/2020 March Madness Title Odds for Top Contenders Entering March

2020 March Madness Title Odds for Top Contenders Entering March

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    There are still a few weeks to go before Selection Sunday, when 68 schools will find out their fates for March Madness. But the best teams in the field are starting to separate themselves, giving us a good idea of who will be favored going into the tournament.

    As the calendar flips to March, it’s worth looking at which teams are seen as the favorites to be the ones cutting down the nets in Atlanta. There are many ways to measure the best teams, from the national rankings to various statistical projections. But the current betting odds from Caesars Palace are very telling.

    Here’s a look into which teams are currently favored.

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Coming off losing to Texas Tech in the 2019 Final Four, the Spartans are ranked 24th in the country. It’s unlikely they’ll be a No. 2 seed again in this year’s tournament, but Tuesday’s comeback win over Iowa showed just how good Tom Izzo’s squad can be when it is firing on all cylinders.

    Cassius Winston has shown time and time again this season why he’s the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and one of the best point guards in the country. He’s the kind of big-game performer that makes the Spartans impossible to count out, even if they don’t enter the tournament as a high seed.

    But MSU is more than just Winston. Xavier Tillman has been outstanding, and as a team, the Spartans rank No. 7 overall in KenPom.com’s efficiency rankings. With the conference tournament coming up, the Spartans have a chance to re-establish themselves as a true threat. They’re going to be a tough out once March Madness gets started.

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Florida State is riding high heading into March, coming off big wins over North Carolina State (on the road) and Louisville (at home). The Seminoles are now in sole possession of the best record in the ACC and are in a great spot as they approach conference tournament play. Winning the ACC tournament could propel them to one of the coveted No. 1 seeds on Selection Sunday.

    The Seminoles haven’t made it to a Final Four since their lone appearance in the national championship game in 1972. They made the Elite Eight in 2018; this year’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Devin Vassell (12.9 points per game), was not on the team. This isn’t a team full of great individual scorers, but it plays a cohesive style under head coach Leonard Hamilton and will be dangerous in the tournament.

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    Mark Wallheiser/Associated Press

    A week ago, Louisville head coach Chris Mack moved freshman guard David Johnson and junior forward Malik Williams into the starting lineup, creating a different look that helped the Cardinals snap a two-game losing streak with a win over Syracuse. What appeared to be a momentum shift flipped on Tuesday with an ugly road loss to Florida State in which Williams suffered an ankle injury.

    The loss to FSU could affect Louisville’s seeding in the upcoming ACC tournament, which in turn could affect its seed and matchup come Selection Sunday.

    Still, the Cardinals are in a good position heading into March. At 23-6, they rank No. 11 in the country and are led by Jordan Nwora’s scoring. Their defense has been up-and-down throughout the year, but it’s been improved in recent weeks, and they figure to be formidable once the tournament starts.

    Now that Williams has established himself in Mack’s starting lineup, their chances may hinge on how serious that ankle injury is—they only have two other players taller than 6’8″.

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    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    Led by junior guard Malachi Flynn and junior forward Matt Mitchell, the Aztecs have just one loss on the season. But the offense that was incredibly impressive over most of the season has stumbled recently, as the Aztecs lost to UNLV and edged Colorado State. 

    San Diego State will be the No. 1 seed in the Mountain West tournament and should be a No. 2 or at worst a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. Playing in a relatively easy conference hurts the perception of the Aztecs and is why they are only +1500 despite a gaudy win-loss record. 

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    Dayton's Obi Toppin, left, celebrates scoring his 1,000th career point with head coach Anthony Grant, right, after an NCAA college basketball game against Duquesne, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)

    Aaron Doster/Associated Press

    Arguably the best story of this season has been Dayton. The Flyers are ranked No. 4 in the nation and are on the verge of a No. 2 or 3 seed in the tournament, barring a disastrous end to the schedule.

    In three seasons since replacing Archie Miller as head coach, Anthony Grant has slowly built a program that incorporates elements of NBA offenses (pick-and-rolls and a heavy dose of corner threes) into the college game. It may seem like an out-of-nowhere success story, but this Dayton season was a long time in the making.

