Over the course of the next few slides, I’ll be making a lot of suppositions, observations, accusations and predictions.
What I will not be making are friends.
Of the 16 teams still standing in the NCAA tournament, the following are the most egregiously overrated by media and amateur gamblers alike.
We'll start with a team that everyone is just a little too in love with and work our way up to a team that's being completely overvalued right now.
I’m going to reference the Vegas odds throughout these slides, but I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that betting on sports futures is one of the dumbest things you can do with your money.
To get a range of opinions, odds were pulled from three different websites—BetUS, VegasInsider and Bovada. On each site, the odds add up to somewhere between 150 and 175 percent. What that means is that if the teams are bet on proportionately, “the house” is pocketing between 50 and 75 percent of the money wagered regardless of who wins the tournament.
For purposes of comparison, the house edge in double-zero roulette is 5.26 percent, and roulette is widely regarded as the least financially intelligent table game that you can possibly play.
Long story short: Don’t take any of these bets, and especially don’t take Florida Gulf Coast at 75-1.
I’m probably going to come off as a crotchety old power-conference lover by hating on Florida Gulf Coast, but let’s all settle down about the Eagles. Their wins, though very impressive, weren’t completely unforeseeable.
Georgetown is a terrible tournament team. Whatever John Thompson III is doing, it isn’t working. The Hoyas have been eliminated by a double-digit seed in five consecutive tournament appearances. We all got sucked into Otto Porter mania and forgot about this simple fact.
And for whatever reason, the Mountain West Conference is just terrible in the NCAA tournament. Over the past four tournaments, they now have nine wins against 16 losses—and three of those wins came from BYU before it moved to the West Coast Conference.
It’s no surprise that Georgetown and San Diego State were early exits from this tournament. It just so happens that a high-flying FGCU team was the one to benefit from their perennial misfortunes.
What the Eagles haven’t faced thus far in the tournament is a team with an imposing big man—let alone three of them. The Florida Gators should eat them alive in the paint.
If you really think the Eagles could win this tournament if it were played out 75 times, you either live on FGCU’s campus or are delusional.
Allow me to preface this with a reminder that I am a lifelong Duke fan.
I can admit to being a cynical fan, but I am the furthest thing from a Duke hater. Even the casual supporters and despisers of Duke tend to take things more personally than any other group of people in sports.
I just wanted to throw that fact out there before you take to the comments to claim that this article was clearly written by a North Carolina or Michigan State fan.
On one of the websites that I visited, Duke was listed at 8-1 to win it all.
I can appreciate that the popular teams tend to have the most inaccurate odds because so many people are ready and willing to bet on them, but 8-1?
I’m not even sure they make it out of the Midwest region once out of every eight tries.
Duke’s weakness all season has been playing interior defense and playing against aggressive perimeter defenses. Both Michigan State and Louisville excel at scoring in the paint and shutting down the opponent’s three-point shooting.
Granted, none of the games were against a team of Duke’s caliber, but in the four games that the Spartans and Cardinals have played in this tournament, they’re making 59 percent of their two-point field goals and holding opponents to 30 percent shooting from long range.
Valparaiso and Memphis each shot 37.2 percent from three-point range during the regular season, and Michigan State held them to 25 percent combined in the opening rounds. Yet Duke is a two-point favorite, despite neither hitting any shots against Creighton’s nonexistent defense (just 38.8 percent) nor staying out of foul trouble against one flailing Doug McDermott.
Blue Devils, I love you, but I’m not getting my hopes too high.
This one is a bit of a reach, because the Golden Eagles aren’t receiving very good odds—either 30-1 or 40-1 depending on where you look. In fact, you could make a compelling case that they’re being underrated right now.
However, let’s pretend you had been handed the list of the 16 teams seeded No. 1 through No. 4 a few hours before the Selection Show. You don’t know who’s seeded what, where they’re playing or who they’re playing against. Your life depends on correctly choosing one of those teams to get upset in their first game.
You’re picking Marquette, right?
Then the Selection Show happened and we found out that Marquette has the toughest draw of any of those top seeds, save for perhaps Saint Louis. At 58.2 percent of brackets, the Golden Eagles were by far the least popular pick from the top three lines to make the Sweet 16—the next lowest was New Mexico at 68.5 percent.
