March Madness 2014 Odds: Highlighting Tournament's Best Value Plays

Richard Langford@@noontide34Correspondent IMarch 20, 2014

FORT WORTH, TX - FEBRUARY 24: Marcus Smart #43 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys shoots a three-pointer against the TCU Horned Frogs on February 24, 2014 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Odds are, either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed will win the NCAA tournament, but the low odds on the top eight seeds often makes those seeds an undesirable play.

As Sporting News points out, only 21 percent of the time over the last 29 years has a No. 3 seed or higher been crowned champions of college basketball's defining tournament. 

On top of that, 11 of the past 15 winners have been No. 1 seeds. Still, that doesn't mean a No. 1 seed is a good value play. 

For instance, as you'll see in the odds below, Florida checks in as the tournament favorite at 5-1. The Gators are the rightful favorite. They are the No. 1 team in the nation. Still, at 5-1, the fact that just four times since 1990 has the No. 1 team gone on to win the tournament sucks all the value out of the bet.

For a person confident in their selection of the eventual champion, value plays don't need to be considered. After all, the only value play is on the team that wins. 

For those who are more undecided, or want to take a flier on a low-risk, high-reward play, I have three wonderful candidates. First, have a look at the bracket and odds. 


All Your Bracket Essentials

Source: Bleacher Report


Good Odds

Michigan State 11/2
Louisville 8/1
Kansas 10/1
Wichita State 15/1
Duke 18/1
Creighton 35/1
Iowa State 40/1
UCLA 45/1
North Carolina 50/1
Kentucky 50/1
Oklahoma State 60/1
San Diego State65/1
Ohio State 65/1
Oklahoma 75/1
UConn 80/1
Tennessee 115/1
New Mexico 115/1
UMass 125/1
Memphis 125/1
Gonzaga 125/1
Texas 125/1
Saint Louis 125/1
Kansas State300/1
St Joseph's 350/1
Dayton 500/1
Arizona State 500/1
George Washington500/1
N.C. State900/1
Harvard 1000/1
North Dakota State1000/1
Field (Any Other Team)100/1
Source: VegasInsider on 3/19

Oklahoma State: 60-1

LAWRENCE, KS - JANUARY 18:  Marcus Smart #33 and Markel Brown #22 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys walk off the court during a timeout in the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse on January 18, 2014 in Lawrence, Kansas.  (Photo by Jamie Squir
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Oklahoma State is an intriguing play largely for one reason: Marcus Smart.

The sophomore guard has had an up-and-down season that included a suspension for shoving a fan, but he put that all behind him in a strong closing stretch to the season. 

Smart returned from his suspension on Feb. 22. In the seven games since his return, he's averaged 18.7 points, 6.0 assists, 5.7 rebounds and 4.3 steals a game.

His return sparked a strong run of basketball from the Cowboys. They've gone 5-2 and lost in overtime to Kansas in the Big 12 tournament.

With Smart playing at such a high level, this team is capable of beating anyone, and it appears that Smart is in the right frame of mind.

ABCNews passed along an Associated Press story with the following quote from Smart: 

This team has suffered a lot of ups and downs—a lot of downs for us. We're just trying to focus on positive notes and everything we've got going for ourselves. Right now, we're playing pretty good basketball.

It's no secret that great guard play is the basis for success in the NCAA tournament. With Smart at the helm, the Cowboys are going to get great guard play. 

Oklahoma State faces the possibility of playing No. 1 seed Arizona in the round of 32. If it can survive that test, the Cowboys will have a chance to keep their momentum rolling in a suspect West. 


Baylor: 75-1

Mar 13, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Baylor Bears head coach Scott Drew speaks with guard Kenny Chery (1) during a timeout during the second half against the Oklahoma Sooners in the second round of the Big 12 Conference college basketball tournament at Spr
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

The Baylor Bears are peaking at the right time. They enter the tournament having won 10 of their last 12.

That run saw them reach the Big 12 tournament finals before falling to Iowa State (No. 3 seed in the East). The closing stretch included quality wins with a 13-point victory Iowa State and a four-point win over Oklahoma (No. 5 seed in the West).

Kenny Chery was at the heart of the turnaround. After being limited by injury, he got healthy and returned to the starting lineup. He's been fantastic since.

NBC Sports' Rob Dauster helps illustrate Chery's fine closing stretch:

Chery is a complete player and he makes a positive impact in all phases of the game. He also has weapons around him. 

Cory Jefferson and Brady Heslip are competent scorers and Isaiah Austin provides a strong inside presence on defense. 

Baylor is in the West with Oklahoma State. but it is in the lower half where Wisconsin (2) and Creighton (3) are the top seeds. Baylor has a chance to quickly open eyes while romping through this region. 


Cincinnati: 90-1

Mar 19, 2014; Spokane, WA, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Mick Cronin addresses the media in a press conference during practice before the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at Veterans Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Spor
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati deserved a higher seed. The AAC champions are the fifth seed in the East.

This is a tough team that plays wonderful defense. The Bearcats are sixth in the nation in points allowed per game.

Head coach Mick Cronin thinks the root of the low seeding was that the AAC didn't get enough respect. 

"I thought the American Athletic Conference as a whole, I think it would be very obvious to say didn't get a lot of respect from top to bottom," Bill Koch on quoted Cronin as saying.

The Bearcats can play with anyone. On Feb. 22, they fell to Louisville by just one point. 

Offensively, the Bearcats rely on senior guard Sean Kilpatrick. He averaged 20.7 points per game this year. Dauster knows he's legit: 

He will have to have a fantastic tournament for the Bearcats to make a magical run, but the defense is a great foundation for success. 


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