NCAA Tournament 2015: Opening Odds for Every Team
The 2015 NCAA tournament field has been revealed, and we've placed odds on each team winning the whole kit and caboodle.
In many cases, these won't even come close to matching up with the odds you might find at your local sportsbook, but they are our best estimate at the actual odds each team has of winning it all. Also, our odds add up to just a hair over 100 percent, while the odds in Las Vegas typically add up to close to 135 percent.
The biggest favorite (Kentucky) won't come as a surprise to anyone, but the other three No. 1 seeds aren't the three teams with the next-best odds.
***DISCLAIMER*** It should be noted that you can't actually bet on these odds.
Unless, of course, you want to bet on a No. 16 seed to win it all. If that's the case, we're all ears.
No. 16 Seeds
For the fourth consecutive year, a team with a sub-.500 record gets an invitation to the NCAA tournament.
The Pirates played three games against major-conference teams, losing to Iowa, Illinois and Syracuse by a combined 70 points.
Robert Morris (3,000,000–1)
The best team Robert Morris beat this season was Louisiana-Monroe.
That isn't a compliment.
As minor conference tournaments were crowning champions and locking up No. 16 seeds, the prevailing sentiment seemed to be that Manhattan would beat Robert Morris in a play-in game, hence the oh-so-slightly better odds of winning it all. However, this Manhattan team isn't anywhere near as talented as the one that earned a No. 13 seed last season.
The Leopards can launch long-range jumpers as well as anyone in the country, but they haven't played defense yet this season.
North Florida (2,000,000–1)
The Ospreys did win a game against Purdue earlier this season, but they aren't playing Purdue to reach the round of 32.
Coastal Carolina (1,250,000–1)
As a No. 16 seed last season, the Chanticleers pushed No. 1 seed Virginia to the brink of history before running out of steam in the final minutes, and they got back the five leading scorers from that team. We're absolutely not saying Coastal Carolina is going to upset Wisconsin, but if it's going to happen this year, this team has the best chance.
No. 15 Seeds
Rather than the boy who cried "wolf," Belmont is the Cinderella who cried "upset." The Bruins participated in six of the last 10 tournaments, frequently being billed as a team that could surprise the world with a win or two. Instead, they're 0-6, and we've given up hope.
Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us six times, shame on Belmont.
North Dakota State (450,000–1)
Say this much for the Bison: They've played the role of Cinderella before, and they have an extremely talented and durable player in Lawrence Alexander. If he's hitting shots, surviving 40 minutes against this team will be no walk in the park.
Texas Southern (400,000–1)
In most seasons, the SWAC is a farmland where lambs are nurtured for a few months before being taken to the NCAA slaughterhouse against a No. 1 seed. But Texas Southern broke the mold by playing one of the best nonconference schedules in the entire country. The Tigers played eight true road games against the RPI Top 100 and even beat Michigan State and Kansas State.
Might Mike Davis' squad have another trick or two up its sleeve? Maybe. But we highly doubt it has six of them.
New Mexico State (350,000–1)
Like Texas Southern, New Mexico State challenged itself during the nonconference portion of the season. Good thing, too, because the WAC didn't produce another team in the RPI Top 250.
Though the Aggies didn't score the type of wins that the Tigers did, we'd rather put our super-duper long-shot money on New Mexico State for one reason: Pascal Siakam.
The 6'9" freshman from Cameroon averaged 13.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game during the regular season. Perhaps he can do what Sim Bhullar never could and lead this team to a tournament win.
No. 14 Seeds
The Huskies have a solid big man in Scott Eatherton, but their propensities for losing the turnover battle and frequently getting dominated in the paint could be major problems.
Too bad the Blazers won't get to face any Conference USA teams in the tournament. All seven of their RPI Top 200 wins came in-conference, meaning they went 0-8 against RPI Top 200 opponents during the nonconference portion of the season.
The Great Danes were our highest-rated No. 16 seed last year, and they didn't disappoint, giving Florida much more of a battle than most were expecting.
