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March Madness Props: From Nat’l Champs to Trump Stands

Randy McInnis

by Randy McInnis in College Basketball

Updated Jan 17, 2018 · 9:39 AM PST

(Max Goldberg, via Flickr)

Hope you’ve banked your vacation days, or at least caught the “flu” that’s going around, because the greatest single-elimination tournament in sports returns this week. The NCAA Tournament gets underway on Thursday, March 16th (the games you care about anyways), and once again, it’ll take three hectic weekends to determine which college basketball team reigns above all (or at least got hot for a few games).

This year’s tournament is extra-special, not just because of the talented players, great story lines and sure to-be jaw-dropping upsets. It’s special because now you can join SBD’s March Madness Bracket Challenge!

Alright, mandatory corporate shilling over. Here’s a bunch of odds.


National Championship Odds

  • Kansas: 7/1
  • Villanova: 8/1
  • UNC: 9/1
  • Gonzaga: 11/1
  • Kentucky: 12/1
  • Oregon: 12/1
  • UCLA: 12/1
  • Arizona: 14/1
  • Duke: 14/1
  • Louisville: 14/1
  • FIELD: 11/2

There’s no undefeated Kentucky or unstoppable Florida in this year’s tournament: it’s wide-open. Can Bill Self’s team stop coming up short? Can Villanova go back-to-back? Can someone bring a championship to the Pac-12 for the first time in 20 years? If you somehow know the answer to those questions, then you’re well on your way to piecing together this massive March Madness puzzle.

Odds of the NCAA Champion’s Seed

  • 1-4: 1/9
  • 5-8: 10/1
  • 9-12: 75/1
  • 13-16: 10,000/1

The lowest seed to ever win an NCAA tournament was eighth-seeded Villanova, way back in 1985. While we’ve seen some great underdog runs in recent years – VCU in 2011, Witchita St. in 2013, Syracuse last year – none of them have been able to advance beyond the Final Four. So chances are this tournament’s winner will come from the top four seeds again, and if there is a “Cinderella run” to be had, it’ll be from eight-seed Northwestern.

Odds of all four #1 seeds reaching the Final Four: 35/1

It’s only happened one time, back in 2008. There is reason to believe Villanova, Gonzaga, Kansas, and North Carolina are the four best teams, but they aren’t a ton better than several two, three, four and five seeds.

Odds two #1 seeds meet in the championship game: 5/2

Multiple number one seeds have only reached the Final Four twice since 2009. However, it happened nine times between 1996 and 2009, so don’t rule out the possibility just yet.

Odds a #16 seed defeats a #1 seed: 25/1

It has never happened, but could South Dakota State have a prayer? Scott Nagy’s team has Mike Daum, who averages over 25 points a game, and their opponent, Gonzaga, has an inconsistent history in the NCAA Tournament.

Odds a #15 seed defeats a #2 seed: 20/1

Fifteen’s are 7-113 all time. Who are you betting against this year, Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, or Arizona?

Odds the national champion comes from …

  • ACC: 11/4
  • Pac-12: 7/2
  • Big 12: 19/4
  • Big East: 6/1
  • SEC: 19/2
  • Big Ten: 22/1
  • FIELD: 19/2

I would like to just make fun of the Big Ten here, but we’ll have plenty more chances to do that later. The ACC is always loaded with contenders. The Pac-12 is not too far behind this year; they only have three teams with a hope in hell of winning, but the chances of Arizona, Oregon, or UCLA making that run are real good.

Over/Under number of lower seeds that win in the first round (not counting play-in games): 8

There will likely be the 5/12 upsets, and maybe a 13 or 14 will get through too. You’ll also see at least a couple no. 9 and 10s advance. Expect roughly two per region.

Over/under number of tournament games that go into overtime: 2.5

Over/under on the sum of the seeds that reach the Final Four (e.g. four no. 1 seeds would equal a sum of four): 13.5

The last nine years have seen an average of just over 13. Syracuse made a surprise run to the Final Four last season, joining UNC (no. 1), Villanova (no. 2), and Oklahoma (no. 2) for a grand total of 15. While Syracuse’s run was improbable for that specific team, it’s not unusual to see a push from the lower seeds these days. Just look at 2013 Wichita State (no. 9) and 2014 UConn (no. 7). The 10-seeded Shockers are undervalued again this year (sitting top-ten in KenPom). Look out above!

Odds to win Most Outstanding Player

  • Justin Jackson (UNC): 11/1
  • Frank Mason III (Kansas): 12/1
  • Lonzo Ball (UCLA): 14/1
  • Dillon Brooks (Oregon): 14/1
  • Josh Hart (Villanova): 15/1
  • Nigel Williams-Goss (Gonzaga): 15/1
  • Josh Jackson (Kansas): 20/1
  • Jalen Brunson (Villanova): 20/1
  • Malik Monk (Kentucky): 22/1

Purdue fans might be asking where Caleb Swanigan is. Sure, “Biggie” averaged 18.7 points and 12.6 boards per game, but the Most Outstanding Player is going to come from a championship team. Bad news, Big Ten: you don’t have one.