    Left-field narrative or no, Dayton’s turnaround is impressive. The school hasn’t made the tournament since 2017 and hasn’t made it to the national title game in over five decades (the Flyers lost in their lone appearance in 1967). Now, they appear poised to have a high seed in this year’s tournament and to back it up with a deep run. 

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    Sam Craft/Associated Press

    No. 8-ranked Kentucky isn’t as star-studded as previous years’ iterations, but the Wildcats have rolled to the best record in the SEC at 23-5, including a 13-2 mark in conference play. Sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley is making a strong case for SEC Player of the Year, averaging 16.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game while shooting 42.9 percent from three-point range.

    Quickley has received scoring help from Tyrese Maxey and Nick Richards, and graduate transfer Nate Sestina recently broke out with an 11-point performance in a road win at LSU. Chemistry is still developing between guard Ashton Hagans and forward EJ Montgomery as they figure out their roles in the offense under head coach John Calipari.

    A strong performance in the SEC tournament could propel the Wildcats to a high seed in the tournament.

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    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    At its best, this year’s Blue Devils team has looked absolutely unbeatable. Unfortunately, that intensity hasn’t been seen on a consistent basis.

    To be clear, Duke’s record (23-5) is very good, and it currently ranks No. 7 in the nation. But some of those wins have been more impressive than others. The Blue Devils, for example, looked like world-beaters in a recent win over Virginia Tech. But their losses, including a blowout to North Carolina State on Feb. 19, have been ugly.

    This could simply be a case of a great team coasting in the regular season before it flips the switch come tournament time. That makes it difficult to predict exactly how it’ll fare in the tournament—or whether it’ll be able to sustain the intensity it’s shown at times.

    But the upside is there.

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    Jerry Larson/Associated Press

    It’s been a long time since Baylor’s men’s basketball program has experienced the kind of success it has this year under head coach Scott Drew.

    The school has never been a No. 1 seed in the tournament, which should change in 2020. It hasn’t made it to the Final Four since 1950, and as a likely top seed, it’ll be a heavy favorite to get there this year.

    At 25-2 on the season against impressive competition, Baylor looks as dangerous as any team in the country. It won’t even matter if the Bears lose a couple of games between now and Selection Sunday—their resume thus far speaks for itself.

    Led by sophomore guard Jared Butler, this is a roster without much in the way of huge names or high-level recruits that has nonetheless fit together perfectly under Drew, making up for that lack of star power with solid, cohesive team play.

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    Ed Zurga/Getty Images

    On the court, top-ranked Kansas has been the most impressive team in the country all year. Off the court, it’s been mired in scandal, hit with substantial NCAA violations.

    In an admittedly down year across the sport, the Jayhawks stand above the rest. They sit at No. 1 in KenPom.com’s efficiency ratings by a considerable margin over second-ranked Baylor and grade out very well in other metrics.

    Center Udoka Azubuike has emerged as a dominant force in his senior season, averaging 13.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game. Sophomore guard Devon Dotson leads the team in scoring with 17.9 points per game.

    Based on their statistical profile, eye test and resume, Bill Self’s team checks every box, even if its season has been controversial for other reasons.

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    William Mancebo/Getty Images

    Gonzaga has the best Vegas odds to win the tournament despite a tumultuous offseason that saw stars Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke leave for the NBA and a campaign that’s seen senior forward Killian Tillie deal with various leg injuries and freshman forward Anton Watson undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.

    Despite all those setbacks, head coach Mark Few has helmed another strong season in Spokane.

    Serbian forward Filip Petrusev has emerged as the Bulldogs’ leading scorer after playing a limited role in his freshman season. Freshman guard Brock Ravet left the program in November, and Ryan Woolridge and Admon Gilder have excelled in his place.

    If there’s a knock on Gonzaga, it’s that all these injuries and absences may leave them shorthanded against deeper teams when the tournament comes around. But with these stakes, rotations tend to shorten anyway.

    And they’ve made it this far despite all the adversity. Who’s to say they can’t pull off a title run?