March Madness 2019: NCAA Men's Tournament Favorites and Predictions

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistMarch 16, 2019

Duke's Zion Williamson (1) talks with head coach Mike Krzyzewski, right, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Syracuse in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday, March 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Nell Redmond)
Nell Redmond/Associated Press

Duke versus the field. 

After watching the Blue Devils thrive with Zion Williamson back from his injury, that's the discussion college basketball fans will have going into the 2019 NCAA men's basketball tournament. 

Mike Krzyzewski's team will be the favorite to win the Big Dance, and it'll receive plenty of action on the betting front when the bracket is released on Selection Sunday. 

However, there are a few programs capable of winning the competition, such as Virginia, Gonzaga and others, who will have a say in how dominant the Blue Devils will be over the next few weeks. 


NCAA Tournament Favorites

Odds via OddsChecker

Duke (+250; Bet $100 to win $250) 

Gonzaga (+800) 

Virginia (+1,100) 

Kentucky (+1,400)

Michigan (+1,600) 

Tennessee (+1,600) 

Michigan State (+1,800) 

North Carolina (+1,800) 



Duke Cruises Into Final Four

The expectations for Duke will be remarkably high going into March Madness. 

Not only do the Blue Devils have Williamson, they also feature three other star freshmen in RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish and Tre Jones. 

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MARCH 15: RJ Barrett #5 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts against the North Carolina Tar Heels during their game in the semifinals of the 2019 Men's ACC Basketball Tournament at Spectrum Center on March 15, 2019 in Charlotte, Nort
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

With Williamson in the fold, the Blue Devils only lost twice to Gonzaga on a neutral floor and Syracuse in overtime. 

The Blue Devils may have stumbled on three occasions without Williamson, but with him back in the lineup, they look like one of the most dominant programs in recent college basketball history. 

There are some similarities between this year's Duke team and the last one to win a national championship in 2015, as both rosters had dominant first-year players. 

Krzyzewski led his team to a championship four years ago with Grayson Allen, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor headlining the squad. 

It's scary to think how much better Williamson and Co. are compared to the 2014-15 Duke team, and that's why the Blue Devils are the overwhelming favorites entering the Big Dance.

At the bare minimum, the healthy Duke squad will reach the Final Four as Williamson, Barrett and Reddish take turns in the spotlight. 

The final two games of the tournament are going to be much more difficult for Duke because of the quality opponents it'll face, but it still has the potential to overpower teams such as Virginia, Gonzaga and Michigan to capture the title. 


Michigan State Emerges As Tournament Dark Horse

Another team getting healthy at the right time is Michigan State, which got Nick Ward back from a broken hand for the Big Ten tournament. 

The Spartans won't be considered as favorites going into March Madness, as they have long odds and haven't made the Final Four since losing at that stage to the 2015 Duke squad. 

EAST LANSING, MI - MARCH 09:  Matt McQuaid #20 of the Michigan State Spartans celebrates with Cassius Winston #5 after defeating the Michigan Wolverines 75-63 at Breslin Center on March 9, 2019 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Ima
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Tom Izzo's team has a good chance to erase past tournament failures because of the balance it possesses with Ward back. 

Cassius Winston and Matt McQuaid are experienced guards who are capable of taking over games from beyond the arc, while Ward, Kenny Goins and Xavier Tillman can handle opponents in the paint. 

With a roster chock full of experience and a head coach in Izzo who has guided the Spartans to seven Final Four appearances, the Spartans should be considered as a title dark horse. 


Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.


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