College Basketball National Championship Odds: Duke Now Favorite

Duke Blue Devils guard Jeremy Roach (3) and forward Wendell Moore Jr. (0) reacts after a play against the Texas Tech Red Raiders during the second half in the semifinals of the West regional of the men's college basketball NCAA Tournament at Chase Center. The Duke Blue Devils won 78-73 at Chase Center in San Francisco on Thursday, March 24, 2022.
Image Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

March Madness has reached the Final Four, with with only three more games remaining in a riveting season. The outcomes on Saturday and next Monday night have varied impacts on the college basketball national championship odds market.

Three of the four survivors — Duke, Kansas, and Villanova — have been among the national title favorites all season long. North Carolina has not, but obviously has an extensive pedigree and true blueblood status.

Jason Scott, vice president of trading for BetMGM, helps dive into an update on college basketball futures odds and current action.

2021-22 College Basketball National Championship Odds

Team Odds
Duke +160
Kansas +180
Villanova +475
North Carolina +500

Odds via BetMGM and updated as of 4 p.m. ET on March 28.

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Put Up Your Duke

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils looks on during their game against the Winston-Salem State Rams at Cameron Indoor Stadium on October 30, 2021 in Durham, North Carolina. Duke won 106-38.
Image Credit: Lance King/Getty Images

Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s retirement tour has reached New Orleans, and his Duke squad is the only one on the Final Four futures odds board that’s a winner for bettors and a loser for BetMGM. The Blue Devils (32-6 SU), who won the West Region as the No. 2 seed, have apparently shaken off the ill effects of a couple of big pre-Tournament losses.

In the March 5 regular-season finale, Krzyzewski’s final home game, Duke closed as an 11-point chalk against archrival North Carolina and got stumped outright 94-81. A week later in the ACC tourney final, the Blue Devils got smoked by Virginia Tech 82-67 laying 5.5 points.

Now, Coach K and Co. are favored to win the title.

“Heading into the Final Four, Duke winning the championship would be the worst result for BetMGM,” Scott said, though he noted the Blue Devils are only a “tiny loser.”

Duke has been a steady presence in the college basketball national championship odds market. The Blue Devils opened +1,400 at BetMGM a year ago, after the 2021 Tournament closed, and entered the 2022 NCAA Tourney at that same 14/1. Duke steadily shortened that price over the past two weekends and is now the +160 first choice at BetMGM.

The Blue Devils are No. 1 in tickets and money at BetMGM, well ahead of Kansas in both categories. Still, Duke first has to get past North Carolina in Saturday’s Final Four, which leads us to …

Trending Tar Heels

North Carolina Tar Heels forward Brady Manek (45) celebrates after the Tar Heels defeated the St. Peters Peacocks in the finals of the East regional of the men's college basketball NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Sunday, March 27, 2022.
Image Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

God bless anyone who jumped on North Carolina national championship futures back in mid-February, when a stunning home loss to Pittsburgh certainly had the Tar Heels projected to miss the Big Dance. For that matter, kudos to anyone who hit UNC just before the Tournament, with odds of +17,500 (175/1) available in a spot or two, and +12,500 (125/1) at BetMGM.

Carolina (28-9 SU) is now riding a 10-1 SU spree — and a noteworthy 9-2 ATS surge in that stretch — into the Final Four. Obviously notable in that run is the aforementioned road upset of Duke, whom the Tar Heels face Saturday. UNC also took out East No. 1 seed Baylor in overtime, in a riveting second-round game. And in the Elite Eight, the Tar Heels ended the Cinderella run of No. 15 seed St. Peter’s.

Despite North Carolina’s struggles through mid-February, and the long pre-Tournament odds, Scott said the brand name kept attracting action.

“UNC is high-profile and always supported. Money has been trickling in all season,” Scott said, though he anticipates the Carolina-Duke semifinal will see more Blue Devils action. “We expect Duke-North Carolina to be the most-bet game of the tournament and for the public to be on the Blue Devils.”

A Tar Heels national championship would represent a break-even outcome in BetMGM’s college basketball national championship odds market. North Carolina opened +3,000, and the +12,500 pre-Tourney price represented its longest odds. Bettors could’ve still gotten UNC at +8,000 pre-Round of 32 and +3,000 ahead of the Sweet Sixteen. Entering the Final Four, Carolina is the +500 fourth choice.

Among the Final Four teams, Carolina is tied with Villanova for the fewest tickets and is third in money. But noteworthy portions of those tickets/dollars came at longer odds, which is why the Tar Heels aren’t a winner for the book. John Ewing, data analyst for BetMGM, noted one solid payout looming: a $10,200 bet at +2,500, which would net $255,000.

Villanova, Kansas, And A Big Loss Dodged

Image Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

So who does BetMGM wish to see hoisting the trophy, when all the dust settles in New Orleans on April 4? Well, either of the two teams meeting in Saturday’s first semifinal: No. 2 seed Villanova vs. No. 1 seed Kansas.

“Those two are very strong winners. Villanova cutting down the nets would be a good outcome,” Scott said.

The Wildcats opened +1,200 at BetMGM, and could be had pre-Tourney and pre-Round of 32 at +1,800. You could still get +1,400 ahead of the Sweet 16, but ‘Nova now sits as the +475 third choice. Villanova is tied with Carolina for the fewest championship tickets and is last in money among the Final Four squads.

The Jayhawks opened +1,600, were +950 pre-Tourney and +800 before the second round. Kansas is now the +180 second choice, narrowly behind Duke. A Bill Self championship is a solid winner for BetMGM, despite Kansas having the second-most tickets and money among the Final Four participants.

More important for BetMGM than any team or statistic noted above is the absence of St. Peter’s. The No. 15 seed in the East Region made a bold run to the Elite Eight, with moneyline bettors cashing in large along the way, and plenty of customers firing on Peacocks championship futures, too.

St. Peter’s opened the NCAA Tournament at +300,000 — that’s 3,000/1 — to win the title, and after its first-round upset of No. 2 seed Kentucky, futures bettors couldn’t resist. The Peacocks moved to 1,000/1 after that victory, 200/1 pre-Sweet 16 and 40/1 pre-Elite Eight. St. Peter’s was sitting No. 3 in tickets and No. 5 in money, but at hefty plus-money prices that weighed hugely on BetMGM’s futures market.

On Saturday, a day before St. Peter’s regional final clash with North Carolina, Scott texted: “St. Peter’s [championship] futures are the biggest liability in the history of BetMGM.”

The Tar Heels squelched that liability, thumping the Peacocks 69-49 on Sunday.