BY MATTY D.
The parody of the college basketball landscape in 2022 offers no shortage of long-shots with intriguing values. Many people (including myself) consider 7 or 8 teams that could easily win it all this year. However, none of those teams look like Baylor and Gonzaga did last year. It appeared inevitable those teams would face each other in a 2021 Championship game. Instead, those favorites right now are priced in the 4-1 to 6-1 territory. That’s teams like Gonzaga and Arizona. It would be hard to swallow paying a price in the 7-1 to 18-1 territory for any of these teams without the conviction of seeing them surge the way Gonzaga and Baylor had last season.
And so when the Madness of March begins, those 7 or 8 championship contenders could get upset and the list of possible champions would grow. Below are some of my favorite long-shot value picks to find themselves in the mix. If you’re considering any of these bets, please look at both the Final Four odds in addition to a National Championship ticket. The last thing you want is to have two of the four teams make the Final Four, neither win a national championship, and for you to not cash a ticket.
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Editor’s Notes: This article has remained intact as-is for over a month. I will stick with my gut here and roll with the teams that I had hand-picked in mid-February. Subtle edits have been made to the start of the summary for each team below.
Updated: Best Longshot Odds to win March Madness 2022
Here are 5 teams that are the best value bets right now for college basketball futures. You could call them sleeper teams, although their likelihood to make the NCAA Tournament at this point is better than them not.
Best Long-shots to win March Madness 2022 by future values
According to FanDuel Sports App, UAB will enter March Madness as a 400-1 underdog to win a national title. The Blazers earned a 12 seed and will play against Houston in the first round.
Here’s what I had written earlier in the season…
These Blazers were trailblazing their way to a regular season conference championship, until they stubbed their toes at Old Dominion on Super Bowl weekend. Its stock sunk some 50-1 points. Still, they make my top 5.
Coached by former Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy, the Blazers are as dangerous as they come. Conference USA has continued to play the disruptor role in the NCAA Tournament. And with no shortage of size on this UAB roster, the sky could quite literally be the limit.
On January 22nd the Blazers beat current conference rival LA Tech in their house, securing (for now) an inside track to its conference championship. Jordan “Jelly” Walker scored 37 points in that game. As you know, a sub 6’1″ scorer is a hallmark sign of a dangerous Cinderella program.
UAB’s stock did slip in the following days after being upset by Marshall. This puts the Blazers in jeopardy of not winning its conference regular season. Regardless, Conference USA will likely be a one bid league. Therefore, if you invest in UAB you’ll need them to win their conference tournament.
Assuming it wins its conference tournament, UAB would likely get a 12, 13 or 14 seed. That means they could play an LSU, Texas Tech, or other middle-of-the-pack team from a Power 5 school. UAB has a 7 footer at center in Clemson transfer Trey Jemison, so size won’t intimate them. The Blazers can score the ball, ranking just within the top 50 on Kenpom’s score for efficiency. If you like UAB at 250-1 to win a national title, you’re going to love them at 65-1 to make the Final 4.
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4. SAN FRANCISCO DONS BASKETBALL FUTURES 250-1
San Francisco drew a 10 seed and will play against a dangerous 7 seed in Murray State. Both of these programs are actually very dangerous in this position. Murray State is an even better value from a high-ceiling perspective. They enter the tournament at 500-1 to win a title according to FanDuel.
Here’s what I had written earlier this season…
There is a clear turning point in San Francisco’s season that has it skipping the line and getting into the middle of the mix as a great long-shot. After taking a large lead in pivotal games in January against Gonzaga and St. Mary’s, San Fran squandered those opportunities to punch their tickets. However, when February came, they blitzed BYU at their house. The Dons came out of halftime and continued pressuring the (weakened) post of BYU. They got out in transition and guarded well in transition. They took the life out of the crowd. It was the opposite of what those games in January looked like, and it could be a turning point for San Francisco to be considered one of America’s most dangerous underdogs.
San Francisco is lead by super senior point guard Jamaree Bouyee. He is one of the top 6-1 and under guards poised to upset some people in March Madness. They also have size down low, which is always a challenge for mid-major teams. San Francisco was available on the DraftKings app at 60-1 to make March Madness on February 3 and it’s unlikely that value will remain for long.
San Francisco stood at 200-1 to win a National Championship (and 80-1 to make the Final Four) on DraftKings on Valentine’s Day. Betters will love them even more if they can win a late February home game against Gonzaga before the tournament begins. They missed an opportunity to beat Gonzaga late in February, but the St. Mary’s Gaels did it on that same California road trip for the Bulldogs. The WCC has the pedigree to pull some upsets in this tournament.
3. DAVIDSON WILDCATS BASKETBALL FUTURES ODDS 400-1
Davidson draws a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament and plays against Tom Izzo’s Michigan State team. That’s bad news for Wildcats fans. However, Michigan State is beatable and so is Duke in the (possible) following round. I am rolling with Davidson at 400-1 here.
Here’s what I had written earlier in the season…
At the end of January, Davidson finally cracked into the AP Top 25 and officially became the most dangerous underdog in America. After the Wildcats went undefeated in its first six conference games with wins at St. Bonaventure and at VCU, they were honestly long overdue for this position. Throw in the fact that they beat Alabama and its Elite 8 pedigree.
