The 5 best NCAA Tournament title bets (other than Gonzaga and Baylor)
By Jason McIntyre
FOX Sports Betting Analyst
We’re less than three weeks away from the start of the NCAA Tournament, and while everyone is expecting undefeated Gonzaga and Baylor to waltz to the title game, history tells us that won’t happen.
The last time a No. 1 overall seed won the NCAA Tournament was Louisville back in 2013. In fact, those Peyton Siva-led Cardinals were the most recent No. 1 overall seed to even get to the title game. It’s called March Madness for a reason.
Widely considered the best team in the country not named Gonzaga or Baylor, the Wolverines are 16-1, with the lone blip being a random 75-57 loss to Minnesota in mid-January. They were without senior guard Eli Brooks, a two-year starter who is their best perimeter defender and handles backup point guard duties.
The Wolverines are 13-4 against the spread (76.5%) and have one of the best post players in the country in freshman center Hunter Dickinson, a 7-foot-1 throwback whose skilled post moves remind me of a heftier Kevin McHale.
Michigan is an offensive machine, ranking 16th in 3-point efficiency and 15th in 2-point efficiency. Everyone knows guards rule in March, and the senior tandem of Brooks and Mike Smith is perhaps the best duo in the Big Ten. Anything less than the Final Four will be a disappointment.
The Illini have one of the best one-two punches in the country in All-American guard Ayo Dosunmu and 7-footer Kofi Cockburn. The problem: What happens when both have an off night? That’s what hurt Illinois in a 82-69 loss to Baylor in December, a game that was nip and tuck for the first 27 minutes.
If forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili can return to the dominant player he was as a freshman in 2018-19 (12.5 PPG, 54% FG shooting), I’ll like the Illini’s chances. Last year Illinois was 310th in the country in 3-point field goal efficiency; this season, the team is 13th. The biggest red flag is 68% from the foul line, which ranks 246th in the nation.
Yes, a football school has a great chance of making its first trip to the Final Four. The Tide made the Elite Eight in 2004 behind Kennedy Winston, knocking off top-seeded Stanford along the way.
This version of Alabama’s offense is prone to struggles — held to 66 points or fewer, they’re 0-5 — and they’re 145th in the country in 2-point field-goal shooting.
But with senior leaders John Petty and Herbert Jones, talented young players Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly, and a coach in Nate Oats who has some NCAA Tournament experience, the Tide have the ingredients of a team that can make a serious run. Did we mention the Tide have beaten five teams ranked in the Ken Pom top 30? And they’re fourth in defensive efficiency?
West Virginia (+2000)
Few teams can say they stood toe-to-toe with Gonzaga, but in early December, West Virginia used its size and strength to nearly upset the No. 1 team in the country. WVU led by two with 6:40 left before caving late.
It should be noted that was the game Gonzaga star Jalen Suggs left briefly due to an injury, but he returned to play 26 minutes. WVU also had burly Oscar Tshiebwe (14 points, nine rebounds), and he has since transferred to Kentucky.
WVU’s issues are on offense (289th in the country in 2-point field goal percentage), and they’re spotty on defense (67th in the country). But Bob Huggins is a great coach, with an accomplishment no other coach on this list can claim: two trips to the Final Four (1992, 2010).
Florida State (+2500)
The Seminoles have played only 17 games due to COVID-19, and they’ve played only one top-25 team, according to the Ken Pom rankings. That would be Virginia, which the Seminoles wrecked 81-60.
FSU’s defense doesn’t project as a title contender – 51st nationally – and the Noles don’t defend the 3-pointer well (201st in the country). But the eighth-most efficient offense in college basketball, led by superstar freshman Scottie Barnes, could put together a run.
When you consider the odds for FSU, and the fact that 19 of the past 20 title winners were seeded 1-2-3, the Seminoles are a great value play. Senior guard M.J. Walker was on the 2019 FSU team that lost the ACC title game to Zion Williamson and then went down to Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.
Jason McIntyre is a FOX Sports gambling analyst, and he also writes about the NFL and NBA Draft. He joined FS1 in 2016 and has appeared on every show on the network. In 2017, McIntyre began producing gambling content on the NFL, college football and NBA for FOX Sports. He had a gambling podcast for FOX, "Coming Up Winners," in 2018 and 2019. Before arriving at FOX, he created the website The Big Lead, which he sold in 2010.