EatWatchBet Logo

College Basketball Odds: Who is the Favorite to Win March Madness?

Nicholas Berault
Written by Nicholas Berault
March 21, 2024
College Basketball Odds Who is the Favorite to Win March Madness

The first preseason polling released before the men’s college basketball season features a familiar program atop the list and several more blue bloods challenging for supremacy after a chaotic ending to March Madness 2023.

46 of the 63 first-place votes were awarded to the Kansas Jayhawks. According to the NCAA, they’ve now tied Kentucky as the only teams to be named preseason favorites four times since this kind of balloting began.

The others getting love from pollsters include second-ranked Duke (11 first-place votes), #3 Purdue (3), #4 Michigan State (1), and the defending champions from a season ago, the UConn Huskies. Dan Hurley’s tournament juggernaut from the spring will begin the 2023 season as the number six team in the country and received a pair of votes for the top spot in the poll after some key departures in the offseason.

We’ll dig into which teams are getting attention heading into the season, whether the sportsbooks agree, and provide our best bet for season-long value.

No futures odds data available for this event.

Previously on NCAA Basketball…

Just like your favorite Netflix show, we reached back into the EatWatchBet archives from late March to review our Final Four preview from Houston earlier this year. As a quick refresher, we highlighted that three of the four teams were making their first Final Four appearance, which hadn’t happened since 1970.

That Florida Atlantic, Miami, and San Diego State trio is fully represented in the preseason top 25 heading into this season. FAU slots in at tenth, the Canes rank 13th, and SDSU is a respectable 17th.

The Connecticut Huskies captured their fifth national title in six Final Four appearances, becoming just the fifth team in tournament history to win every game by 10+ points. All four previous instances have happened since 2000, with Michigan State and Duke going back-to-back in 2000-01, UNC accomplishing the feat in 2009, and Villanova’s 2018 team matching them during their second title in three seasons.

The top three teams heading into this season all suffered disappointing, early exits from the NCAA tournament a season ago. Kansas and Duke both fell in the second round as slight favorites, but it was Purdue that had the tournament to forget.

The Boilermakers joined Virginia in infamy as the only top-seeded teams to lose to 16-seeds in the round of 64. Fairleigh Dickinson held the Big Ten champs to 19% shooting from three and forced 16 turnovers to make history. Purdue returns all five starters this season, which, and both arguments could be made, either helps or harms their chances of improving upon 2023’s end result.

Comparing the Voters to the Oddsmakers

The sportswriters and sportsbooks are on the same page with the top three. Kansas, Duke, and Purdue top both lists in that order. Seven of the top-ten ranked teams are represented in the top ten programs at the betting window, with the exceptions being #8 Creighton (+2500), #9 Tennessee (+3000), and FAU at ten (+4000).

The Jayhawks (+1000) return three of their top-five scorers from 2022-23 and added Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, the All-American center, to give them one of the most talented rosters in the country on paper. Three other teams from their conference are ranked in the early poll, including newcomer Houston. Kansas will be tested early out of their conference with games against Kentucky and UConn within their first six contests.

Bookmakers have shown an affinity for the 16-ranked Kentucky Wildcats, who are fourth on the odds sheet at +1400. John Calipari’s program has not made a Final Four since 2015, though they signed three of the top six recruits in the 2023 incoming class, according to 247 Sports. The freshmen reload strategy has worked in the past in Lexington, and the sportsbooks are banking on that to be the case again this season.

Duke (+1100) returns all four of their leading scorers to earn the distinction of top challenger to Kansas’ ranking. Coach Jon Scheyer, who signed a six-year extension after his conference-winning inaugural season as head coach, leads preseason All-American Kyle Filipowski and company in the second year of the post-Coach K era.

Zach Edey and Purdue (+1200) would love to follow in the footsteps of the 2018-19 Virginia Cavaliers after the way their season ended in March. Tony Bennett’s team won the program’s only championship after being the first #1 seed to fall to a 16-seed in the prior NCAA Tournament.

Edey himself is repeating what Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe did last year: return to his team after being named National Player of the Year instead of opting to go pro. He and his familiar surrounding cast will need to significantly improve on last year's tournament result to be considered successful.

Michigan State (+1500) is fourth in the polls and fifth on the odds list, coming off two straight seasons where they entered the NCAA Tournament as a 7-seed and were gone before the Elite Eight. Dick Vitale declared Sparty to have the best backcourt in the country in one of his ESPN season previews, led by All-Big Ten selection Tyson Walker.

Recent History of Defending Champions

Winning a championship is hard but defending that feat may be even more difficult. No reigning NCAA Basketball champion on the men’s side has advanced past the Sweet 16 since Florida’s back-to-back national titles in 2006-07.

You’d have to look back to the 2015-16 Duke Blue Devils to find the last time a team made a Sweet 16 appearance a season after cutting down the nets. For Connecticut, all five of their championship runs have come within the last 25 years.

In the four previous seasons that followed their title-winning campaigns, they have three second-round exits (1999-00, 2004-05, 2011-12) and one missed NCAA Tournament (2014-15).

Best Bet to Win National Title: Purdue +2000 (Unibet)

We'll make the case for the optimistic scenario in East Lafayette. Matt Painter’s team has all five starters returning this season, which continues to resemble the turnaround that UVA underwent to lift the championship trophy in 2019.

Edey is the overwhelming favorite to repeat as the Wooden Award winner. Michigan State stands out as the team most likely to dethrone them within the Big Ten during the final year of the conference’s current makeup, and Purdue beat them twice last season.