Albany lost a lot from that roster, but it retained arguably its two best players (Sam Rowley and Peter Hooley) while also adding a pair of key JUCO transfers in Evan Singletary and Ray Sanders. The Great Danes aren't going to win it all, but they could conceivably win a couple games.
Georgia State (10,000–1)
We spent the entire offseason falling in love with this potential Cinderella, and doggone it, we're not going to let a measly nine losses get in the way of that. (Even though some of those losses were to pretty terrible teams.)
Now, the problem for much of the season was that the Panthers were a two-man show, and one of those men—R.J. Hunter—has spent the entire season desperately searching for the three-point stroke that was so reliable last year.
But with Markus Crider scoring in double figures in every game in February, the Panthers' offense has evolved into a tripod capable of a deep run.
No. 13 Seeds
UC Irvine (125,000–1)
The Anteaters don't have much to write home about, so you'd be more than a little insane to bet your house on them winning it all. However, they do have 7'6" Mamadou Ndiaye, so you'd better at least tune in for their game just to watch him tower over everyone else on the court.
The Crusaders might be a very good team, but it's tough to make that judgment when the only respectable teams they played were Murray State and Green Bay. Granted, they destroyed Murray State by 35 points, but does that mean they can beat a No. 4 seed, let alone string together six wins against tournament teams?
They have played very solid defense all season, and they have a great, versatile, three-point-shooting big man in Alec Peters, but we're a bit partial to the No. 13 seeds who have either beaten a quality team this year or won a tournament game recently.
Eastern Washington (64,000–1)
If you don't love Tyler Harvey, then you don't love college basketball.
Cut from the same cloth as Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard, Harvey has developed into one of the most lethal scorers in the entire country while playing in a conference that never has much hope for multiple tournament bids. When he's draining three-pointers—otherwise known as days ending in "-y"—Eastern Washington can do some serious damage.
The quintessential Cinderella team from the past two years, Harvard needed one final playoff game against Yale to make the Big Dance this March. Losses to Holy Cross, Boston College, Dartmouth and Cornell aren't exactly indicative of a team ready to pull off an upset in March Madness.
But who cares, right? The tournament is a brand new season, and one in which the Crimson have grown accustomed to winning at least one game. Steve Moundou-Missi has come on strong over the past several weeks, Siyani Chambers has drastically cut down on his turnovers, and Wesley Saunders is still a beast.
No. 12 Seeds
Wofford sums up the inanity of the transitive property in sports: Wofford won at N.C. State by one point; Duke lost at N.C. State by 12 points; Wofford lost to Duke by 29 points. However, that win over the Wolfpack gives us a little something to believe in.
Wyoming has the most deliberate offense in the country, running the shot clock down under 10 seconds on nearly every possession. It's tough to watch and even tougher to play against for teams that want to run.
It's not due to lack of talent, though. Larry Nance has been one of the best players in the MWC over the past several seasons, and Riley Grabau leads the nation in free-throw percentage. This senior-heavy roster just prefers to play at a snail's pace and can be very dangerous in games played in the 40s or 50s.
If you're old enough to remember Bobby Hurley's playing days at Duke, then it shouldn't be a surprise that the team he's coaching plays some of the scrappiest basketball in the country.
Forced to compare the Buffalo Bulls to a major-conference team, we'd pick the similarly alliterative Baylor Bears. Neither is a great shooting team, but neither will ever lose a game due to lack of hustle. Buffalo's version of Rico Gathers, Justin Moss, recorded 15 double-doubles this season.
Stephen F. Austin (15,000–1)
The Lumberjacks—just like they did last season before upsetting VCU in the Big Dance—play very aggressive defense and dominate in the paint in the form of two-point offense and offensive rebounding.
It's been pretty unstoppable in the Southland conference, but can they do it against a quality team? Can they do it against six quality teams?
No. 11 Seeds
Ole Miss (50,000–1)
Is there a more erratic team in the country than Ole Miss?
