    UConn has a top-20 offense nationally and the second-ranked offensive unit in the Big East. And yet, not much respect from the oddsmakers? This is a price worth pouncing on as it could plummet based on the team’s performance in the conference tournament.

    Murray State Racers (+15000)

    We contemplated adding Saint Mary’s as our longshot here, but Ja Morant’s alma mater gets the nod for their overall body of work. Sometimes the true test for a team comes in the form of an inferior opponent following a big win over a fellow conference favorite.

    The Racers blew out Belmont to win the regular-season title and then faced Southeast Missouri State as a double-digit favorite. They came out flat in a classic letdown spot, but rallied in the final minutes to win and preserve their perfect conference record. Do not sleep on this team.

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