Their combination of experience and talent will make them competitive in every game this season, and early tests against Gonzaga, Alabama, and Arizona will be worthy benchmarks as to what their national title hopes should be. We’ll hop aboard the train and ride with the Boilers in 2023-24.

January 16 Update

Four teams have held the #1 ranking in the coaches poll through 11 weeks of the season as programs get into the meat of their conference schedules. Defending champ UConn climbed to the top spot for the first time this season in mid-January after starting 5-1 in the Big East. The Huskies already have wins against Texas, Gonzaga, and #4 UNC and are +1800 to repeat as NCAA champions.

Our Purdue future has aged well. The Boilers have been ranked #1 for five weeks this season, the most of any team, and have the best odds to win the title currently at +850, while big man Zach Edey is fifth in the country in scoring and rebounding.

Arizona (+1100) is hanging tough on the odds sheet despite losing four of eight, and Houston (+1000) has dropped two in a row to Iowa State and TCU after starting the season 14-0. Marquette (+2200) has also stumbled in a few conference matchups but is viewed by bookmakers as UConn’s toughest opponent in the Big East.

The Kansas Jayhawks (+1800) have gotten outstanding play from Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar Jr., both averaging more than 19 points per game. They’ll need more from other contributors to stave off the competition in the Big 12, where seven other ranked teams reside.

Finally, Duke (+2200) has won eight straight to climb back into the top ten after being ranked #2 in the preseason. Michigan State (+5000), another team billed in the top four before the season, has not experienced the same rebound to a rocky start. The Spartans hold the 11th seed in the Big Ten and are 10-7 overall.

February 6 Update

Purdue continues to lead the way in their quest to bring home an NCAA Tournament title. The Boilermakers have improved their odds from +850 to +700 to top the leaderboard, mainly thanks to Wooden Award candidate Zach Edey. Purdue looks bound and determined to make up for last year's embarrassing loss to Fairleigh Dickinson.

This might seem like an obvious point, but don't count out the defending champ UCONN Huskies! They are currently 20-2 and rated as the No. 1 team in the country in most polls. The Huskies are led by Tristen Newton, but they have 5 players that average 10.0 points per game or better. That's some serious depth!

Holding down the third spot is the Houston Cougars, who are looking to make 5 straight Sweet 16 appearances. The Cougars are 19-3 on the season and play a ferocious man-to-man defense that's hard to overcome. LJ Cryer leads the team by averaging 15.5 points per contest.

February 16 Update

Remember when we said to not sleep on the UConn Huskies? That statement has already come to fruition, as the defending champs just surpassed the Purdue Boilermakers for the No. 1 spot on the NCAA championship odds board. The Huskies have gone from +750 to +600 just in the last 10 days.

UConn currently has 45 of the 61 first place votes in the AP Poll and 24 of 32 first place votes in the Coaches Poll. Cam Spencer currently leads the Huskies in both points per game and steals per game. UConn and Purdue could be on a collision course for an NCAA Title Game showdown.

Also trending upward is Marquette. The Golden Eagles have 5 losses on the season, but Tyler Kolek has been lighting it up from downtown lately. Marquette now has 20 to 1 odds to win the title after being at 25 to 1 on February 6. Watch out for these guys!

February 27 Update

The Houston Cougars are now in the top spot in both the AP and Coaches polls. The Cougars have arguably the best defense in the country, and they always seem to get plenty of offense from guys like LJ Cryer and Jamal Shead. Even though they have the No. 1 ranking in both polls, sportsbooks still have the Coogs listed behind UConn as far as NCAA championship odds.

The Purdue Boilermakers are still in the mix for the title as well, even though they suffered an atrocious loss to Ohio State a few days ago. Even with that loss, the Boilers are 25-3 and tied with UConn for the best record in the nation. Anyone who plays Purdue has to deal with stopping Zach Edey, which is never an easy proposition.

One team on the rise of late has been Tennessee. Rick Barnes has the Vols playing some solid basketball, which is why they're currently in the NO.4 slot in both major polls. The Big Orange has a tough schedule down the stretch, but could play themselves into a No. 1 seed come tourney time.

March 21 Update: Start of NCAA Tournament

As the tournament is set to get underway, let's update the futures odds for one final time before tip-off in the Round of 64. UConn remains the favorite to repeat as champions of men's basketball across the sports betting landscape, boasting odds as short as +350 as of Wednesday evening.

The Huskies comfortably won the Big East regular season title and largely coasted to the tournament title en route to earning a one-seed in the Big Dance for the first time since 2009. Both starting guards were named First-Team All-Big East in their final college seasons.

Houston and Purdue represent the other programs with odds shorter than +1000 and could be considered the Huskies' toughest competition. The Cougars and Boilermakers would only meet in the Final Four if both won their first four games, while UConn is expected to be waiting for that matchup's winner in the title game if the bracket goes chalk.

Teams entering the tournament with momentum include conference tournament champions like Auburn (+1800) and Iowa State (+2200). Unfortunately for either team, the path to a Final Four banner goes through UConn.

Arizona (+1400) and North Carolina (+1600), both of which fell to their conference's eventual tournament champs, could be vying for a Final Four spot against one another if they earn Elite Eight berths. The Wildcats seek to end a Final Four drought of over 20 seasons, while the Tar Heels would like to cut down the nets in their region for the second time in three years.

EatWatchBet on Google News

Follow EatWatchBet on Google News to stay updated with our latest stories! Click the icon, and our betting picks and tips will be added to your Google News feed.

Latest From EatWatchBet

Bet365 Sportsbook Welcome Offer


Get exclusive access to our weekly picks, promotions, and more.
Invalid email address