March is coming.
Tomorrow we flip the calendar and it’s the most exciting month of amateur athletics, because the NCAA Tournament will begin in two weeks.
The final week of the regular season is here, and soon we’ll be whetting our appetite for buzzer beaters and Cinderella stories with conference tournaments. With no team standing head and shoulders above the field this season, the stage is set for bracket busters galore and the possibility of an unlikely squad dancing in Phoenix come April.
Before the brackets are released and everyone’s picking their favorites, let’s take a look at four teams with long-odds in Vegas and a shot to cut down the nets. Don’t bet your mortgage on these dark horses, but feel free to risk some disposable income on a chance to strike it rich! Odds are good these four teams will all have much better odds on The Strip at the conclusion of their conference tournaments.
Butler Bulldogs (50/1)
Butler’s sitting on the 4-seed line on the latest bracket projections, with only Seton Hall at home and the Big East Tournament remaining. They’ll be a 2-seed in the BET, setting up a likely collision course with Villanova in the title game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Villanova’s been elite this year, and yet Butler’s beat them twice. A BET title and a third win over Vilanova could see Butler earning a 2-seed.
It’s not just conference foe Villanova that Butler’s handled this season. They’ve got wins over Arizona, Cincinnati, and Indiana to their credit, with the latter occurring before injuries depleted the talent. There’s certainly been some head scratching losses, like Indiana State, Georgetown, and St. Johns, but the overall resume is impressive. Butler’s got an alpha dog in Kelan Martin who can score when needed, and play a gritty team defense than can confound higher-octane opponents who like to get out in transition.
For comparisons sake, the other teams sitting on the 4-line in projections are Duke (9/1), Florida (26/1), Purdue (30/1), and West Virginia (32/1). As a value play, it doesn’t get much more attractive than Butler. There are plenty of things worse than cheering for the Butler Bulldogs with $100 on the line for a chance at $5,000. Why not visit Grizzly Gambling (web link) and jump on this golden opportunity before it’s too late?
Baylor Bears (40/1)
Baylor was dynamite out of the gate this year, racking up top ten wins over Oregon, Louisville, and Xavier (again, before injuries). They’ve got four wins against top ten teams, tied with Butler, trailing only Kansas. Butler had won 15 straight before going into Morgantown and getting shellacked by the Mountaineer press. They’ve dropped five other games, including two close ones against Kansas, but are still widely projected to be a 2-seed. It’s a no-brainer to take 40-to-1 odds for a 2-seed in the tournament.
For their six losses, only the Jayhawks have swept the Bears. Fresh off a disappointing loss at Iowa State, they got revenge on West Virginia at home 71 – 62 last night. They’ve played in a ton of close games, so they should be well seasoned for the pressure packed tournament games.
Johnathan Motley is a 6-10 junior averaging 17 and 10 this year, so they’ve got the reliable big they can dump it into for a bucket. Not to mention, they’ve got an all-world defender in Ish Wainright, which goes a long way in March. If you can overlook their disappointing losses, Baylor’s got one of the best resumes in the country against top tier teams, are projected for a low seed, and a chance to win you a chunk of change if you’re willing to wager on them.
Florida State Seminoles (45/1)
If Baylor reminded you of Butler, then Florida State should remind you of Baylor. They’re slated for a 3-seed currently, yet have even longer odds than the Bears at 45-to-1. The only way I’d argue against risking some cash on a 3-seed or lower at those odds would be a devastating injury to a vital player subsequent to selection Sunday; it’s just too good to pass up.
Admittedly, the long-odds for the low seed is the only real attraction I have towards the Seminoles. They’re too erratic and have lost too many games to shitty teams for my taste. Then again, they’ve also had some wins that will help you convince yourself there’s a chance they can run the gauntlet of six games. They started the ACC slate with a nice run of three-straight against Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Duke, before succumbing to the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill. They bounced back with wins against Notre Dame and Louisville, before some curious losses to Georgia Tech and Syracuse, and lost to Pitt recently 80-66 for their worst loss of the season.
FSU gets a major test tonight at Duke, and a win will certainly diminish your pay day if you wait to wager on the Noles to win it all. The early bird gets the worm, and that worm could be a cool $4,500 if you’ve got $100 to risk this afternoon.
Minnesota Gophers (100/1)
You want a looooooooooong shot? Here’s your chance to turn $100 into $10K baby!
Going back over Minnesota’s results this season is truly an exercise in “what the fuck?” They cruised their their early season schedule, losing only to formidable Florida State, but not picking up any out of conference wins of worth. Mount St. Mary’s (16), Arkansas (10), and UT Arlington (12) were the only projected teams to earn a ticket to the big dance, but at least the Gophers showed they can mop on lesser competition.
After starting Big Ten play with a tough loss in overtime to Michigan State, they got great wins over Purdue and Northwestern. Soon after, disaster struck, and they went on a five game slide, losing to the Spartans, Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Maryland. They soon bounced back, rattling off seven straight to this point. Suddenly, Minnesota is cruising along at just the right time. They could realistically be heading into the conference tournament on a seven-game win streak if they can handle Nebraska and Wisconsin.
The Gophers have five players averaging double-digits on the season, a nice luxury to have when counting on your best player to carry the burden in the tournament can, at times be too much to ask. I’m looking at you, Buddy Hield.
Do I believe Minnesota is going to win the national title? No. No, I do not.
Currently, they’re pegged for a 5-seed, and as hot as they’ve been, they could jump a line or two if they win the Big Ten Tournament. With how wide open the tournament is this year, any top-four seed has a chance to win this thing. What’s not to love about taking a chance on a major conference team, playing their best ball of the season, with a projected low-seed at 100-to-1 odds?