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Odds to Win Mid-West Region Favor Illinois

Chris Amberley

by Chris Amberley in College Basketball

Updated Mar 14, 2021 · 8:36 PM PDT

Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu (11) celebrates after being named tournament MVP after defeating Ohio State in overtime in an NCAA college basketball championship game at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Sunday, March 14, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
  • Top seed Illinois has the shortest Final Four odds of any team in the Mid-West Region
  • The Fighting Illini have six wins over top-10 teams this season, and the most Quadrant 1 victories in all of college basketball
  • See below for the Final Four odds of every team in the Mid-West Region, plus analysis and a pick

The NCAA Tournament field is set, which means it’s time to analyze the pretenders and contenders for each region. Our focus is squarely on the Mid-West Region, where top seed Illinois is looking to get back to the Final Four for the sixth time in school history, and for the first time since 2005.

The Fighting Illini will face some stiff competition along the way, with red-hot programs like Oklahoma State, Houston and San Diego State all on their side of the draw, but the Big Ten champs have excelled in tough matchups all season, and there’s little reason to believe that will change over the next few weeks.

2021 Mid-West Region Final Four Odds

Team (Seed) Odds
Illinois Fighting Illini (1) +100
Oklahoma State Cowboys (4) +300
Houston Cougars (2) +350
West Virginia Mountaineers (3) +400
 Tennessee Volunteers (5) +900
San Diego State Aztecs (6) +900
Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (8) +900
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (9) +1500
Clemson Tigers (7) +2000
Syracuse Orange (11) +2000
Oregon State Beavers (12) +2000
Cleveland State Vikings (15) +3000
Drexel Dragons (16) +3000
Liberty Flames (13) +5000
Morehead State Eagles (14) +5000
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10) OFF

Odds taken March 14th at DraftKings.

Not surprisingly, Illinois has the shortest Final Final Four odds in the Mid-West Region, and while there are a handful of teams who could potentially emerge from this side of the draw, there’s also four we can cross-off right away.

The Cross-Offs

No disrespect to Drexel, Cleveland State, Morehead State or Liberty, but your team is not going to be the last one standing in the Mid-West.

These four teams combined don’t have a single victory over a team ranked inside the top-73 this season, and only the Flames have made a March Madness appearance since 2011.

They each rank 97th or worse in KenPom’s overall efficiency ratings and are all at least a 9.5-point underdog in their First Round matchup on Friday.

The Sleeper

One program likely to fly under the radar is sixth seed San Diego State. The Aztecs enter the tournament having won 14 straight, and rate 20th in KenPom’s metrics, and 18th in the NCAA NET rankings.

10 of their 14 wins during their winning streak have been by double-digits, and only seven teams in the nation allow fewer points per game. All five of their top players are upperclassmen, led by Jordan Schakel and Matt Mitchell, and they shot 40% from beyond the arc in Mountain West play. +900 is a great price for a strong defensive team, that can shoot the lights out and is loaded with veterans.

The Contenders

The Houston Cougars head to Indiana winners of 17 of their past 19 games, including seven straight. They cruised to a 37-point win in the AAC Championship game, and are a statistical darling. They rank eighth in offensive efficiency, 16th in defensive efficiency, and are the fourth best rebounding team in the country.

There’s a problem though. Their best wins are over SMU, Memphis (twice), Texas Tech and Wichita State. Only the Red Raiders and Shockers qualified for March Madness, and it’s hard to justify laying +350 on a program without a better resume.

The same can’t be said for No. 4 seed Oklahoma State. Over the past few weeks, this team has six wins over top-25 competition, most recently handing Baylor just its second loss of the season in the Big 12 semifinal.

The Cowboys are led by Cade Cunningham, the projected number one overall pick in the NBA Draft, and they have the second most Quadrant 1 wins in the nation, behind only Illinois.

The Best Bet

Speaking of the Fighting Illini, it’s hard to bet against them at the moment. They’ve won seven in a row, 14 of 15, and are fresh off winning the toughest conference in all of college hoops. They have six wins over top-10 teams, and as mentioned the most Quadrant 1 victories.

They have size, experience, depth and one of the best players in the nation in Ayo Dosunmu. The Wooden Award contender averaged 21 points per game and led Illinois past Iowa and Ohio State (a pair of 2-seeds) en route to a conference title. Another thing working in their favor is their ability to overcome adversity. Over a three game stretch two weeks ago, they beat Nebraska, #23 Wisconsin and #2 Michigan (by 23), all while Dosunmu was out.

If you’re looking for a longshot bet the Aztecs, otherwise roll with the Fighting Illini.

Pick: Illinois Fighting Illini (+100)

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