The last MOP whose team failed to cut down the nets was Hakeem Olajuwon, back in 1983. So while this year’s tournament boasts a ton of great talent, you have to be confident in a player’s ability to lead his team all the way, while being wary of teammates who could also claim the honor.

That’s why players like Justin Jackson, Lonzo Ball and Dillon Brooks are at the top; they are the clear go-to-guy on teams with a real shot at going the distance. Then there’s probable Wooden Award-winner Frank Mason III. While Kansas’s recent upset loss to TCU may have shown how valuable freshman Josh Jackson is to the team (he missed the game due to suspension), Mason is the senior leader on a team that enters the tournament as the odds-on favorite. He’s got a far better chance than most at the honor.

Over/under number of game-winning buzzer beaters to win (not tie) a game in the tournament: 3

Last year was a particularly thrilling tournament with four contests ending with a score at the buzzer, including that legendary championship game. But we know that’s more of the exception than the rule. More often than not, there’s a couple ticks left on the clock when the go-ahead bucket is scored. We’re only counting true buzzer-beaters here.

Grayson Allen odds

  • Odds Allen gets a technical foul in the tournament: 9/1
  • Odds Allen kicks/trips an opponent in the tournament: 49/1

Allen’s kicked or tripped three dudes in his college career. It really does seem like an involuntary reflex, to some extent; even if he’s “learned his lesson,” he might not be able to help it. But he’s now gone 18 straight games without kicking anyone. I think he can buckle down for another six. There are other ways to get teed-up, though. And Allen’s fiery on-court temperament hasn’t faded at all post-kicking. He picked up a tech against Clemson in the ACC tourney for slamming the ball onto the court.

Over/under wins for each conference in the tournament:

  • ACC: 16
    This conference includes at least three teams that can win it all. Duke and North Carolina have excellent draws, which proves why the ACC was the deepest conference during the regular season.
  • Big 12: 8.5
    This conference was very underrated throughout the season. Kansas is top notch, and West Virginia has a shot to reach Phoenix too. Iowa State, Baylor, and Oklahoma State all feel like squads who can win a game or more.
  • Pac 12: 8
    No depth but three elite teams. The loss of Chris Boucher hurts Oregon big time. Arizona seems to be the team that has the relatively easy path.
  • SEC: 7
    Kentucky is the only Final Four quality team. Hard to see anyone other than the Cats or Florida winning multiple games.
  • Big East: 7
    Villanova is really good. Is anyone else?
  • Big Ten: 5.5
    There are a lot of teams, but not a lot of good teams. While several Sweet 16 spots could go their way, a shutout in the second weekend is possible too.
The Big Ten has been comically bad this season and that trend figures to continue in the tournament (MGoBlog, via Flickr)

Odds a famous alumnus gets into a physical altercation at the site of an NCAA Tournament game: 30/1

They don’t pay their players, but NCAA basketball programs aren’t complete amateur hour. They know how to treat their alumni, unlike some “professional” teams.

Odds two coaches have a physical altercation during the tournament: 22/1

We saw a few dust ups this season between frustrated teams and coaches. But perhaps they were all pissed off because they aren’t tournament bound. In the actual dance, you’d imagine coaches will have a little more class.

Odds Charles Barkley criticizes Lonzo Ball’s father during the tournament: 1/8

Chuck isn’t swimming in college basketball knowledge, but he does know how to call guys out. Now that Ball’s dad has gone after him, I’m sure he’ll find time in CBS’ 80 hours of coverage to hit him back.

Odds at least one coach makes an anti-Donald Trump statement during a post-game press conference: 15/1

To be clear, the statement can’t be something vage. It has to mention “Donald,” “Trump,” “President,” “White House” or “the administration” by name. A lot of coaches might be harboring the necessary sentiments. But do any want to create that kind of distraction for their team? This tournament isn’t full of Gregg Popoviches and Steve Kerrs.

Odds at least one coach makes a pro-Donald Trump statement during post-game press conference: 50/1

Same rules apply. But the odds are longer.

Odds the following celebrities attend a tournament game

  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus: 1/50
  • Barack Obama: 1/9
  • Ashton Kutcher: 2/13
  • Michael Jordan: 1/5
  • Drake: 1/3
  • Bill Murray: 3/8
  • Jennifer Lawrence: 2/5
  • Joe Biden: 1/2
  • Floyd Mayweather: 1/1
  • Magic Johnson: 3/2
  • Bradley Cooper: 2/1
  • Donald Trump: 5/1
  • Bill or Hillary Clinton: 8/1
  • Mike Pence: 20/1
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