When it comes to crowning an NCAA basketball champion, there is a lot that has to go right. You have to have talent, great coaching, be able to beat good teams, and stay hot for a few weeks. It is a single-elimination event so even a bad five-minute stretch can sink any team’s March Madness hopes.
The March Madness odds market is pretty fluid right now and the nature of how college basketball crowns a champion makes some teams with long odds great value bets.
For the purpose of restricting this conversation to the top college basketball title contenders here is a look at the top 11 teams with the best odds to cut down the nets in April.
March Madness Odds: Odds to Win the 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament
- Gonzaga Bulldogs +500
- Kentucky Wildcats +850
- Auburn Tigers +900
- Arizona Wildcats +1000
- Purdue Boilermakers +1100
- Duke Blue Devils +1300
- Baylor Bears +1500
- Kansas Jayhawks +1600
- Illinois Fighting Illini +2500
- UCLA Bruins +2500
- Villanova Wildcats +2500
Odds are via BetMGM as of February 17, 2022.
If you look down this list, you can probably find a fatal flaw with each of these teams. Duke is too young, Villanova does not have the depth, and Gonzaga has never won it all before.
Sadly, because they are a team that I like a lot, the team that would be the biggest risk to bet on right now is Purdue.
Will Defense Derail Purdue’s Title Hopes?
Right now, the Boilermakers are 101st in the nation in defensive efficiency at KenPom. They are 12th overall but that defensive number is staggering. Among the teams ranked ahead of them, no one is worse than 41st in either offensive or defensive efficiency and that number is held by Texas Tech and their limited offense.
All of the teams on this list of top March Madness contenders are significantly better in that area than Purdue, and history has shown us that you need to be at least competent defensively to win a championship.
This team is comparing very favorably to last year’s Iowa team featuring Luka Garza. They were awesome on offense but lost in the second round to Oregon as a #2 seed. That team finished 75th in defensive efficiency, so they were actually significantly better than Purdue is right now, and the Boilermakers are running out of time to improve.
The thing about their defensive deficiency is that it means they only have one way to win and that is dangerous. Purdue’s recent two-game stretch against Michigan and Maryland proved that, and in March, they are going to have to beat at least four teams better than that from the Sweet Sixteen on.
Is Purdue Too One-Dimensional for March Madness Success?
Purdue is the best offensive team in the nation. The offensive efficiency rankings at KenPom prove that and all you have to do is watch one of their games to see it in action (just not one of their most recent games).
When they are at their best, Purdue is a lethal offensive team thanks to their size and shooting. Zach Edey and Trevion Williams are not often on the floor at the same time, but both are physical mismatches for almost anyone not named Kofi Cockburn.
That inside game is given room to breathe too because the Boilermakers are third in the nation, making just over 40% of their three-point shots. That is a big reason it looks like a layup line inside because you just can’t sag off the shooters, they are too good. Purdue has five players in the rotation who are making over 40 percent of their perimeter shots.
The lone perimeter player who doesn’t is Jaden Ivey – he is shooting 38 percent from three – but that is not holding talent evaluators from believing he is the best guard available in the upcoming NBA Draft. He can shoot and is probably the most dangerous player in transition in the college game this season thanks to his athleticism.
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