Before the tournament even started, no one believed in them, and no one believes they deserved to win either of their games. With 1:35 remaining in the opening round, they trailed Davidson by seven points before pulling off a miracle. With 1:35 remaining in the round of 32, they trailed Butler by three points before avoiding a miracle.
You’re telling me that team is going to get past Miami and either Indiana or Syracuse one out of every six times and win the national championship one out of every 30 times?
Buzz Williams is an awesome coach, but that’s just crazy talk.
Yes, Oregon was horribly mis-seeded. After winning the Pac-12 tournament by going through Washington, Utah and a short-handed UCLA, the Ducks deserved better than a No. 12 seed.
They should have been a No. 8 seed.
But let’s stop acting like they should have been a No. 1 seed.
I’m not trying to discount their opening weekend. What they’ve done to this point in the tournament has been quite remarkable.
The Ducks didn’t just beat a pair of teams that were better than them; they suffocated the life out of those teams. Saint Louis and Oklahoma State looked like they had never dealt with a team like that before—understandable with Oklahoma State, but how did Saint Louis beat VCU twice and then struggle so mightily with Oregon?
However, let’s go back to assuming that this is a team that should have been given a No. 8 seed and realize that the other teams still standing in the Midwest region with Oregon are Duke, Louisville and Michigan State. One of these things is not like the other.
On one of the websites, it's showing Oregon at 33-1 to win it all. How quickly we forget the Ducks might not have even made the tournament if they hadn’t beaten a UCLA team that just lost to Minnesota by 20 points.
It appears I need to drag this stat back up, because the Gators are unanimously receiving 5-1 odds to win the entire tournament:
Florida went 0-6 in road/neutral games against the RPI Top 58 this season.
“Top 58? That seems pretty arbitrary.” Well, yes, because the Gators beat Alabama (RPI 60) in the SEC tournament. Before that, it was a nice, round 0-6 against the RPI Top 75. What do you care, though? Based on the feedback I received all season, there’s a 99 percent chance you despise RPI.
They broke that streak against Minnesota on Sunday night, but not before nearly blowing a 21-point halftime lead.
Your guess at what plagues them in those games is probably as good as mine. I assume it has something to do with Kenny Boynton’s complete inability to shoot three-pointers (9-of-42) in those games, but I could be wrong.
With a Sweet 16 game against Florida Gulf Coast essentially representing a bye to the Elite Eight, I get why they’re near the top of the odds list. But they’re still going to need to deal with Kansas or Michigan once they get there—and probably Indiana and Louisville after that.
Even if you think they have a 90 percent chance of beating FGCU and a 50/50 shot in each of their remaining three games—and you’re being extremely generous if you think games against Indiana and Louisville would be coin flips—the Gators should still be pricing title odds in the 9-1 range.
Putting them on par with Indiana and ahead of Ohio State just doesn’t make any sense.
Apparently, I just think the entire South region is overrated. The Michigan love is particularly out of control, though.
Let’s start with how the Wolverines ended their season.
Over their final 12 games, they went 6-6 with four very narrow wins and a loss to Penn State. Once ranked No. 1 in the entire country, they finished the season tied for fourth place in the Big Ten. It became apparent that—as a guard-heavy team—they struggled against teams with a strong interior presence.
Ignoring the Penn State anomaly, in their other five losses over the final six weeks of the season, the Wolverines’ rebounding margin was minus-49. Guys like Cody Zeller and Derrick Nix were scoring at will against them.
Fast forward to the NCAA tournament where their first two games came against teams that were 168th and 170th during the regular season in rebounds per game. At 6’10”, Michigan’s Mitch McGary looked as dominant in the paint against South Dakota State and VCU as Brittney Griner looks on a nightly basis.
Enter Jeff Withey, one of the country's leading shot-blockers.
The Wolverines haven’t been shooting the lights out from three-point range (15-of-40) thus far in the tournament, and they won’t be able to rely on McGary to bail them out time and again in the Sweet 16—nor in the Elite Eight against Florida’s bigs, if both teams get that far.
They could certainly catch fire and ride Trey Burke’s 18.8 points and 6.7 assists per game to the national championship. But they could have done that before the tournament began. Yet, after drawing two of the most favorable matchups that a team like Michigan could ask for, the Wolverines are back among the title favorites at 12-1.
Perhaps even crazier, they’re listed as 2.25-1 to win the South region. You mean to tell me that this Michigan team should win back-to-back games against Kansas and Florida four out of nine times? Where can I bet against that happening?