With less than a month until the Big Dance tips off, the Big Ten’s Michigan State Spartans (22-5) and Big 12’s Kansas Jayhawks (23-4) are the 15-2 co-favorites to cut down the nets on April 4 at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark.
The Jayhawks currently sit atop their conference standings with an 11-3 mark, while the Spartans are not among the top three teams in the Big Ten with all of their losses coming in league play.
Michigan State still has some work to do down the stretch to work itself into consideration for a No. 1 seed in the 2016 NCAA tournament, needing to win out and perform well in the conference tourney. However, the Spartans have made it to the Sweet 16 four consecutive years along with seven of the past eight despite being a top seed only once during that stretch in 2012.
They have made two national championship appearances under head coach Tom Izzo, winning the NCAA title 89-76 over the Florida Gators in 2000 and falling to the North Carolina Tar Heels 89-72 in 2009.
Kansas has made it to the national title game twice under head coach Bill Self, winning it in 2008 as a top seed over the Memphis Tigers 75-68 in overtime and losing to the Kentucky Wildcats 67-59 four years later.
The Jayhawks play in arguably the country’s best conference this year, so winning at least a share of the Big 12’s regular-season championship for the 12th straight year should be enough to earn them a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the sixth time in 10 years.
The ACC-leading North Carolina Tar Heels (22-5) sit right behind Michigan State and Kansas on the odds to win the NCAA tournament at 8-1 to win their third national title under head coach Roy Williams as top seeds in 2009 and 2005.
The Tar Heels have made the Sweet 16 only once in the last three years though following an outstanding run of five straight years in which they made it to the Elite 8 or further. Last year as a No. 4 seed, North Carolina lost to the top-seeded Wisconsin Badgers 79-72 in the Sweet 16 of the West Region.
Other top teams in the mix to win the 2016 NCAA tournament include the Big 12’s Oklahoma Sooners (21-5), SEC front-runner Kentucky (20-7) and the Big East-leading Villanova Wildcats (24-3).
The Sooners are listed at 10-1 and were swept by the Jayhawks in two regular-season games but hope to make up for that in the Big 12 tournament. Kentucky is also 10-1 in another down year for its conference while Villanova is 12-1 as the nation’s top-ranked team for three weeks in a row.