The Kentucky Wildcats are really good. No, actually, they’re more than good. They’re dominant, unbeatable, and you can even throw in every superlative you can think of to describe them and the description will probably stick. Entering the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament, the Wildcats are on the precipice of becoming the first college team to go undefeated since the Indiana Hoosiers back in 1976, a telling reminder on just how dominant this team has been throughout the current season. Sports books have noticed, too, and when the odds for the tournament we’re released, the Wildcats opened at just above even odds to win the tournament.
Just above even odds, or to be more specific, 11/10. In other words, if you bet on a “Kentucky vs the Field” prop, you’re only getting slightly higher odds on that bet. Remember when Tiger Woods was on his absolute apex? Sportsbooks had to sweat those “Tiger vs the Field” props because they knew that Woods was dominating the sport back then. We’re at that territory now with Kentucky and the odds of them finishing off this remarkable run with a perfect season are, as the Hunger Games would say, “ever in their favor.”
By comparison, last year’s top overall seed, the Florida Gators, were 9/2 odds to win the tournament. Kentucky’s line is half of that. Half! So if you’re trying to make a bet on who wins the tourney, think long and hard on betting against the Wildcats.
But here’s the catch: as much as it appears that the Wildcats are locks to win the tournament, that doesn’t mean that we just pack our bags, give them the title, and just call it a day. That would be an insult to the sheer unpredictability of March Madness, where anything can really happen. One bad break here, one injury there, one shooting slump here, one foul trouble there, and the tournament is turned upside its head.
Supposing that you kneel at the altar of unpredictability, a host of other notable teams are getting incredibly high odds just because the Wildcats’ odds are so freaking low. When was the last time you saw three other number one seeds get 8/1 odds (Arizona), 9/1 odds (Duke), and 11/1 odds (Villanova)? Heck, the Arizona Wildcats, despite being a number two-seed share second co-favorite status at 8/1 odds with the aforementioned Badgers .
Move down the list and you have number 2 seeds like Virginia, Gonzaga, and Kansas get 12/1, 16/1, and 40/1 odds, respectively. Same with the three and four seeds. Of the former, Notre Dame has the lowest odds at 25/1, followed by Iowa at 28/1, and then Baylor and Oklahoma, both of which are at 50/1 odds.
You’ll notice how the odds of some two seeds are higher than those of the three seeds in other regions. That’s a product of these teams finding themselves in the enviable position of being in the same region as Kentucky. It might not be fair to them now, but if any one of these teams can somehow score the improbable upset, the odds they’re getting now represent a ton of perceived value.
In the end, betting on this year’s March Madness tournament boils down to one thing. How much faith do you have on Kentucky turning in the first perfect season since 1976? If you’re in that group that playing the tournament this season is just a formality to the inevitable Kentucky championship, then by all means, take the even odds and run away with it.
But if you believe in the sheer unpredictability of March Madness, then there are a number of higher-than-usual odds sitting there, waiting to be plucked.
As is always the case during March Madness, nothing is pre-determined. Absolutely nothing.
Odds courtesy of Bodog