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Memphis (+1000) Officially Has Better March Madness Odds Than Virginia, UNC, Villanova & Gonzaga

Penny Hardaway and the Memphis Tigers are a trendy pick to win the NCAA Tournament this year. Photo from @SLAMKicks (Twitter).
  • Memphis has the fourth shortest average odds to win March Madness
  • The Tigers boast the Nation’s number one recruiting class, but lack experience on the floor and at head coach
  • Is there any value betting Memphis at this price?

The Memphis Tigers hype train is officially out of control. Penny Hardaway’s program landed the nation’s number one recruiting class this year and is now priced shorter than some of the most storied programs in College Basketball to win March Madness.

Odds to Win 2020 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship

Team Odds at BetOnline
Michigan State Spartans +700
Duke Blue Devils +900
Kansas Jayhawks +900
Memphis Tigers +900
Kentucky Wildcats +900
Virginia Cavaliers +1200
Florida Gators +1400
Louisville Tigers +1600
Maryland Terrapins +1600
North Carolina Tar Heels +1600
Gonzaga Bulldogs +2000
Villanova Wildcats +2000
Michigan Wolverines +2800
Oregon Ducks +2800
Texas Tech Red Raiders +2800
Arizona Wildcats +3300

*Odds taken 08/16/19

Memphis’ average 2020 March Madness odds are the fourth shortest in the country, but some online sports books are even more bullish on the Tigers’ championship prospects. BetOnline lists only Michigan State with a shorter price tag than Memphis, which begs the question are the Tigers officially overrated?

Top Recruiting Class Doesn’t Guarantee Anything

On paper Memphis looks stacked but we have no idea how they’ll mesh together and whether or not their inexperience will hurt them in big moments. If we look at the top recruiting classes from each of the last five seasons, only one of those teams made the National Championship game, and two of them failed to advance past the second round of the NCAA tournament.

NCAA Men’s Basketball #1 Recruiting Class – Last Five Seasons

Year Team 5-Star Recruits NCAA Tournament Result
2018 Duke Blue Devils 4 Elite Eight
2017 Duke Blue Devils 4 Elite Eight
2016 Duke Blue Devils 4 Second Round
2015 Kentucky Wildcats 3 Second Round
2014 Duke Blue Devils 3 National Champions

If we extend our range to the last 10 seasons, only three teams have made the title game, while Kentucky’s top-ranked recruiting class of 2012 lost in the first round – of the NIT.

This year’s Tigers team appears more likely to reach the Elite Eight than lose in the NIT, and similar to the 2014 Blue Devils and the 2011 Wildcats, they’ll feature the nation’s number one recruit.

Memphis landed four players ranked inside the Top-50, but just two 5-star recruits, which is fewer than any number one class in the last decade. There’s no denying their talent, but having the top recruiting class doesn’t guarantee they’ll make a deep tournament run as evident by their predecessors.  Their current championship odds offer little value and experts have them ranked far lower than most sports books.

Not Everyone is Buying the Memphis Hype

ESPN’s most recent power rankings have the Tigers at number 13, while Sports Illustrated and NBC also have them outside the top-10, well below perennial contenders Duke, Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina. Yes, Memphis has improved in three consecutive seasons but this is a program that hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2014, and has a head coach with just 36 games of college basketball experience under his belt.

Yes, Memphis has improved in three consecutive seasons but this is a program that hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2014, and has a head coach with just 36 games of college basketball experience under his belt.

It’s possible that Hardaway develops into a fantastic coach, and the inexperience of his team is not a factor, but that’s a lot to ask and those risks are not built into the Tigers price. We don’t know how Penny will handle such a young team, and I’d rather put my money behind a proven commodity unless I’m getting much more favorable odds. Memphis’ true price is likely two to three times longer than it currently sits, and it until it drops there’s no reason to rush out to bet it.

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