If you are looking for March Madness underdogs to ride into the NCAA Tournament, championship week can be a good glimpse into what it takes to keep dancing all the way into April.
We are assuming those who love Kansas at +600 and Gonzaga at +800 aren't looking for the Cinderella story. This is a partial team picture of the teams with a chance to take down the favorites. So we're eschewing new kids on the block Dayton — simply because of their rapid rise to near-favorite status at +1000 — for the next kid on the block. For more on this, check out betoclock.com
Not all of the budget buys we picked out for your mid-March spend have what it takes to get to Atlanta, but once the bracket comes together, the path to the Final Four can shift dramatically.
There are many good reasons to love the Bears, even if few of them showed up in the closing games of the season. Starting with the fall from No. 1 in the Top 25 with a loss in Waco to Kansas, plenty of flaws were exposed in February and March. Can Scott Drew's crew flip the switch starting with the Big 12 tournament? They'll enter Kansas City at +1150 to win the national title, which is down from their best of +900 two weeks ago but better than the odds Kansas — reminder, the Jayhawks are No. 1 in the nation right now — had to open the 2019-20 season. Worth noting: Baylor started the season +6000.
At 26-4, Baylor has marquee wins — 67-55 at Kansas on Jan. 11 being the gold star among them — and lost the rematch to the Jayhawks by just three points.
Because of the love-hate relationship college basketball fans have with the Blue Devils, there is rarely a time Duke trickles into bargain territory. Now is that time.
Duke is 25-6, and while analysts fear hell has frozen over because the Blue Devils broke out a (gasp, gasp) zone defense, this is the same team with banner victories this season over Kansas, Michigan State and Florida State — all current top 10 teams. No, there's not a Zion Williamson to carry the day when the madness gets real, but Duke does have the ACC Player of the Year (Tyus Jones), defensive player of the year (Jones) and rookie of the year (Vernon Carey Jr.).
When Duke beat Kansas in November, the Blue Devils were +700. In mid-February, Duke could be had at +1200. Now DraftKings installs the Devils as an underdog-ish +2000.
That means the Devils are on the same line as Louisville — a former No. 1-ranked team that looks nothing like it these days — but the talent will rise this month.
What's not to like about the Ducks?
With versatility and balance, Dana Altman has a team with upset potential but not necessarily a club that wants to enter the NCAA Tournament with a target on its back. Payton Pritchard might not be a big name nationally — he should be — but Dillon Brooks had a similar Pac-12 cult following before his Shining Moment in March. Teamed with Shakur Juiston, Pritchard is not a solo act, and the Ducks should come in with some bounce.
They're losing some love from the masses — down from +2000 to +3000 at DraftKings — but this is an occasion where it's acceptable to begin your own queue for your March Madness underdogs.
It's John Calipari, a defense that knows how to bring it and the ability to play three point guards at the same time that makes these Wildcats such an intriguing March Madness underdogs buy at +1500.
The Wildcats are built for March. Yes, you'll throw the remote when Ashton Hagans misses a few layups, but you'll celebrate when he comes back with a steal at the other end.
Sam Merrill is one of the slickest shooters and scorers in the tournament field, and we thought that before the Aggies shot down San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference tournament.
At +3000, Utah State made a monumental rise based on the MWC tourney result — three days earlier, they were +10000 at multiple books — and could slot in as the dreaded No. 12 seed with a serious shot to reach the Elite Eight.
Left for dead in January, the Badgers were in the Big Ten regular-season championship picture because the motion offense started to hum and Wisky went from +10000 at multiple books to +5000 entering the rough-and-tumble Big Ten tournament.
While we like Maryland — +1600 entering Indianapolis — and Michigan State will always be a tough out this time of year (the Spartans are steady at +1500, per DraftKings), a team is going to make some noise this month coming out of the nation's top conference.
When leagues are this loaded, often in March it might not be the teams you expect that are the last one(s) standing.