It’s tournament time, and the bracket is set: Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas and North Carolina sit in the four No. 1 seeds in the tournament. Duke, Arizona, Kentucky and Louisville are in the No. 2 seeds. Since the start of the tournament in 1939, only 11 times has a team seeded lower than the No. 3 seed made it to the title game, according to boydbets.com and only four times since 1979 has a seed lower than that actually won. In 2014 it occurred when Kentucky, an eight seed, and Connecticut, a seven seed, met in the championship game.
Baylor, FSU, Oregon and UCLA round out the No. 3 seeds and while the odds don’t look fondly on the lower seeds, Vegas does looks kindly on those among the top 12 seeded teams in the tournament. According to vegasinsider.com, the North Carolina Tar Heels have the best odds at winning the tournament at 11/2. Behind them is their ACC rival, the Duke Blue Devils at 7/1 and the Kansas Jayhawks at 7/1. Duke has the best odds out of any two seed to win the NCAA title, according to Vegas.
The Villanova Wildcats are 8/1 odds, while Gonzaga, the last No. 1 seed, has 17/2 odds. Only three times since 1979 has a No. 1 seed not made the Final Four, so expect to see at least one. North Carolina has probably one of the easier routes to the Final Four out of any No. 1 seed.
Unless upset, their only real test will probably come in the Elite Eight when they will more than likely face either the UCLA Bruins or the Kentucky Wildcats. The Wildcats have some of the next best odds to win the tourney at 11/1 and the Bruins sit at 12/1. Look for one of the three teams to represent the South and potentially win the whole tournament.
Other No. 1 seeds like Kansas, Villanova and Gonzaga will more than likely be facing tougher opponents earlier on in the tournament. A No. 1 seed has won the tournament 19 of the last 34 years, so odds are one of the four teams will win it again. Gonzaga hasn’t faced a lot of high-end competition this season, but when they have, they’ve won. The Zags boast the best record in college basketball going 32-1; the only knock on them is the competition they’ve faced throughout the year.
They’ll have to potentially get past teams like Notre Dame, Arizona or Florida State in the later rounds of the Western bracket assuming they win their first game against South Dakota State. Gonzaga did beat Arizona earlier in the year, but it was without the team’s leading scorer in Allonzo Trier.
In the Eastern portion of the bracket, the No. 1 seed Villanova has a tough route to the Final Four. They’ll more than likely have to face Wisconsin early on and potentially face Florida and Duke in the later rounds making their path to the title rather difficult. In the Midwest, Kansas shouldn’t have too much trouble making it to the Final Four, unless they get upset by a team like Michigan State or Iowa State in the round of 32 or 16. The real challenge will come when they meet Louisville or Oregon potentially in the Elite Eight.
Cinderellas will show themselves and upset and bust millions of brackets. So prepare yourself for a titillating 10 days of college hoops.