When the madness started in early March with the annual NCAA basketball tournament, it looked like 2021 may be the year of the Cinderella, with a number of small programs pulling off upsets. Now, just days away from the Final Four, the cream has risen to the top, and all but one of the top-seeded teams are still in the competition. Only Illinois is missing from the semi-finals after they fell to Loyola in the second round.
Two of the best teams all season in college basketball, Gonzaga University and Baylor University, are still the favorites to win it all when looking at the 2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship Odds Tracker. The surprising note when looking at the rankings from this last weekend, the Houston Cougars, a #2 seed, are actually favored over the Michigan Wolverines, a #1 seed.
Because a number of teams like Oral Roberts, Oregon State, and even UCLA made it as far as they did, it makes it a little difficult to judge the remaining teams, and their odds at taking home a championship. Throughout the tournament, facing a #11 or #12 seed in the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight is a bit less of a test than facing another top program. No offense, but Oregon State isn’t the same kind of test that Florida or Iowa would present to Gonzaga or Michigan.
Now that the top seeds have made it this far, however, everyone should get an honest look at what these teams can do, and there’s sure to be drama to spare. That’s good for the general viewing public, but, as the odds trackers allude, the chances are good that any of these remaining teams could win it all. That means that there’s no real underdog to cash in big on at the betting window. While you could hedge your bets and put a little on each team if you need to scratch that itch, the low risk returns little reward.
What is good, is that Houston and Michigan aren’t playing each other, so the outsiders won’t eliminate one of their own. Where the odds are at this point, betting on a Houston versus Michigan matchup for the National Championship has good value. Cashing on a +550 or +600 isn’t a bad day at the office, and the time is now.
It was a very difficult season, and so many factors could’ve come into play, which has made this season’s odds timeline very entertaining to watch. Outside of Baylor and Gonzaga, who have been consensus top favorites since early January, there was a lot of movement as the Big 12 and Big 10 both looked deep and consistently had solid representation in the top 10.
Houston has already been highlighted here for having the greatest outside chance to win the NCAA men’s championship, but if they can, there could be some serious payouts. Back on February 18th, the Cougars made their debut in the top five with +1733 odds of winning the title. Bettors who took Houston on February 17th, when they had just the tenth best chance to win it all, got the Cougars at +1933. That’s a $9.6 thousand payday on just a $5 wager, and there’s just two games left between dream and reality.
When all is said and done, one of the top teams in college basketball will prove the old adage, “they are who we thought they were”, even for Houston to an extent. According to NCAA.com, just four times since the NCAA tournament bracket was expanded to 64 teams in 1985 have there been three #1 seeds in the Final Four before this year. Such an event has only happened in 11% of the tournaments over the last 25 years.
It may not be a traditional Cinderella pick to go with a #2 seed, but if there was a year to wager for the shoe to drop for an upset, the Cougars may be the right fit.