College Basketball National Championship Odds: Gonzaga Slims Again

Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Nolan Hickman passes the ball against the Merrimack Warriors
Image Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

March Madness is right on top of us, with a sea of games being delivered over the next couple of weeks. And while all those matchups present potential betting opportunities, don’t forget about the college basketball national championship odds market, too.

As has been the case all season, Gonzaga enters the NCAA Tournament as the favorite on the March Madness odds board. But there are plenty of worthy teams behind the Bulldogs — and perhaps a couple of sleepers, as well.

BetMGM lead sports trader Seamus Magee helps dive into an update on college basketball futures odds and current action.

2021-22 College Basketball National Championship Odds

Team Odds
Gonzaga +300
Arizona +600
Kentucky +800
Kansas +900
Baylor +1,200
Duke +1,400
Auburn +1,400
Villanova +1,800
Purdue +1,800
Tennessee +1,800
UCLA +2,200
Texas Tech +2,200
Iowa +2,500
Houston +3,300
Illinois +4,000
Arkansas +6,600
Connecticut +8,000

Odds via BetMGM and updated as of 2 p.m. ET on March 15.

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Skinny Plan

Chet Holmgren #34 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs is seen during the game against the UCLA Bruins at T-Mobile Arena on November 23, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Image Credit: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Gonzaga’s price continues to get slimmer in the March Madness odds market. On March 4, BetMGM had the Bulldogs at +375, their shortest price of the season. As the NCAA Tournament prepares to tip off, the Zags are +300. That’s right: In what many consider a wide-open field, last year’s NCAA runner-up is 3/1 to win it all.

But it’s worth noting that Gonzaga (26-3 SU) has been at a short price all season, opening at +600 and maintaining its favorite status throughout. That hasn’t stopped bettors from playing the Bulldogs, who are second in both ticket count and money at BetMGM. Yet the house is fine with a Zags national championship.

“Gonzaga is a winner for the sportsbook,” BetMGM’s Magee said, noting the short price has limited the book’s futures market liability. “We’ve been a bit shorter on them odds-wise all year [than other books].”

Gonzaga is the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed, playing in the West Region. There are other legitimate contenders that work out well for BetMGM, too. Magee specifically pointed to Kansas, Baylor, and Purdue.

The Jayhawks (28-6 SU), the top seed in the Midwest Region, are the +900 third choice, after opening +1,600. Defending national champion Baylor is the No. 1 seed in the East Region and is the +1,200 fourth choice to win the national championship.

The Bears (26-6 SU) opened at +2,000 to repeat. Purdue (27-7 SU) has bounced around at BetMGM, opening +1,600 and getting as short as +700. The Boilermakers, who are the No. 3 seed in the East, are now at their longest price of +1,800.

Bad For The Book

Kentucky Wildcats guard Sahvir Wheeler celebrates during the second half against the Tennessee Volunteers
Image Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned in previous updates, a pair of Wildcats — Arizona and Kentucky — continue to be red flags behind the counter. Arizona (31-3 SU) could be had at +5,000 (50/1) preseason and is now all the way up to the No. 2 choice, at +600. Kentucky (26-7 SU) opened much shorter than Arizona, at +1,600, and is now the +800 third choice, with plenty of support from bettors.

“Arizona and Kentucky are two of the biggest [liabilities] among the contenders,” Magee said. “Tennessee is not great either. And Providence going all the way would be bad for BetMGM.”

Indeed, the Vols (26-7 SU) just beat Kentucky in the SEC semifinals en route to winning the conference tournament. Tennessee — the No. 3 seed in the South Region, where top-seeded Arizona resides — could be had at +4,000 preseason and is now down to +1,800.

And Providence (25-5 SU) was a +15,000 long shot (150/1) preseason at BetMGM, got as short as +6,600, and is now back out to +15,000. Which is interesting, because the Friars won the Big East regular-season title and are ranked 13th in the latest AP poll, yet don’t have many championship believers. In fact, despite being a No. 4 seed in the Midwest, Providence is just a 2-point favorite over 13th-seeded South Dakota State in the opening round of March Madness.

But there are enough tickets out there at those long prices to make Providence a concern in BetMGM’s risk room.

Duke (28-6 SU) is also a loser for BetMGM. The Blue Devils, seeded No. 2 in the West, are the second-largest liability, behind Arizona and ahead of Tennessee. After opening +1,400, Duke dipped into single digits at times throughout the regular season and are now back at that +1,400 opener.

Ticket Takers and (Maybe) Money Makers

Iowa forward Keegan Murray dunks the ball against Illinois
Image Credit: Joseph Cress-Iowa City Press-Citizen/USA TODAY Network

Magee said that over the past week or so, Memphis and Iowa have gained popularity in the college basketball national championship odds market. Memphis (21-10 SU) opened as a +12,500 long shot (125/1) and is all the way into +2,500. The Tigers are the No. 9 seed in the West Region.

Iowa (26-9 SU) made a similar gain over the course of the season, going from +10,000 to +2,500. The Hawkeyes, the fifth-seed in the Midwest, just won four games in four days to claim the Big Ten tourney title.

The top three in ticket count at BetMGM are Arizona, Gonzaga, and Duke, while the top three in money are Arizona, Gonzaga, and Kentucky.

College Basketball National Championship Odds: Dark Horses

St. Mary's Gaels guard Logan Johnson (right) dribbles the basketball and drives the lane against Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Rasir Bolton (left) during a West Coast Conference basketball game
Image Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

It’s always nice to find a team or two flying under the radar, particularly this late in the season. Magee pointed to a couple of No. 5 seeds in the Big Dance: Houston (29-5 SU), which is laying semi-low at +3,300, and St. Mary’s (25-7 SU), which opened +20,000 (200/1) and can still be had at +12,500.

“Houston wasn’t given a very good seed, considering their metrics and KenPom rating,” Magee said, pointing to the Cougars sitting No. 4 in KenPom’s metrics, but drawing the fifth seed in the South. “They are rated by many as one of the best in the country. They’re a team that could be worth taking a flier on.

“If you’re looking for a longer shot than that, I think St. Mary’s could be a team that could surprise some people and make run. They have one of the best defenses in the country and could be dangerous as in their [East Region] bracket.”