Which teams provide the most value when picking the national champion of March Madness 2021? Here are five to consider.
March Madness is one of the biggest gambling events on the sports calendar, with an estimated $8.5 billion being wagered on the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Considering last year’s tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are expecting even more money to be placed on this year’s event.
With all that money changing hands, how can you get a leg up on your friends?
Sports Betting Dime has a full list of NCAA Tournament national title odds for March Madness but some teams provide more legitimate value to prospective gamblers than others. Here are five best bets that I like:
Oklahoma State Cowboys (+3150)
Oklahoma State serves as the best value bet on the board with the 16th-best odds but are on the shortlist of Final Four favorites.
Head coach Mike Boynton’s squad has been playing as well as anyone over the last month, posting an 8-2 mark with six of those wins coming over NCAA Tournament teams, including a No. 1 seed in Baylor. Oklahoma State also enters the tournament with more Quadrant 1 victories than anyone in the country other than Illinois.
This team has legitimate star power, too. Point guard Cade Cunningham is the projected No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft and will be the best individual player in the tournament. That said, Oklahoma State also has two reliable secondary options in Isaac Likekele and Avery Anderson III, both of whom have been playing incredibly well over this stretch.
No matter who they face or what matchup they receive, the Cowboys have an answer. Their proven track record and star power make them dangerous.
Alabama Crimson Tide (+2033)
People might be surprised if Alabama ends up winning the national championship, but I don’t think anyone who has followed them this year would be shocked.
The SEC champions combine excellent three-point shooting with the nation’s top defense, which is a recipe that has led to the program’s most successful season in two decades. The Crimson Tide are extremely proven, too, picking up 17 combined wins against Quadrant 1 and Quadrant 2 competition, which is tied for the most in the country (Illinois).
When Alabama has lost this season, it has been because of a poor shooting night. The Tide rank in the top 20 nationally in three-point attempt rate, so there is a bit of the “live-by-the-three-die-by-the-three” cliché in play. That said, those games have been few and far between with four players shooting at least 38 percent from deep.
If you’re looking for a non-No. 1 seed that could cut down the nets, Alabama is the most likely, which is why they represent good value with the seventh-best odds.
Florida State Seminoles (+2267)
If Florida State was perfect, you wouldn’t be able to get this kind of a value from a team this talented. The Seminoles didn’t win the ACC Tournament because of turnovers (25 in title game against Georgia Tech) and that’s something that has plagued them all year, as they rank 240th nationally in turnover rate. FSU also, surprisingly, is not a good defensive rebounding team (291st in defensive rebound rate).
But Florida State also does so many things at an extremely high level. Leonard Hamilton’s squad ranks in the top 10 nationally in three-point shooting and offensive efficiency. They’re also the tallest team in the country and one of the deepest, too (23rd in bench minutes). That size and ability to stay fresh makes them a stingy defensive team on the interior, where the Seminoles rank 11th in two-point defense and eighth in block rate.
When Florida State is at its best, they are absolutely dominant, as we saw in their 81-60 win over Virginia. However, at their worst, turnovers can cause them to lose to teams like Notre Dame and UCF. If you believe in their upside, the Seminoles are very much worth the flyer.
Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (+5167)
Can Cinderella strike twice in a four-year span?
The Ramblers are hoping to repeat their 2018 Final Four run and have the combination of talent and experience to do it again. They are No. 11 in experience in the country led by Missouri Valley Player of the Year Cameron Krutwig. He’s a potential All-American averaging 15 points, 6.7 rebounds, and three assists per game to lead a balanced offense that has six other players averaging at least seven points per game.
Loyola hangs their hat on their defense, though. The Ramblers have the nation’s second-best unit on that end of the court and excel in just about every aspect. They’re somewhat Virginia-like in the way they like to slow the game down (342nd in tempo) and suffocate opponents on that end of the floor, and they’re efficient enough offensively (ninth in effective field goal percentage) to be extremely dangerous.
This is a major long shot because of their conference affiliation, but Loyola-Chicago is the long shot to take if you’re so inclined.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (+243)
But in the end, you want to be right, right? After all, you don’t get any money if your bet doesn’t actually win. Gonzaga rounds out the list for that reason.
The undefeated Bulldogs enter the NCAA Tournament as the favorite and for good reason. Mark Few’s squad has the highest adjusted efficiency margin of the KenPom era, the nation’s best offense, and a roster full of future NBA players. Gonzaga has passed every test they’ve faced while proving to be the class of the sport.
I don’t expect that to change.