Upcoming Match-ups

2019 Final Four Odds: Duke, Kentucky Have 50% Chance?

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski hugging guard Grayson Allen
Mike Krzyzewski's Duke Blue Devils are even money to reach the 2019 Final Four, which is downright crazy. Photo by Hayden Schiff (wikimedia commons) [CC License].
  • If the odds are to be believed, the 2019 Final Four is all but set. 
  • Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, and Gonzaga have very short odds to reach Minneapolis.
  • Is there any value in betting on the favorites?

The 2018-19 NCAA basketball season starts on Nov. 6 with the 2K Sports Classic. From there, it’s an all-too-short six month journey to the Final Four in Minneapolis (April 8, 2019).

All major sportsbooks have 2019 National Championship futures available. But MyBookie has a more unique bet: odds to be one of the last four teams standing.

Even though Duke signed the top three recruits from the 2018 class (RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson, and Cam Reddish), there is no superteam entering the year. Ask three different pundits which team should be ranked #1 and you’re likely to get three different answers.  

However, ask the various oddsmakers at MyBookie who will be in the Final Four and you’re likely to hear the same four schools: Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, and Gonzaga. As the table below shows, those four teams are all between +100 and +170, while no other school is shorter than +300.

2019 Final Four Favorites

Team 2019 Final Four Odds at MyBookie  (Oct. 15) Implied Probability Last Final Four Appearance
Duke +100 50% 2015
Kentucky +100 50% 2015
Kansas +140 41.7% 2018
Gonzaga +170 37% 2017
Nevada +300 25% None
Villanova +325 23.5% 2018
North Carolina +400 20% 2017
Michigan State +500 16.7% 2015
Oregon +500 16.7% 2017
Virginia +500 16.7% 1984
Tennessee +600 14.3% None
Michigan +700 12.5% 2018
UCLA +700 12.5% 2008
West Virginia +700 12.5% 2010
Auburn +900 10% None
Florida +1000 9.1% 2014
Indiana +1000 9.1% 2002
Wichita State +1000 9.1% 2013
Syracuse +1200 7.7% 2016
Loyola-Chicago +7500 1.3% 2018

NB: Follow the link in the table to see more betting options.

2019 Final Four Betting Advice

Betting on a team at roughly even money to reach the Final Four is not advisable at this point of the year, not in 2018.

The 2019 draft class has been called “abnormally weak” for its lack of sure-fire prospects. None of the freshmen — not RJ Barrett, not Zion Williamson, not Cam Reddish — is going to come out and dominate the way, say, Anthony Davis did in 2012.

Barring a miracle, none of the returnees — not PJ Washington (Kentucky), not Dedric Lawson (Kansas), not Rui Hachimura (Gonzaga) — is going to make a Blake Griffin-type leap.

It’s likely that Jeff Goodman will be able to copy/paste this tweet from 2012.

When March Madness rolls around, even the #1 seeds will have to beat three solid (at worst) teams to reach the Final Four.

Let’s examine a hypothetical 2019 bracket. For argument’s sake, we’ll pencil in Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, and Gonzaga as the four #1 seeds. We’ll also advance them to the Round of 32, even though UMBC vs Virginia is a thing that happened.

At that point, the best-case scenario would be akin to Villanova’s situation last season. The Wildcats, the #1-overall seed in 2018, were …

  • 11-point favorites in the Round of 32,
  • 5-point favorites in the Sweet 16, and
  • 6-point favorites in the Elite 8.

If we convert those spreads to probabilities (based on Boyd’s Bets chart), Nova had …

  • a 92% chance to win in the Round of 32,
  • a 68% chance to win in the Sweet 16, and
  • a 72% chance to win in the Elite 8.

Multiply those together and you are left with a 45% chance to reach the Final Four.

And again, that was for the #1-overall seed. Compare Kansas, the only other #1 seed to reach the 2018 Final Four. The Jayhawks were …

  • 4.5-point favorites (66%) in the Round of 32,
  • 5-point favorites (68%) in the Sweet 16, and
  • 3.5-point underdogs (38%) in the Elite 8 …

… meaning they had a 17% chance to reach the Final Four (after beating Penn in the Round of 64).

Even if you’re high on Duke’s freshman trio, remember that 2018 Villanova was the second-most efficient team of the last decade (per KenPom), trailing only 2015 Kentucky.

Sure, Duke or Kentucky could become that type of super-team over the course of the year. But the odds are against it and, even if they do, the odds are still against them surviving to Minneapolis.

Put all of the above together and the takeaway is that +100 (even +140) odds to reach the Final Four is a terrible bet.

Author Image

Sascha was a hockey player in his youth, a lawyer in his capricious mid-20s, and has been SBD's lead oddsmaker/number cruncher since 2014. He writes about everything you can possibly put odds on. He's happiest when those things are football, baseball, hockey and basketball (in that order).