Away from home, the Rebels beat Cincinnati, Oregon and Arkansas and pushed Kentucky to overtime. At home, they lost to Vanderbilt, TCU, Western Kentucky and Charleston Southern.
Feel free to pick them to win one or two games, but banking on a seven-game winning streak from this team is beyond insane.
Boise State (25,000–1)
The Broncos didn't have any great wins during the season, but Derrick Marks has been nothing short of fantastic over the past couple months. Hot shooting is the name of the game in March, and few have been hotter than Boise's senior guard.
Credit Archie Miller for one of the best coaching jobs in the country this season, but Dayton simply doesn't have the frontcourt to make a prolonged run in the tournament.
Shocking as it was for most to see UCLA in the field on Sunday night, it wouldn't be that much of a shock if the Bruins put together a deep run. The Bruins have gone 9-4 since late January, including revenge wins over Utah and Oregon. They also twice played Arizona tough.
We may not like committee chair Scott Barnes' vague note that the eye test was a huge reason the Bruins got in, but we can't very well argue with it, either.
The Cougars didn't get into the Big Dance by much, but now that they're in, they're a pretty decent threat for a deep run.
They don't play great defense by any means, but Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth are insanely talented. If either Skyler Halford or Chase Fischer is hitting three-point shots, it's going to take a lot of points to eliminate BYU from the tournament.
Serious question: How high does this line have to be before you can't help but throw money at it?
On the one hand, 200-1 seems way too low for the way the Longhorns have played this season. Yet, at these odds, Texas has more than enough talent to absolutely be the "long shot" we invest in. The range of possibilities with this team are pretty limitless.
No. 10 Seeds
Though they played close games against Kentucky (twice), Arkansas and Gonzaga, the Bulldogs didn't actually beat a tournament team other than Ole Miss this season.
Do you really want to bet on Tom Crean leading his team to six straight wins, all of which would likely be upsets?
Didn't think so.
The NCAA tournament is all about defense. Unfortunately, the Davidson Wildcats are not.
Davidson fans should be ecstatic with this line, though, considering how accurate I was in saying the Wildcats might not win a single A-10 game this year.
Ohio State (750–1)
Two words: D'Angelo Russell.
The NCAA tournament always ends up being about great guard play, and good luck finding a guard who played better than Russell this season. Because of him, there's little question that the Buckeyes will be the most popular pick to upset either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the round of 32.
No. 9 Seeds
Can anyone explain how, in a span of three games, this team beat BYU and North Carolina State before losing a home game to North Florida?
If it was just that one loss, we'd feel OK. But the Boilermakers also lost to Gardner-Webb, Vanderbilt and Kansas State and failed to beat a team in the RPI Top 30.
Between Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, the Tigers have the talent to win multiple tournament games. However, this team is far too wildly inconsistent to be trusted.
Sorry, but you don't lose to Auburn (twice), Missouri and Mississippi State before winning the NCAA tournament.
Oklahoma State (2,500–1)
Six weeks ago, this would have been a much different story. The Cowboys were 17-7 with a win over Kansas, a sweep of Baylor and a sweep of Texas. We resisted the urge to overreact, but there were several projected brackets at the time that had Oklahoma State as high as a No. 3 seed.
The Cowboys ended up on this line (and with these odds to win it all) by losing six of their final seven games, including losses to TCU and Texas Tech.
St. John's (1,500–1)
At long last, the senior class at St. John's gets to participate in the NCAA tournament. D'Angelo Harrison and Sir'Dominic Pointer both could have legitimately won Big East Player of the Year, so this is going to be a very difficult team to take out.
Will the lack of tournament experience play a role, though? Not only have these seniors never played in the NCAA tournament, but they are also 0-4 in the Big East tournament and 1-2 in the NIT.
Having to play without Chris Obekpa certainly won't help the Red Storm. The school announced hours before the Selection Show that Obekpa is suspended for two weeks due to a violation of team rules.
