March Madness Props: How Sweet (16) It Is!

Jay Wright reacts to a call
(Photo by David Hahn/Icon Sportswire)

Remember when we were screaming for some upsets after the First Round? Careful what you wish for. I’m sure my bracket isn’t the only one that suffered as a result of no. 1 Villanova and no. 2 Duke going down in the East and no. 2 Louisville falling in the Midwest. Color me impressed if no. 11 Xavier reaching the Sweet 16 scored you some points.

Now that we’ve seen our requisite March upsets, can I ask for a game-winning shot at the buzzer? Or will the officials continue robbing us of that thrill?

The Sweet 16 gets underway Thursday (March 23). One double-digit seed remains (no. 11 Xavier), and only one region has its top-four seeds alive (South). The tournament has provided us with plenty of talking points, but you know we don’t just give you opinions here. So here are the odds for everything Sweet 16 related, and a couple props from elsewhere in the college basketball world. (Side note: couldn’t Brad Underwood have given us this coaching change news in the offseason when I have nothing to write about?)


2017 National Championship odds

Kansas: 8/1
North Carolina: 25/3
Gonzaga: 9/1
Arizona: 19/2
Kentucky: 11/1
UCLA: 11/1
Florida: 12/1
West Virginia: 15/1
Baylor: 16/1
Wisconsin: 19/1
Michigan: 22/1
Oregon: 24/1
Purdue: 24/1
Butler: 45/1
South Carolina: 66/1
Xavier: 75/1

Sure, dismantling no. 16 UC Davis 100-62 isn’t all that impressive. But following it up by hammering Michigan State by 20 in the Second Round caught my attention. Frank Mason III and Josh Jackson are in their respective grooves, and the Jayhawks look very good.

The Tar Heels didn’t make it to the Sweet 16 with such ease. UNC found itself down 65-60 to Arkansas with less than 3:30 to play. Led by Isaiah Hicks, North Carolina finished the game on a 12-0 run to advance. Though Arkansas proved they’re beatable, UNC possesses the size and length that will give any team problems.

Odds to reach the Final Four

East

Florida: 13/7
Baylor: 7/3
Wisconsin: 5/2
South Carolina: 12/1

If you picked these four teams in your bracket, I don’t want to hear about it. No one who follows college basketball knew this was coming. One thing we did know was that Virginia didn’t possess much offense. But Florida has now allowed just 104 points in the tournament. The Gators well-rounded attack has them favored in the wild, wild East. Just don’t count out the experienced Badgers.

West

Gonzaga: 5/3
Arizona: 7/4
West Virginia: 7/2
Xavier: 24/1

Both Gonzaga and Arizona found themselves in trouble in the Second Round, but their talent came through when it needed to. Nigel Williams-Goss will need to be at his ball-handling best for the Bulldogs as “Press Virginia” awaits.

Arizona has the easier draw against Xavier in the Sweet 16. That’s not to say the Musketeers can’t pull the upset. Yes, Maryland was over-seeded, and Florida State may not have been a great team, but those are two very impressive wins. It’ll take an even bigger effort to become the fifth double-digit seed to reach the Final Four.

Midwest

Kansas: 3/2
Michigan: 11/3
Oregon: 4/1
Purdue: 13/3

Is there a hotter team than Michigan right now? After going on a miraculous run to win the Big Ten tournament, the Wolverines have now out-duelled one of the best offenses in the country in Oklahoma State, and knocked off a Louisville team that is almost a Sweet 16 certainty under Rick Pitino. Kansas is a whole different kind of beast, though.

South

North Carolina: 5/3
Kentucky: 5/2
UCLA: 5/2
Butler: 19/1

Butler’s odds to come out of the South are not indicative of what I think of them, but what I think of the rest of the region. Kentucky and UCLA are both legitimate championship contenders.

Odds on which conference wins the national championship

Big 12: 13/4
Pac-12: 11/3
SEC: 14/3
Big Ten: 13/2
ACC: 25/3
WCC: 9/1
Big East: 27/1

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The ACC sent a whopping nine teams to the tournament this year, five of which were seeded no. 4 or better. Now, only UNC remains.

The Big East has also suffered, seeing five of seven teams sent home. With just Cinderella-ish Xavier and overmatched Butler remaining, it brings up the rear.

The SEC and Pac-12 have shown well, thus far. Three of the SEC’s five teams remain, and Arkansas was really close to making it four. The Pac-12 almost saw all four teams advance to the Sweet 16, with just USC falling in the Second Round.

The Big Ten and Big 12 also send three teams each into the second weekend.

O/U Big Ten teams in the Final Four: 0.5

O/U Pac-12 teams in the Final Four: 1.5

O/U SEC teams in the Final Four: 1.5

O/U Big 12 teams in the Final Four: 1.5

Odds on which conference puts the most teams in the Final Four

Big 12: 9/2
Pac-12: 5/1
SEC: 6/1
Big Ten: 11/1
Big East: 99/1
None: 4/3

It is very plausible that two of the three Pac-12 teams make it to the Final Four. The odds are shorter for Kansas and Baylor to both advance.

