The pre-March Madness betting values are approaching the final buzzer of Selection Sunday on March 14.
In a relative flash, gamblers will witness the end of the regular season, conference tournaments and the official seedings for the NCAA Tournament. This is the time to find value and assess the field for the tournament.
New Jersey online sports bettors, undeterred about being unable to wager Garden State teams here, follow both the Villanova Wildcats and the national circuit.
From a NJ sports betting perspective, they helped make Villanova the second-highest team bet at DraftKings Sportsbook in mid-February. Plus, the school’s proximity less than 25 miles from New Jersey makes it a betting natural.
Let’s examine Villanova and the national college-basketball circuit.
Villanova’s March Madness odds versus top contenders
Villanova is in a buy-on-the-dip mode. Its price reflects recent losses to St. John’s (70-59) and Creighton (86-70).
All the college basketball talk is Gonzaga this, Gonzaga that, with good reason. Gonzaga (22-0) seeks to become the first undefeated national champion since Indiana in 1976 and has towered above the field.
Entering the final week of February, these were the championship odds at DraftKings:
- Gonzaga +250
- Baylor +275
- Michigan + 450
- Villanova +1100
- Ohio State +1100
FanDuel Sportsbook and William Hill odds were similar, with slight changes. Villanova was locked in at +1100. FanDuel opened with Gonzaga at +270 and Baylor +300.
Michigan stood at +700 at William Hill and +450 at DraftKings. That’s a major opportunity for Michigan backers.
March Madness sleepers and their best prices
Illinois is + 2000 at William Hill.
West Virginia +3000 at DraftKings and William Hill.
Ohio State is +1800 at FanDuel.
Ohio State is ranked Number 4 in the last AP top 25. This is a big price for the Buckeyes’ high standing.
For the national championship, there is value all over the board because the eventual champion must win six times. But the outlines of the favored teams are taking shape and returns will soon drop.
This might be the last week for attractive prices on teams like Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor to win the championship. They are already prohibitive for everything else and Villanova is approaching that territory.
As far as current national championship odds go, here is a look at where teams stand at NJ online sportsbooks:
Final Four odds at FanDuel
Look at the odds to gain the Final Four at FanDuel.
Baylor and Gonzaga are both -300.
Villanova is +200, which indicates faith in the Wildcats but not great value. Bettors will need any of these teams to win four tournament games to cash in.
DraftKings and projected No. 1 seeds
As far as which four teams will earn No. 1 seeds, the answer is a little more than two weeks away.
However, there is still time for NJ bettors to get some action.
Gonzaga and Baylor are the heavy favorites, -10000, at DraftKings. Michigan at -500, is next. Forget about it.
But some value remains for the last projected No. 1 seed.
Villanova was +400 as of Tuesday afternoon, but securing it isn’t a lock. Here are the other teams currently ahead of them:
- Alabama +100
- Florida State +200
- Ohio State +200
- Illinois +300
West Virginia comes in at +400 as well.
The Wildcats return a 4-1 price and would have to beat out four teams. Fair odds, difficult task.
What about Villanova and Big East tourney?
Hold onto your money, unless you like Villanova at +110 or Creighton at +200 according to DraftKings.
Little upside, significant downside.
What to watch during the countdown:
St. John’s and Creighton both visit Villanova in the last week of February and first week of March.
Both teams hammered Villanova on their own courts in February.
The rematches will be interesting. If Villanova is as good as odds indicate, the Wildcats should win the rematches handily. If they don’t, that is cause for concern.
St. John’s is a real wild card.
DraftKings has the Red Storm at +4000 to win the Big East. St. John’s already defeated Villanova, but lost to 3-10 DePaul at home last week.
What is Villanova’s recent form?
Nova entered the final week of February at 14-3.
They started strongly, but had a string of games interrupted by COVID-19. Then came the losses to St. John’s and Creighton.
There is concern about Villanova’s defense and its ability to regain momentum. They come off a nice win over Connecticut, 68-60, entering the final week of February.
It won’t be surprising to see some bettors hedge, making a small bet now and seeing how Villanova exits these two contests before investing more.
March Madness watch
So, what is the next step?
Gonzaga wraps up the regular season this week and will likely finish undefeated. And then comes its conference tournament.
Gonzaga’s perfect record includes double-digit victories over Virginia, Iowa and Kansas. It has won its West Coast Conference contests by an average of nearly 25 points a game, so this team is a likely lock for a No. 1 seed.
Second-ranked Baylor has a perfect record including 15 double-digit victories.
Keep an eye on Thursday’s game between Baylor and West Virginia. This will provide an excellent barometer of where each team is and it may change wagering odds going forward.
West Virginia has been lurking in the shadows, squeaking past teams ranked in its vicinity of the Top 10 ratings.
The Mountaineers also gave Gonzaga its only close shave of the season, an 87-82 loss in early December.
Any victory or a very close loss to Baylor would substantially slice West Virginia’s championship odds.
Baylor-West Virginia is another great matchup to determine Big 12 championship odds.
Baylor is -167 at DraftKings, a thanks-but-no-thanks price for many bettors.
West Virginia is +600. But if the Mountaineers win Thursday’s game, that price will fall dramatically and Baylor‘s will go up.
A West Virginia backer would be betting now, a Baylor bettor would hope the Bears stub their toe in Thursday’s game and then load up on the more favorable odds that would follow.
That’s part of the joy in juggling the pre-tournament countdown. Sometimes you have to wait, and sometimes you have to act.
AP Photo/Chris Szagola