No. 8 Seeds
San Diego State (5,000–1)
If there's only one bracket rule to know, it's that you should never pick a Mountain West team to reach the Final Four. Heck, it's usually ill-advised to even take a team from the MWC to the Sweet 16.
For whatever reason, this conference seems to exist for the sole purpose of being upset in the tournament. So while we love San Diego State's defense and want to buy stock now that Dwayne Polee is back on the court, we would never, ever recommend picking this team to win it all.
Quite the opposite of Davidson, Cincinnati's defense is pretty incredible, but its offense leaves more than a little to be desired. Twice this season, the Bearcats held a drastically inferior team to 50 points, yet they still managed to lose by failing to score 50 of their own.
N.C. State (750–1)
The Wolfpack suffered a ton of losses this season, but how do you not get at least a little excited about these odds for a team that beat Duke, North Carolina and Louisville this season?
Think Joseph Young wants to do some damage in the NCAA tournament? The senior guard has averaged 23.1 points per game over his last 12—during that stretch, the Ducks are 10-2. If there's a Shabazz Napier out there, Young might be the one.
No. 7 Seeds
With the Hawkeyes, you always have to wonder if they'll score enough to win.
When scoring at least 65 points, they are 20-1, with the one loss coming against fast-paced, high-scoring Iowa State. When scoring fewer than 65 points, they are 1-10, with the one win coming against fast-paced, high-scoring North Carolina.
Sometimes data is stupid.
Back in mid-January, we gave VCU 8-1 odds of earning a No. 1 seed, but now the Rams are 1,000-1 to win it all.
If you were wondering how much has changed since they lost Briante Weber, that should just about sum it up. The Rams are still a very good defensive team, but they just haven't had the same edge as they did with Weber.
Michigan State (750–1)
On name recognition alone, Michigan State is going to get some love as a sleeper team. But as a team that went 0-6 during the regular season against the RPI Top 25, to win it all there's a pretty darn good chance the Spartans would have to go through at least three teams better than anyone they've beaten all season.
Wichita State (200–1)
The Shockers certainly have the tournament experience, but they simply don't have the size in the paint—especially when Darius Carter is dealing with foul trouble.
They could absolutely win a few games with Ron Baker setting the nets on fire, but asking this team to win six in a row is too much.
No. 6 Seeds
Which Xavier shows up? The one that won four games against the RPI Top 25, or the one that lost four games to teams outside the RPI Top 100?
It should be noted, though, that not one of those Top 25 wins actually came against the Top 20, so it'll be the first time this season if the Musketeers are able to beat a No. 4 seed or better.
The Vegas odds on Butler will probably be closer to 100-1—partially because of the people who will bet on the Bulldogs because they reached the title game in 2010 and 2011—but they are just 2-5 against tournament teams since early January.
What they've been able to do this year with an interim coach just one year after going 14-17 is pretty incredible, but let's try to be realistic about their championship odds.
SMU's best wins this season are sweeps of Temple and Tulsa—both of which spent pretty much the entire season smack dab on the bubble before missing the tournament. The Mustangs haven't had any opportunities to beat quality teams since November, but a lack of losses certainly doesn't mean we should suddenly believe in them to be unstoppable.
On the other hand, this was a preseason AP Top 25 team and one that has been much improved with Markus Kennedy on the court. There might be a shot here.
There are more complete teams out there than Providence, but there is not an opposing coach in the country who wants to deal with Kris Dunn and LaDontae Henton.
There hasn't been a No. 6 seed in the Final Four since Michigan did it in 1992, but the Friars have to be considered the top contender to end that dry spell.
No. 5 Seeds
West Virginia (600–1)
Even before VCU lost Weber, West Virginia was already the best turnover-forcing defense in the country.
The Mountaineers are not a very gifted team on offense, but their constant pressure on defense is enough to make them a serious threat for a deep run in the tournament. They should keep on winning until they get matched up against a team with a point guard who can handle their pressure.
