For many sports fans, there is no better time of year than March Madness.
The 2014 NCAA tournament is shaping up to be as exciting as ever, and with major contenders and legitimate longshots all looking to make some noise, this year’s event truly will put the madness into March.
Here is all of the essential information to maximize your bracket experience and the full odds for every team in the tournament.
|4||San Diego St.||65-1|
|12||North Carolina St.||900-1|
|12||North Dakota St.||1000-1|
|12||Stephen F. Austin||N/A|
|13||New Mexico St.||N/A|
|16||Mt. St. Mary’s||N/A|
|N/A||Field (Any Other Team)||100-1|
Source: Vegas Insider
Top Contender Worth a Big Wager: Louisville Cardinals (29-5, 15-3 AAC)
Odds (via Vegas Insider): 8-1
There are few teams in the nation playing as well as the Louisville Cardinals right now. Not only did Louisville lose just five games all season, but the program also won the inaugural American Athletic Conference tournament.
With a very favorable matchup against the No. 13-seeded Manhattan Jaspers, the Cardinals will have the perfect opening matchup to get acclimated to the tournament. With a favorable road to the Final Four, there are few teams that will want to play the No. 4 seed.
They’re basically the bigger, better version of us, so it’s very, very tough. They’re better than us at every position. I’m going against the guy that taught me everything I know. So they have every advantage there is. And they’re playing the best basketball of anybody in the country. From a matchup standpoint there’s not one good thing about it for Manhattan.
Led by the elite play of senior guard Russ Smith (18.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game), the Cardinals have the ideal mix of firepower and defensive consistency to make a real splash in this tournament.
Louisville is ranked eighth in the nation in points per game (82.1), 19th in assists (15.7), 33rd in field-goal percentage (.474) and 41st in rebounding (37.9). The Cardinals are just flat-out better than their opponents in almost every aspect of the game.
Place a healthy wager on the No. 4 seed.
Top Longshot Worth the Risk: North Dakota State Bison (25-6, 12-2 Summit)
Odds (via Vegas Insider): 1,000-1
The North Dakota State Bison aren’t going to shock any team with elite size or speed, but just like many other small schools that have made deep runs in the past, the team is incredibly efficient from the field.
North Dakota State finished the season ranked first in field-goal percentage (.509), and also managed to limit their turnovers and rank 12th in turnovers. While No. 5 Oklahoma will be a tough test, the Bison will continue to play smart basketball.
The No. 5 seed is not taking its opponent lightly, though, as the team’s official Twitter shared:
As strong as the Sooners have been this season, North Dakota State will follow the lead of top scorer Taylor Braun (18.2 points per game) and the three seniors in the starting lineup to make up the backbone of the program.
Add in the tenacity of the Bison at both ends of the floor, and a huge win in the second round against Oklahoma could cause enough momentum for this consistent-shooting team to make a deep run in the NCAA tourney.
*Stats via ESPN.com.