March Madness: Top seeds, favorites, more

march madnessMarch Madness is now in full swing and the top seeds and favorites have been doing exactly what is expected of them by getting through their first games. Each region is shaping up nicely and looking fiercely competitive. The tournament is looking really interesting and feels very balanced across the board, and any one of a dozen teams could win it, but there are a few standouts, which we will run through in this article.

According to SBR trusted sportsbooks UNC is the favorite, followed by Gonzaga, Duke, Kansas, Villanova, Kentucky, Arizona and UCL, while there is plenty of danger further down the field.


North Carolina (+700)

UNC is in the same bracket as Kentucky and UCLA so it has a difficult route to the Final Four, but bookmakers are tipping it to get there. The tournament is all about redemption for the Tar Heels, who came agonizingly close last year only to lose 77-74 to a three-point buzzer beater from Villanova. Kennedy Meeks, who was left in tears by the result, is now a senior and the heart of this team desperate to win this and banish the bad memories. Justin Jackson has averaged 18.1 points per game, they have a strong team and have a great shot. UNC should coast through to the Elite Eight, but a real potential banana skin in UCLA could await there, so at +700 that is a risky bet.


Gonzaga (+800)

The Bulldogs have a great chance of winning this tournament. They had the best regular season record and – despite having an easier schedule than most, in the West Coast Conference – they have posted wins over Arizona, Florida and Iowa State. Gonzaga also has a comfortable route to the Elite Eight, but could meet Arizona there. When the teams last met, Allonzo Trier missed the game and Gonzaga won, but now he is back and that makes Arizona very dangerous.


Duke (+900)

The preseason favorite has moved to third in the sportsbook ratings after a relatively poor season, but it still has some of the best players around: Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum and Grayson Allen is a formidable line-up to face. They have a really tough run to the Final Four though: they could have to beat two very good teams in SMU and Villanova if they are to make it there.


Kansas (+900)

There are some real dark horses lurking in Kansas’ region, not least Purdue and Rhode Island. Purdue had a fine regular season and look an interesting long shot at +3300. But Kansas is very strong this year and a deserved top seed. Jayhawks starting point guard Frank Mason III, MVP in the USA v Germany University Games final in 2015, is one of the best at the tournament, and they will take some stopping. At +900 Kansas looks a good bet.


Villanova (+900)

The team emerging from the east is likely to be Nova or Duke. Nova has been ranked the overall top seed thanks to its strong results against the top teams, particularly on the road, and if all goes to plan the clash between them and Duke will be the most eagerly anticipated game of the tournament by that stage. It would be extremely close, but the feeling is that Duke has momentum now and could just shade it.


The rest

Two seeded Kentucky has great odds of +1200 but face a tough task in getting past the likes of UNC, UCLA and Wichita. Wichita has been seriously underrated and if you’re looking for a real long shot this could be a fun option at +10000. Fourth seeded West Virgina is another dangerous team at +3300, while Arizona can give Gonzaga a real fright and looks intriguing at +1300, as does UCLA at +1500. There is plenty of danger lurking in the field and it is a really open tournament, but right now that +900 on Kansas looks good.

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Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, by Jerry Ratcliffe and Chris Graham, is available for $25.

The book, with additional reporting by Zach Pereles, Scott Ratcliffe and Scott German, will take you from the aftermath of the stunning first-round loss to UMBC in 2018, and how coach Tony Bennett and his team used that loss as the source of strength, through to the ACC regular-season championship, the run to the Final Four, and the thrilling overtime win over Texas Tech to win the 2019 national title, the first in school history.
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