It feels like Utah should deserve better than this. The Utes routinely annihilated Pac-12 foes not named Arizona and spent a few weeks ranked in the AP Top 10.
However, they went just 3-7 against the RPI Top 50 this season and lost their last five games against those teams, averaging a paltry 57.8 points per game. They might destroy the first team they play, but trouble will ensue once they run into some quality opponents.
Northern Iowa (150–1)
The Panthers are the ultimate wild card.
They play good enough defense to hang with anyone in the country—or so we're told. Against teams outside the RPI Top 100—also known as "teams they won't be facing in the tournament"—the Panthers have held their opponents to an average of 50.4 points per game.
In three of their five games played against the RPI Top 50, though, they allowed the opposition to score at least 70 points in regulation.
Seth Tuttle and company are pretty darn good, but we're also pretty darn terrified of trusting them to score and defend well enough to keep up with teams on the top three seed lines.
We'll say at least this much for the Razorbacks: They can score with anyone in the country. Bobby Portis is an unbelievable athlete who could cause problems in the frontcourt against pretty much any team other than Kentucky.
Arkansas has had trouble winning away from home in recent seasons, but winning four out of five road games to close the season is enough to instill a little bit of belief in a deep run.
No. 4 Seeds
Georgetown's tournament potential rests heavily on Josh Smith's ability to avoid foul trouble.
It's not often the big man is able to play 20 minutes without committing at least four fouls, but this is a much-improved team when he does. If nothing else, his presence in the paint opens up the floor for D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Jabril Trawick to go to work.
Let's not forget how badly we wanted to completely bury this team the moment Chris Jones was dismissed from the team. The Cardinals had a nice blowout win of Florida State and even won a game against Virginia without Jones, but they also lost by double digits to both North Carolina and Notre Dame.
In six games this season without Jones in the lineup, Louisville has only scored more than 60 points once. That's not going to cut it in the tournament.
Prior to the Big Ten tournament, Maryland was 8-4 away from home without a single win by more than 10 points. When Dez Wells is playing well, the Terrapins can hang with any team in the country. But do you really want to put your faith in a team that has to grind out every win it gets?
North Carolina (30–1)
"If they get healthy..."
It was the refrain at the beginning of every statement about Michigan State's tournament outlook last season, and it should be the same for North Carolina this year. Between Marcus Paige's feet, Brice Johnson's back and Kennedy Meeks' immune system, the Tar Heels probably haven't played a game at full strength since November—if at all.
There's minimal reason to believe they'll suddenly get healthy in the tournament, but the moral of the story is to not be too concerned about the number of losses they've suffered. There's more than enough talent on this team for it to make a deep run.
No. 3 Seeds
Can you make any sense of Oklahoma?
The Sooners went 4-6 against the RPI Top 25, 8-0 against RPI 26-50 and 2-4 against RPI 51-150. Give them a No. 8 seed and they'll apparently win every time, but who's to say they'll even beat Albany in the first round?
Notre Dame (75–1)
The 43-25 first half against Miami in the ACC tournament is largely the reason many people want to believe in the Fighting Irish as a potential Final Four team. However, getting outscored 38-27 in the second half of that same game is more indicative of how (in)efficient this offense has been over the past month.
They obviously have the talent. And with Bonzie Colson coming on strong near the end of the season, you'd think their offense would be better than ever. But it hasn't been, and we're concerned that inconsistent scoring in conjunction with poor defense is going to keep Notre Dame from advancing any further than the Sweet 16.
The Bears aren't the prettiest team in the country. They don't shoot particularly well. They turn the ball over a lot. But as far as hustle and muscle goes, you couldn't ask for a better squad. Baylor fights harder than any team in the country and just might be aggressive enough to win this whole thing.
Iowa State (50–1)
Pretty much the polar opposite of Baylor, Iowa State is a fantastic finesse team. The Cyclones like to run and gun, hitting a high percentage of their shots while preferring to avoid physical affairs. Whether they're actually hitting those shots in the tournament will dictate how deep they can go, and they have occasionally had some trouble finding that stroke away from home.
