NCAA Tournament Region Odds: Where To Find Futures Value

Kentucky Wildcats forward Keion Brooks Jr. (12) moves the ball around the perimeter during the SEC Tournament between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers on Thursday, March 11, 2022 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL
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Attacking NCAA Tournament region odds requires a much different approach from betting season-long futures.

National title futures are on the betting board for almost an entire year leading up to March Madness. For those who get involved long before the season tips off in November, the goal is to identify an overlooked contender early and lock in a great price. (For example, bettors who snagged Arizona at 50/1 early in the season got tremendous value. The Wildcats are currently the +600 second choice at Caesars Sportsbook to win the 2022 Tournament.)

Even with 68 teams in the March Madness field, there simply isn’t similar value to be had when it comes to the NCAA Tournament region odds market. For starters, numbers don’t hit the board until the bracket is set. Also, sportsbooks have had the full regular season plus conference tournaments to accurately assess every team.

If form holds, bettors often can get the biggest bang for their buck via another strategy: Wager on a team each round and “roll over” the money to the next round, in effect creating a four-round money-line parlay.

But what if form doesn’t hold? What if a No. 8 or 9 seed stuns a No. 1 in the second round? In that case, the other top seeds in the bracket gain value, and the pre-Tournament region futures would offer a better price.

On the eve of March Madness 2022, let’s dive into each region and try to identify which teams could provide value in the NCAA Tournament region odds market.

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook and updated as of 11 p.m. ET March 15.

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West Region

Duke Blue Devils forward Paolo Banchero focuses on an unseen player during the second half of an ACC game against the Miami Hurricanes
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The Favorite

No. 1 seed Gonzaga is the only odds-on (minus price) favorite in any region, at -140 at Caesars. That’s understandable. The Bulldogs, who rolled to the West Region title last year, are the clear No. 1 team in the country — without a single glaring weaknesses. They are No. 1 in the KenPom overall rankings, which also rates Gonzaga No. 1  and No. 7 in offensive defensive efficiency, respectively. The Zags also rank 20th in the country in 3-point percentage and third in rebound margin. In other words, go against Gonzaga at your own peril.

The Contenders

No. 2 seed Duke (+400 to take the West Region) is 12th overall in KenPom (seventh offense/44th defense), but the Blue Devils aren’t playing their best entering the Tournament. They have failed to cover in four straight, including an embarrassing 94-81 home loss to rival North Carolina in outgoing coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final regular-season game. That preceded an 82-67 whipping from Virginia Tech in the ACC tournament final. Duke also faces a tough path with a tricky second-round matchup against the Michigan State-Davidson winner before a probable Sweet 16 matchup with Texas Tech (which likely would be favored).

Speaking of Texas Tech (+550), the No. 3 seed has the No. 1 defense in the country, according to KenPom, which rates the Red Raiders ninth overall. But Tech can struggle at times on offense, and could be done in at the free-throw line (where they rank just 232nd nationally) or 3-point line (283rd nationally). Furthermore, the Red Raiders would be vulnerable in matchups against hot-shooting teams, such as first-round opponent Montana State (38th nationally in 3-point percentage and 50th in free throws) or potential second-round foe Notre Dame (16th in 3-point percentage, 40th in free throws).

The Dark Horse

No. 10 seed Davidson (50/1) has the offensive firepower to give any team trouble. The Wildcats are 41st overall in KenPom, but 11th on offense. They also rank eighth nationally in 3-point efficiency and 43rd in free-throw percentage. Davidson is only 152nd defensively, according to KenPom, but the ‘Cats are competitive on the boards and solid at limiting turnovers. Could Davidson lose in the first round to Michigan State? For sure. But it also wouldn’t be a shock to see the Wildcats in the Elite Eight against Gonzaga.

East Region

Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari reacts to a foul call in the second half during a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Amelie Arena in Tampa, Fla., on March 11, 2022.
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The Favorite

No. 2 seed Kentucky (+275) is the lone non-No. 1 seed to be a region favorite. The Wildcats rank third overall in KenPom (No. 4 on offense/No. 27 on defense) and haven’t had a “bad loss” all season. Coach John Calipari’s troops are also No. 1 in the nation in rebounding margin. That skill allows the Wildcats to create second-chance opportunities while limiting those of their opponent.

The Contenders

This is the most competitive region — both on paper and on the NCAA Tournament region odds board — as each of the top four seeds sit at +400 or lower.

No. 1 seed Baylor (+300 to win the East Region) has mounted a spirited defense of its 2021 national title, despite the loss of several key players, including forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua’s season-ending knee injury in February. Despite the injury woes, the Bears continue to fit the profile of a title contender. They sport KenPom rankings of No. 5 overall, No. 9 on offense, and No. 14 on defense. One potential stumbling block: The Bears struggle at the charity strip, ranking 235th in the nation in free-throw percentage.

No. 3 seed Purdue (+400) has the offensive ability to knock off anyone. KenPom rates the Boilermakers third on offense and 14th overall, and they have the fourth-best 3-point percentage in the country. Three big reasons to go against Purdue: It is an abysmal 307th in turnover margin; below-average at the free-throw line (218th nationally); and shaky on defense (ranked No. 100 by KenPom).

