These college basketball teams are all high value picks as longshots to win it all.
BY MATTY D.
This has been a volatile year for college basketball’s top 25. After the long-standing favorite of Houston, numbers 2 through 10 have been a game of musical chairs. The Houston Cougars currently sit at 6-1 odds to win it all.
Click here to see the volatile fluctuations of team stocks over this season.
Best longshot odds to win the 2023 NCAA Basketball Championship
Meanwhile, college basketball fans have been treated to some real surprising performances from mid-major teams this season. This article outlines my favorite value picks for current odds to win it all. Two of those teams have improved from an off-the-radar mid-major to a staple of the AP Top 25. Only one of my 5 value teams from the start of the season have stuck on this top 5 list.
#5 Florida Atlantic 175-1 to Win NCAA Basketball Tournament
The Owls have come out of nowhere, so if you’re scratching your head, welcome to my list. The Owls haunted the Florida Gators and their high hopes for a tournament caliber year by dominating them in Gainesville. That was the start. Florida Atlantic continued their momentum into conference play where they’ve beaten tournament-relevant programs like UAB, North Texas and Western Kentucky. They have repeatedly been ranked in weekly polls in the 21-25 territory. Yet, they’re somehow still 175-1 to win it all. That, according to FanDuel Sportsbook app on February 15th.
The Owls can knock down the three. FAU’s bench can score — its two top scorers come off the bench. They rank among the top 10 teams in the nation in scoring and have a perimeter surrounded with combo guards who can create their own shots. Take your shot by considering this heavy underdog for at least a Final Four ticket. The Conference USA teams are always dangerous in March Madness (think Middle Tennessee and North Texas).
#4 Arkansas Razorbacks 50-1 to Win NCAA Basketball Tournament
This is the only SEC team to currently make the list, but there could have been many others. Missouri, Auburn, and Texas A&M are also very intriguing. Arkansas makes the list because tits resume is 95% stamped for approval and a tournament team. Those other teams may be in the 65-75% range. At 50-1, Arkansas carries the flag for a conference that is still largely underrated by the futures market. If you are a futures shopper you should consider investing in the conference itself to win it all. You might even find a 4-1 or 5-1 steal and suddenly be invested in all the high level teams — Tennessee, Alabama, the list goes on.
As for Arkansas, the roster has turned over completely for 2022-2023, but the identity remains the same. Late season news for Arkansas has been a mixed bag. They took some questionable losses like losing to Vanderbilt in mid-January and losing to Mississippi State at home mid-February. The good news is that super hyped NBA prospect combo guard Nick Smith Jr. has recently returned from his knee injury. Smith Jr. is slowing gaining more minutes and productivity as March approaches.
Smith Jr. and fellow freshman Anthony Black were especially gelling in an SEC tournament game against Auburn where they scored 14 and 19 respectively with great efficiency. This team is hitting its stride as the tournament nears.
The Hogs defend hard, play fast, and challenge at the rim on both ends. This is a better team on the defensive end, ranking in kenpom’s top 20. The Mitchell brothers offer some size and athleticism down low. Jordan Walsh is really fun to watch with his Dennis Rodman-like tenacity. The team is loaded with McDonald’s All-Americans (three current, one more committed). If you are reading mock NBA draft boards and like this team because of prospect Nick Smith Jr., don’t. Smith has not been a consistent piece of this lineup. That said, if he emerges into the rotation during the start of the tournament itself, it might be time to jump on the bandwagon. That might be a guy, and this might be a team, looking to improve its stock greatly on the national stage.
#3 College of Charleston 400-1 to Win NCAA Basketball Tournament
This one honestly made me do a double-take. I can’t believe College of Charleston is being disrespected in this way. If 400-1 is too rich for your blood (or too thrifty in this case), then you should at least consider CoC at 90-1 or 100-1 to make a magical run to a Final Four. This is a tournament team. The Cougars have cracked the AP Top 25 a few weeks ago and have stuck there in the 18-25 range. Even though they play in a mid-major conference, they may not need to win their conference tournament championship. However, they did win their conference tournament and earned a spot as a 3 loss team.
Two losses in conference took this team from 300-1 to 400-1. That includes a four point loss to Hofstra and a one point loss to Drexel. Otherwise, the Cougars only loss was against UNC early in the season. The Cougars struggled with Towson which has a great scorer in Nicholas Timberlake. The way that College of Charleston beat Towson in comeback fashion in early March and again during the Colonial Athletic Tournament shows that the Cougars can take a punch. They were the hunted all season long within their conference.
This team is especially a case where you need to shop around as a futures investor. The odds for this team are all over the place. On March 10th, three major sportsbooks had them listed with large discrepancies. Ceasars had them listed as 500-1 underdogs to win it all, while FanDuel had them at 400-1 and MGM at 250-1 (according to VegasInsider.com).
Anyone who buys this ticket should also be rooting for Florida Atlantic to win its conference tournament. Like the Owls, the Cougars don’t want to put this decision in the tournament committee hands. And if both Florida Atlantic and College of Charleston get upset in their own conference tournament, it’s highly unlikely that both get a tournament bid. Although, it would be really cool if they played each other in a play-in game! I would love that more than seeing some middle-of-the-pack power six teams play each other.
C of C has been totally running their league opponents out of the gym. They are consistently winning by 15, 20, 25 points or more. The are undefeated in the Colonial Athletic Conference and only have one loss to their name at 21-1. It has wins over Kent State, Virginia Tech, Davidson and Colorado State. Its only loss is to UNC. Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has them slotted as a 10 seed. Even if they lose one or two games in their conference, you could easily see this squad as a play-in-game 11 or 12 seed. Head coach Pat Kelsey has come over from Winthrop where he has brought his renowned conditioning and winning ways. The Cougars are deep, tall, can shoot, sprint to the ball, and play a ton of guys. A recent box score showed Kelsey playing 13 people. I didn’t even know that was possible. In that game, 10 players scored and 10 players played 9 minutes or more. Kelsey gives his guys no excuses not to run to a loose ball, hustle to a rebound, and get out in transition. The makeup of this team is perfectly suited for a tournament situation. If a 6 or 7 seed overlooks them, they’ll at least get the attention of the 2 or 3 seed in the next matchup.