Odds to be the next no. 1 to fall

Gonzaga: 3/2
Kansas: 2/1
UNC: 5/2

Of the remaining no. 1 seeds, Gonzaga faces the toughest test in the Sweet 16. Bob Huggins’ press defense is vicious, and his Mountaineers actually have a bit of offense this year, at least lately.

Most Outstanding Player odds

Frank Mason III, Kansas: 12/1
Lonzo Ball, UCLA: 12/1
Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: 12/1
Allonzo Trier, Arizona: 17/1
Justin Jackson, UNC: 17/1
FIELD: 1/2

This award is almost exclusively given to the best player on the team that wins the national championship. The last time a player won it without being a member of the championship team was 1983 when Hakeem Olajuwon was honored. That’s not going to happen this year.

Kansas and UNC possess the best odds to win the title, but their rosters both go well beyond their top scorers (a big part of why they are favored). While Frank Mason III stands out for Kansas, there are four players all capable of taking the honor for the Tar Heels. Both Gonzaga and UCLA have a clear lead-candidate on their rosters.

Odds to score the most points in the Sweet 16

Malik Monk, Kentucky: 9/1
Frank Mason III, Kansas: 10/1
Lonzo Ball, UCLA: 12/1
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: 12/1
Allonzo Trier, Arizona: 14/1
Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina: 16/1
De’Aaron Fox, Kentucky: 19/1
Justin Jackson, North Carolina: 19/1
TJ Leaf, UCLA: 19/1
Trevon Bluiett, Xavier: 24/1
Lauri Markkanen, Arizona: 29/1
Derrick Walton Jr, Michigan: 29/1
Kelan Martin, Butler: 33/1
Nigel Williams-Goss, Gonzaga: 33/1
Joel Berry, North Carolina: 40/1
Johnathan Motley, Baylor: 40/1
Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin: 45/1
Dillon Brooks, Oregon: 45/1
Moritz Wagner, Michigan: 49/1
Tyler Dorsey, Oregon: 49/1
KeVaughn Allen, Florida: 66/1
Jevon Carter, West Virginia: 75/1
FIELD: 19/1

Of the 16 teams remaining, UCLA surrenders the most points per game. Kentucky’s defense isn’t much better, allowing the third-most. Both teams like to get up and down the floor and rely on their offense to come through. There is going to be a ton of points scored in that game, which is why the stars from those teams have shorter odds here.

Caleb Swanigan has carried the Boilermakers this far, and Purdue will continue feeding the big-man in the post against the Jayhawks, who allow 72 points per game (second-most of teams left). Sindarius Thornwell, who is averaging more points than anyone left in the tournament (21.4 PPG), has been a beast for the Gamecocks, scoring 53 points in their two tournament games. Though Baylor’s length causes a lot of problems, Thornwell is the focal point of the offense and has enough athleticism to overcome the Bears’ defense.

Gonzaga and Wisconsin are the best defensive teams left, which is why you’ll see longer odds for the likes of Jevon Carter and KeVaughn Allen. It doesn’t help that neither Florida nor West Virginia relies on just one player to provide offense.

Odds Kansas defeats four Big Ten teams en route to winning the national championship: 199/1

Kansas completed step one by defeating Michigan State in the Round of 32. Now they draw another Big Ten team in the Sweet 16: Purdue. If they advance, the odds slightly favor a matchup with Michigan, which would be KU’s third consecutive Big Ten foe.

But that’s where the odds get really long. To get the fourth, Wisconsin would have to make the title game. Even if the Badgers make it through the East Region, there is going to be a very strong team from the West waiting in the Final Four.

Odds another game is decided by the officials: 1/1

Northwestern, Arkansas, Rhode Island, and Duke, among others, can all put together rather compelling arguments that their defeats were assisted by a terrible call. I can’t remember a tournament where I thought less of the officiating. Please stop robbing us of great finishes, refs!

Odds the NCAA acknowledges another missed call: 3/1

I appreciate the NCAA coming out and admitting to the blown goaltending call in the Northwestern game, but we want more justice. I have my doubts we’ll receive it, though.

Odds we witness a buzzer-beater: 2/3

What kind of tournament would this be without a buzzer-beater? There has to be one, right?

Odds Illinois makes the tourney next year: 7/3

After one year at Oklahoma State, and another NCAA Tournament berth, Brad Underwood is leaving to become the head coach at Illinois, which hasn’t been to the big dance since 2013.

In four years as a head coach at the college level, Underwood has never missed the tourney. He will face a tough task in his first year at Illinois, though, as the Illini see their top-three scorers graduate. Underwood has proven his system works, but he’ll need Leron Black and Michael Finke to take big leaps, and hope Jeremiah Tilmon can be a major contributor as a freshman in order to navigate through the Big Ten.

Odds Grayson Allen returns to Duke: 2/3

Allen’s decision to forego the 2016 NBA Draft was questioned by many. Now, after a disappointing season, the Blue Devil has seen his stock fall dramatically and faces a loaded 2017 class. It would make sense for Allen to come back for one final year to build himself back up.