The problem with Davidson going into the conference tournament “Champ Week” is that it faces about 5 other teams from the Atlantic 10 that could easily steal a bid. Richmond, VCU, Dayton, St. Louis and St. Bonaventure are all worthy opponents. Most of those teams are borderline tournament teams. Davidson finished February as a projected 11 seed in the tournament. That doesn’t leave much margin for error for Davidson to lose its conference tournament. If that happens, we could be looking at two A10 tournament teams, or a damn good Davidson team in the NIT.
A tempting bet in this direction is to take the Atlantic 10 at around 65-1 to have its team with the NCAA Basketball Tournament. That’s a great value if two teams make the tournament. It’s a lousy bet if only one does.
Michigan State transfer Foster Loyer gets the headlines as people talk about this team, but it’s really an extremely balanced squad. Loyer leads the team in assists. Four players average 12 or more points. Power forward Luka Brajkovic offers great hands and skill down low. The senior from Austria averages 7 rebounds per game. Junior guard Michael Jones showed everyone during a nationally televised game against Richmond that he can light it up. Jones was un-guardable that night as he scored 29 on 8 of 9 from the 3 point line. The Wildcats leading scorer is actually South Korean guard Hyunjung Lee. Lee averages 16 points per game with 6.7 rebounds with it. The stability of this upperclassman roster is anchored by a longtime winner, head coach Bob McKillop.
In his last bracket projection of January, Joe Lunardi had Davidson has a 9 seed. This is the type of mis-seeding that often happens to a mid-major team. This Davidson program probably had no business being a 10 seed with Stephen Curry before it made its magical Elite 8 run.
And while you can debate what Davidson’s seed would be, it’s not debatable anymore that it’s a tournament team. Therefore, even if you snag Davidson at 150-1 you could hedge it by taking the eventual round one matchup (today projected as BYU as a 125-1 underdog) and have some high ceiling options headed into the field of 32.
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USC’s value doubled as the bracket got announced, which means the payout is twice as great. I am doubling down on this team as they play a smaller Miami Hurricanes squad to start their March Madness journey.
Here’s what I wrote earlier this year about the Trojans…
USC defeated Oregon in their place on February 26th to bounce the Ducks from this list and insert themselves onto it.
I will admit to overlooking USC after one of its Mobley brothers (Evan) went to the NBA this season. While Evan Mobley is the likely NBA Rookie of the Year with the Cavaliers, big brother is one of the nation’s best veteran players. The 6-10 big man features great hands, range, rebounding, and the ability to orchestrate the offense from the post. Boogie Ellis is the actual orchestrator at point guard. He transferred from Memphis. Ellis is a streaky shooter who can definitely get hot. Shooting guard Drew Peterson is playing some really confident ball right now. He hit a dagger three to win that Oregon game and also went buck-wild against UCLA in a game that Mobley missed in early February.
USC has a front line of muscular forwards who can outwork people on the offensive glass if defenses aren’t aware. Head coach Andy Enfield has already taken the college basketball world by surprise in his career (see Dunk City). This USC team was in the Elite 8 last year. Many players on the current roster played key roles in a Sweet 16 win against Oregon.
A bet worth looking at is the Pac-12 around 5-1 to have a national champion. Obviously, you’d get a favorite in Arizona, a preseason favorite in UCLA, and throw in a high-upside USC team at that rate. If a surprise team like Arizona State (see our list of possible Cinderellas for Champ Week), Colorado or Stanford win the Pac-12 tournament, you could have 4 or 5 teams for that one cost. Oregon is the unknown as a bubble team.
March Madness is all about unlikely outcomes. What is more unlikely than your coach getting fired for multiple violations stemming from an FBI investigation… and you still advance to the Final Four.
I actually love LSU as they draw Iowa State to start their March Madness journey. They would have to become the first 6 seed in 30 years to make a Final Four, however, if they have a magical run on their mind. Below is what I had written about the Tigers earlier this season…
On February 15, LSU stood at 16th overall in the NCAA Net Rankings, but still had a long-shot odd to win a national title. The Tigers were then 15-1 to reach the Final Four and 80-1 to win a national title. Those numbers don’t reflect how this team is getting healthy at the right time. Coming out of the SEC, which has two legitimate title favorites (unlike any other conference), the Tigers will be eager to devour any other competition aside from their in-conference opponents. Point guard Xavier Pinson has brought a lightning quick dimension to the offense. And this team gets after it on the defensive end unlike most teams. They are consistently top 5 in forced turnovers, defensive efficiency, and outright steals. LSU won’t come back from large deficits with three point prayers, but they might outwork their opponent on the offensive glass to get back into a game. They are mostly young and hungry, with a few key veterans like senior Darius Days. LSU has been flirting with the Elite 8 and Sweet 16 for the past few years, and shouldn’t be overlooked as players like Days and Pinson have returned from injury and are finding a rhythm. LSU plays a marquee matchup against Kentucky in late February. This can serve as a stress test to measure how legit they are. For now, the eye test says they are much better than 80-1 to win it all.