As the field of 68 becomes the Sweet 16, 52 teams have been ushered out of the brackets. Who has the best college basketball odds of winning at this point? The odds haven’t really changed for the two co-favorites, but they have definitely improved for two Big Ten teams.
Louisville and Indiana should still be seen as the two teams most likely to win the national title. Louisville is a co-favorite because it is playing the best ball of any team left in the field. The Cardinals were completely and utterly dominant in their first two games against North Carolina A&T and Colorado State, and they should not have much of a problem beating Oregon in the Sweet 16. The regional finals and (if Louisville wins that round) Final Four will be difficult, but the Cardinals have to like the way they’re playing.
Indiana should still be viewed as a co-favorite because it has survived the kind of game that an NCAA tournament winner usually has to endure at some point along the way. The Hoosiers did not play an impressive game against the Temple Owls on Sunday, but they competed at a high level, digging out a win on a day when they didn’t have anything close to their best stuff. Indiana has a great draw in the East Regionals, with Syracuse followed by either Marquette or Miami. Indiana will be a clear favorite in each of its next three games. Only in the national title game against Louisville – and not anyone else – would the Hoosiers be an underdog.
After Louisville and Indiana, two Big Ten teams are rapidly climbing the leaderboard in the NCAAs. Ohio State has the easiest path to the Final Four, with Arizona looming in the Sweet 16 and a Cinderella team, either Wichita State or La Salle, waiting in the Elite Eight. Ohio State is by far the best pick to make the Final Four at this point, more than Louisville or Indiana.
If there’s a hot team in the field other than Louisville, it is Michigan. The Wolverines started slowly against South Dakota State but were virtually perfect on Saturday in a 25-point blowout of Virginia Commonwealth. If Michigan can play at that level (as it did versus VCU) in the upcoming South Regionals, it will make the Final Four and become a headache for any team it faces from that point onward. Michigan lost to Indiana twice during the regular season, but if Michigan can play a high-efficiency game and get multiple players to hit three-point shots, as was the case against VCU, it can impose its playing style on any opponent, including the Hoosiers. Michigan would be a supremely motivated team if it played Indiana in the Final Four semifinals, especially since Indiana beat the Wolverines twice during the regular season, once by a single point after Michigan missed a front end of a one-and-one in the final minute of regulation time.
If there’s any other team that should be put on the short list of favorites, either Kansas or Florida should be there. KU and Florida are experienced teams with elite coaches (Bill Self for the Jayhawks and Billy Donovan for the Gators). They could both beat Michigan in head-to-head matchups. Kansas is probably the better team, but on the other hand, Florida won’t have to deal with Michigan in the regional semifinals.
Here’s a look at the college basketball futures odds for the remaining teams in the tournament:
LA SALLE +11000
MIAMI FLORIDA +800
MICHIGAN STATE +1250
OHIO STATE +850
WICHITA STATE +4800