No. 4 seed UCLA (+400) lost a thriller to Gonzaga in last year’s Final Four, and the Bruins again have the look of a title contender, at eighth overall  15th on offense, and 12th on defense, per KenPom. The Bruins also don’t have any glaring weaknesses, and they protect the basketball (ninth nationally in turnover margin). This is the team that could end Baylor’s run at back-to-back titles and face a potential Elite Eight showdown with Kentucky.

The Dark Horse

No. 11 seed Virginia Tech (15-1) should be a No. 6, based on its No. 13 overall KenPom ranking. The Hokies won the ACC tournament title to secure their NCAA Tournament bid, and they have the shooting capabilities (third-best 3-point percentage in the country) to cause anyone problems.

South Region

Tennessee Volunteers basketball players celebrate near the end of their victory in the SEC tournament championship
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The Favorite

No. 1 Arizona (+160) has risen from preseason also-ran to the No. 2 title favorite behind Gonzaga. The Wildcats are second overall in KenPom (fifth on offense, 20th on defense), and won the Pac-12 regular-season and tournament titles. Despite playing in a loaded region, they won’t be an easy out.

The Contenders

No. 2 seed Villanova (+350 in the South Region) has been a little under the radar this season, despite ranking 11th overall in KenPom (eighth on offense, 28th on defense). The Wildcats also are the top free-throw shooting team in the country, always important come tournament time. And they shoot the 3 well (60th nationally). However, Villanova faces a treacherous path against the No. 7 Ohio State-No. 10 Loyola-Chicago winner in the second round, then might have to face Tennessee in the Sweet 16 just before even getting to Arizona.

No. 3 seed Tennessee (+400) turned some heads on Selection Sunday by only receiving a No. 3 seed after winning the SEC tournament. The Volunteers are No. 7 overall in KenPom (36th on offense, third on defense) and have beaten Kentucky twice and Arizona (at home) this season. However, for all his success, Tennessee coach Rick Barnes is still regarded by many as an underachiever come March. The stats support that reputation: In 25 tournament appearances as the coach at Providence, Clemson, Texas and Tennessee, Barnes has reached only seven Sweet 16s, one Final Four, and has never won the title.

No. 5 Houston (+600) should be a No. 1 seed, per KenPom. The Cougars rank No. 4 overall on the analytics site (10th on offense, 11th on defense) and romped to the American Athletic regular-season and tournament titles. All this after reaching the Final Four last season. However, Houston could be undone by poor shooting (both long- and short-range). The Cougars rank only 312th in the country in free-throw percentage and are average from beyond the arc (162nd in 3-point percentage). They also face a difficult path, starting with a tricky No. 12 seed in UAB, then potential matchups with any of the four higher seeds in the South.

No. 4 Illinois (+800) is hoping for a better Tournament after losing in the second round last season as a No. 1 seed. The Illini, who shared the Big Ten regular-season title, are 17th overall in KenPom (23rd offense, 30th defense), and they rank among the nation’s best in 3-point percentage (44th) and rebounding margin (24th). The negatives: Illinois lost its Big Ten tournament opener to Indiana (scoring just 63 points) and is a below average free-throw-shooting team (200th nationally).

The Dark Horse

It’s unlikely that UAB (50-1) could get all the way to the Final Four, but the Blazers won’t be an easy out. They are great (or at least well above average) in several key stats: sixth in turnover margin, 17th in 3-point percentage, 48th in rebounding margin, and 96th in free-throw percentage. Yes, UAB could easily be out in the first round against Houston. But it’s also not inconceivable that the Blazers get out of the first weekend and set up a Sweet 16 showdown against Arizona.

Midwest Region

Iowa Hawkeyes forward Josh Ogundele (left) and Iowa Hawkeyes forward Kris Murray (right) have a discussion while walking back onto the court during a game against Purdue
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The Favorite

No. 1 seed Kansas (+160) might have the easiest path to the Final Four, having been placed in the only region with no other teams in the top nine per KenPom. The analytics site rates the Jayhawks No. 6 overall (sixth on offense, 29th on defense). And you know Bill Self”s squad is battle tested: Playing in a 10-team conference that snagged six NCAA Tournament bids, the Jayhawks proved they’re the class of the league. After sharing the Big 12 regular-season title with Baylor, they easily won the conference tournament.

The Contenders

No. 2 seed Auburn (+220) is 10th overall in KenPom (24th on offense, eighth on defense). The Tigers won the SEC regular-season title but flamed out in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Auburn’s Achilles’ heel: Terrible perimeter shooting (258th in 3-point percentage).

Meanwhile, Iowa (+450) shows the relative weakness of the Midwest Region by having the third-best odds despite being the No. 5 seed. (By comparison No. 3 seed Wisconsin is +900, and No. 4 Providence is 20/1.) The Hawkeyes are peaking at the right time, having just won the Big Ten tournament, and they have the nation’s second-best offense, according to KenPom (13th overall, 77th on defense). Iowa can shoot the ball (40th in 3-point percentage, 64th in free-throw percentage) and protect the ball (seventh in turnover margin). If the Hawkeyes play their best game, they might be the biggest threat to Kansas.

The Dark Horse

No. 13 seed South Dakota State (60-1) has already attracted a lot of attention from bettors since Selection Sunday, dropping to just a 2-point underdog against Providence in Friday’s opening round. Why so much love in the betting market for the Jackrabbits? Because they’re the best 3-point-shooting team in the country and rank 36th in free-throw percentage. In a weak region, a hot offense could go a long way.