March Madness Bracket 2017: Betting Advice, Historical Trends and Predictions

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 12, 2017

North Carolina's Justin Jackson (44) dunks against Duke during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, March 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

The NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament bracket is stacked with great teams and future NBA stars this year, which should make this year's March Madness one of the best we've seen in a long time.

Here's a look at some facts and predictions to get you ready for the Big Dance. 

 

March Madness Bracket

 

Betting Advice

Here's a look at the latest championship odds:

TeamOdds
North Carolina6-1
Duke6-1
Villanova15-2
Kansas8-1
Gonzaga10-1
UCLA10-1
Kentucky10-1
Arizona12-1
Oregon16-1
Louisville16-1
West Virginia20-1

Odds information per BetOnline (h/t OddsShark)

 

No teams stand out as a big favorite this year, with UNC and Duke sharing the top spot at 6-1. Eleven teams have 20-1 or better odds this year, signifying the depth of this year's pool.

If you're looking for a dark horse for a good return on investment, consider Louisville or West Virginia at 16-1 or 20-1. The Cardinals are a No. 2 seed and have an easier draw, while WVU has one of the best defenses in the country and can lay claim to crushing No. 1 seed Kansas by 16 points this season.

 

Historical Trends

The University of Illinois produced a great webpage called Bracketodds that dives into bracket math in serious depth. Here are a few interesting takeaways.

First, everyone always talks about a No. 12 seed beating as No. 5 seed in the tournament every year, but note that a No. 11 seed takes down a No. 6 seed just as often, winning 46 of 128 matchups since the tournament went to 64 teams in 1985.

Second, don't get too cute when picking your national champion. A No. 1 seed has won 19 times since 1985, and a No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 seed has reigned victorious 29 times.

Lastly, No. 10 through No. 12 seeds go on to the Sweet Sixteen more often than No. 8 or No. 9 seeds, which makes sense because the No. 8 or No. 9 team always has to play a No. 1 seed in the second round.

 

Predictions

Before the NCAA tournament bracket was released, I thought Villanova and Gonzaga were locks to make the Final Four.

That being said, their roads to the Final Four are incredibly difficult this season.

The Wildcats could be picked off in the second round (by Big Ten runner-up Wisconsin), the Sweet 16 (by standout defensive teams Florida or Virginia) or the Elite Eight (by ACC champion Duke, AAC champion SMU or the tough Baylor Bears).

Meanwhile, Gonzaga has a nasty draw in its regional as well. No. 8 seed Northwestern and No. 9 seed Vanderbilt have been playing great basketball in the last few weeks, with each making their conference tournament semifinal rounds. No. 4 West Virginia has the best press defense in the country, and No. 5 seed Notre Dame just made the ACC tournament championship game.

'Nova and Gonzaga could certainly make the Final Four, but there are so many road blocks in their way that it's a little difficult to put their names in pen on the Final Four line. Then again, that's the case for a lot of teams this year simply because the field is so loaded.

When in doubt, then, go with the sportsbooks. Duke and North Carolina have the best odds to win the championship at 6-1, and the guess here is that they meet in the final, with the Blue Devils taking the title.

Winner: Duke over North Carolina