Wagering on the NCAA tournament is a big part of the excitement of March Madness. The field of 64 finally came to fruition following the conclusion of Round 1, and the odds have shifted accordingly.
Before filling out your 2014 bracket or deciding on which team has the best shot to go the distance, looking at the updated tournament odds is crucial.
Let's view the current tournament odds and decide which teams are the safest bets and which ones to avoid this year.
|2014 NCAA Tournament Odds|
|San Diego State||65/1|
|North Dakota State||1000/1|
|Field (Any Other Team)||100/1|
All odds current as of Wednesday, March 19 at 4 p.m. ET.
Run with the Favorite
The Florida Gators are the top-seeded team in the 2014 NCAA tournament. The team has been given this honor for very good reason.
With 5-1 odds to go the distance, the Gators may not bring huge money, but they are certainly the safest bet.
Florida enters the 2014 NCAA tournament with a 32-2 overall record. The team swept the SEC this season, going 18-0, and dominated the conference's tournament.
Simply put, there may not be a hotter team in this year's field.
The Gators also have a favorable region to contend with. No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 Syracuse have not looked great recently. Both were bounced from their respective conference tournaments by inferior teams.
Given Florida's hot streak, and the struggles of other contenders in the South Region, the Gators are primed to go deep in the NCAA tournament.
Avoid the Midwest Region at All Costs
Sure, it could be tempting to take a long, hard look at Wichita State's 15-1 odds or Louisville's 8-1 odds to take home the title. But, seriously, the Midwest has been dubbed the "Region of Doom" for a reason.
There is simply no telling what will happen here. It could be speculated that each of the region's top-four teams have legitimate shots at reaching the Final Four.
Let's break them all down.
No. 1 Wichita State captured the admiration of the nation after completing its season with a perfect record. However, without having been tested by top-tier opponents this year, it's up in the air as to how the Shockers will fare in March Madness.
No. 2 Michigan was on a tear before losing to Michigan State in the Big Ten tournament final. Still, the Wolverines are a deep and well-balanced team that could do some damage in the NCAA tournament.
No. 3 Duke has been playing some inspired basketball of late. The Blue Devils earned some quality late-season wins against Syracuse and North Carolina before losing to Virginia in the ACC tournament.
No. 4 Louisville is one of the hottest teams entering March Madness. The team has won 10 of its last 11 games, including a decisive 71-61 victory against Connecticut in the AAC tournament final.
With so many teams capable of earning a Final Four bid, placing a wager on any of them seems like a bad idea.
Virginia Offers Some Great Value
A No. 1 seed with 18-1 odds is pretty enticing. That's exactly what Virginia brings to the table this year.
Oddsmakers may have given Virginia these odds due to the team's average offense. The Cavaliers are only averaging 65.8 points per game—good enough for 294th in the nation. However, with the NCAA's top-ranked defense allowing just 55.3 points per game, an exuberant amount of offense isn't necessary.
They say defense wins championships, and Virginia is built in that exact manner.
The Cavaliers' defensive prowess was clearly on display during their ACC finals victory over Duke. The surging Blue Devils connected on just 38.1 percent of their shots against Virginia in the game.
After the victory over Duke, Virginia head coach Tony Bennett explained in his postgame press conference that the team's recipe for success is sticking to fundamentals, per the Associated Press, via ESPN.com: "We kept talking about it—don't get sped up, make them guard you, and make them earn on the other end. We had to earn this against that kind of team and that kind of program."
Virginia's stiffest competition in the East Region is Michigan State. The Spartans have looked fantastic lately and figure to make a big splash in March Madness. Although, if the Cavaliers can play against the Spartans just how they did against Duke, they will earn a Final Four bid.
Once Virginia gets that deep in the tournament, the team's defense will take over against winded teams and propel the Cavaliers to the finals.