#2: San Diego State 75-1 to Win NCAA Basketball Tournament
Could this be the year that the Mountain West actually clicks? If it does, this will be the team to do it. However, there is reason for suspicion. The Mountain West went winless in last season’s tournament. This year, there is a lot of noise about the conference being fourth, fifth, or sixth best in the country. They compare favorably to the ACC, which will likely get seven teams in the tournament. With so many teams with a NET ranking in the 30s or 40s, you’d assume that the Mountain West would also get multiple bids. New Mexico is fading down the stretch of the season. Nevada and Boise State are also projected tournament teams at this point. However, it’s the Aztecs that have the experienced nucleus and chronically under-the-radar culture.
Longtime Steve Fisher assistant, and now longtime San Diego State coach, Brian Dutcher has his Aztecs playing great defense as always. The Aztecs actually rank 27th on Kenpom.com in defensive efficiency, which is perhaps lower than you’d expect from the standard set there.
If you watch college basketball, the cast of characters at San Diego State is comically familiar. It seems guys like Matt Bradley and Nathan Mensah have been there for a lifetime. And they’ve achieved so much. The starting lineup features four seniors and one junior. Bradley has reached a new level with his offensive production. He is averaging 17 points in the month of February. I would hate to have a futures ticket on a young team like Arkansas and have to face a veteran bunch like San Diego State in the tournament. ESPN college basketball Seth Greenberg talks about being “invested in winning.” By that standard, it’s time that the Aztecs commitment pays dividends. The team’s Twitter hashtag is even “The Time is Now.” If you have any belief that the Mountain West will rebound and represent itself well in the tournament this season, San Diego State is a no-brainer.
#1 Drake Bulldogs 300-1 to win a College Basketball Championship
#1 Drake Bulldogs 300-1 to win a College Basketball Championship
If it weren’t for the pandemic, this team might be a household name as an underdog similar to how Oral Roberts will be perceived coming into the 2023 March Madness. Drake is big, experienced, and boast the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year. In a conference that recently sent Cinderella Loyola Chicago to the Final 4, no one should be sleeping on the Bulldogs. Point guard Roman Penn is a powerful asset as an ambidextrous and wise veteran player. The Siena transfer had battled injuries throughout his collegiate career but is looking poised to lead a deep run in another tournament. Drake ran Bradley out of the gym in its conference championship game in St. Louis. Bradley was considered to be a good team. You don’t have to worry about this mid-major team not having the size to battle against a power 5 school. Darnell Brodie is built like a right guard but can guard any center nationwide. Brodie also has a sweet stroke from the charity stripe, just saying. Book the Bulldogs, Owls or Cougars in your Sweet 16 if the bracket allows for it and make for an exciting March Madness!
Removed from List: Creighton Bluejays 30-1 to Win NCAA Basketball Tournament
***Creighton has been removed from this list, as the cutoff for how to define an “underdog” has been drawn at the 60-1 threshold. Still, if you might like the argument below to buy in at 30-1.
Creighton’s futures tickets have been selling at a discount since a stretch when they lost 5 of 6 to start December. After then going on an 8 game winning streak, they just lost on Valentine’s Day to another ranked team at Providence. But when you look closer at the details, you see that this is still a Final Four caliber team. Creighton started the season ranked in the Top 10 of the AP Top 25. Futures for Creighton to win a NCAA Basketball Championship started around 35-1, dropped as low as 80-1, and have now regained strength around 35-1 again. After the Providence loss, the odds stuck at 25-1. If you are shopping, you could likely still grab this team at 30-1 or even 35-1.
Creighton has regained its footing with a solid performance within the Big East. However, its non-conference wins early in the season might be its saving grace. The Big 12 and SEC get a lot of hype as the best conferences in basketball. Well, Creighton beat Texas Tech (Big 12) and Arkansas (SEC) right before that losing streak started. And, the losing streak could certainly be attributed to losing their starting center, Ryan Kalkbrenner, to injury. Once Kalkbrenner returned, Creighton went 4-2 immediately. The loses they suffered during that rocky stretch included respectable losses to probably tournament teams. They lost to Arizona, BYU, Texas and Marquette in that stretch. This gives you an idea of how aggressively this team was scheduling. They had high hopes since challenging eventual champion Kansas in last year’s NCAA tournament.
Creighton was 65-1 to win it all on the FanDuel Sportsbook app on January 25, 2023.
Creighton’s athletic wings Arthur Kaluma and Trey Alexander set the tone for a stellar defensive squad. South Dakota State transfer Baylor Scheierman is a strong guard who can score at all three levels. He was arguably the most sought after transfer in America this offseason. And sophomore point guard Ryan Nembhard is a poised point guard who can control and take over games. Despite the turbulence, Creighton is still projected as we publish this as a tournament team. You can buy them at half off their 30-1 starting price when the season started.
Fun fact: Creighton has one of several sons of NBA stars playing college hoops right now.
Click here for our full list of sons of NBA players playing college basketball in the NCAA 2022-2023 season.
When it comes to college basketball futures for March Madness 2023, Creighton lives in the same neighborhood as some blue blood programs. Duke, UNC, Creighton and Indiana all have roughly 50-1 odds to win a championship as February 2023 began. A recent poll by College Basketball Eye Test on Twitter showed that Indiana is the most popular pick among these values.