No. 2 Seeds
The Jayhawks shot 0-of-15 from three-point range in a recent win over West Virginia, and they went 0-of-8 from there in beating TCU in the Big 12 tournament.
In years past, that's probably no big deal—they'll just wear out the opposition in the paint. This year, though, Kansas has been heavily reliant on the long-range shot and was extremely lucky to win either of those games. For that stroke to completely fail the Jayhawks twice in a span of three games, we have to worry about their ability to hit shots in six consecutive tourney games.
These aren't your daddy's Zags. Cry all you want about Gonzaga's inability to reach the Sweet 16 in more than a decade, but this roster does have some national championship experience in the form of Kyle Wiltjer.
Wiltjer—arguably the second-most important player to this team's cause—was part of Kentucky's 2012 title team as a freshman before transferring to Spokane following the 2012-13 season. Perhaps he can infuse enough confidence in the Bulldogs for them to finally make another deep run in the tournament.
Will Justin Anderson be fully recovered from hand surgery and an appendectomy? What about Darion Atkins trying to recover from a leg injury suffered in the ACC quarterfinals?
Considering Atkins won ACC Defensive Player of the Year and Anderson was well on his way to being a Wooden Award finalist before breaking his finger, those aren't exactly minor questions. We're talking about arguably the two most important players on the roster potentially playing at a fraction of their usual selves.
Outstanding team defense should be enough to get the Cavaliers through the first few games, but they'll have a minimal chance of taking down a top team if those question marks continue to linger.
Though they are a No. 2 seed, we're giving these Wildcats the second-best odds of winning it all—just like we were expecting in the preseason.
Arizona suffered three losses during the regular season. Those losses were by a total margin of nine points, and the Wildcats left 26 points at the free-throw line in those games. It's not completely crazy to argue that they could or even should also be undefeated right now.
This is an extremely good and defensive-minded team, more than capable of beating any team in the country.
No. 1 Seeds
This line simply boils down to defense.
Since the inception of KenPom.com, each national champion has ranked in the top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency. At the start of the ACC tournament, Duke ranked 62nd in that category, and it arguably suffered all three of its regular-season losses because of defensive shortcomings.
At some point in the tournament, Jahlil Okafor is going to get into foul trouble or Quinn Cook is going to miss some shots. As such, we're left to wonder whether Duke's defense will be up to the task of keeping the team in the game through those tribulations.
Has a better team ever been less discussed for an entire season?
We're not even referring to the fact that it took two weeks too long for most to accept Villanova as a projected No. 1 seed. Even after the Wildcats jumped to the top line, there still wasn't much national dialogue about how great they have been.
However, you definitely don't want to write off Villanova just because you haven't heard its name very often this season. This is arguably the most well-rounded team in the entire country.
Not only are the Badgers better than they have ever been, but they're simply more fun to watch than ever before.
From passing a pretend basketball while running drills in a hallway in Atlantis to the stand, clap once and sit back down coordinated effort they pulled off upon hearing they had earned a No. 1 seed, they're just a bunch of goofballs who happen to be really, really good at basketball.
You can't underplay the value of team chemistry in this game—nor the ability to avoid choking under the pressure of the moment—and that's a big part of what makes Wisconsin one of our three favorites to win it all. The Badgers are just having fun out there, and they might have fun all the way to the title.
For several weeks, one of the most prominent debates in college hoops has been "Kentucky or the field?"
In case you haven't fully grasped how great Kentucky has been this season, think back to this time last year and the discussions about favorites to win the national championship. Florida was the No. 1 overall seed, but both Louisville and Michigan State were given great odds as No. 4 seeds.
In other words, there wasn't an overwhelming favorite, and you probably have to go back to 1990-91 UNLV to find a team this widely regarded as the most likely to cut down the nets.
Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.