March Madness adjusted futures, opening first-round lines
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament field of 68 has been announced, the brackets are set and the first-round lines are posted – let the Madness begin!
The future-book odds have also been updated and it’s not surprising that the top four teams on the list at DraftKings are the four No. 1 seeds. While Alabama is the overall No. 1 seed by the selection committee, Houston opened as the pre-tourney favorite at 5-1 despite losing the AAC Championship Game to Memphis without star Marcus Sasser (out with a groin injury, but expected to be 100% for the tourney), followed by Alabama at 7-1, Kansas at 8-1 and Purdue at 10-1.
UCLA lost the Pac-12 Championship Game to Arizona and dropped to the No. 2 line and is the fifth choice at 12-1, followed by two other No. 2 seeds in Texas (14-1) and Arizona (16-1), but then No. 3 seed Gonzaga (16-1) and No. 4 seed UConn (18-1) are ahead of East No. 2 seed Marquette (25-1), which is tied with No. 3 seed Baylor (also 25-1). Odds will vary at other sportsbooks and have been getting adjusted in the first couple of hours since the release of the field.
It wasn’t that long ago that No. 1 seeds were almost always favored by close to 30 points over No. 16 seeds, with No. 2 seeds in the lower 20s, No. 3 seeds in the upper-teens and so on. However, with underdogs faring so well over the years and overall parity in college basketball, we’ve seen oddsmakers adjust and tighten up the first-round point spreads considerably.
In this tourney, West No. 1 Kansas is a 22.5-point favorite over Howard and Midwest No. 1 Houston is a 20-point fave over Northern Kentucky while we have to wait to see the lines for Alabama vs. the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi/Southeast Missouri State “First Four” winner and Purdue vs. the Texas Southern/Fairleigh Dickinson “First Four” winner.
In the No. 2 vs. No. 15 games, UCLA is -18.5 vs. NC Asheville, Texas is -14 vs. Colgate, Arizona is -13.5 vs. Princeton and Marquette is -11 vs. Vermont. The 3-14 lines are comparable with Gonzaga -15 vs. Grand Canyon, Xavier -11.5 vs. Kennesaw State, Baylor -11 vs. Cal State-Santa Barbara and Kansas State -9 vs. Montana State.
In the 4-13 games, Tennessee is -10.5 vs. Louisiana and UConn is -9 vs. Iona, but then we have a noticeable drop to Virginia only -5 vs. Furman and Indiana -4.5 vs. Kent State.
Everyone always focuses on the No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchups with all the upsets we’ve seen over the years, but the No. 5s are all favored with Duke (in an unfamiliar spot) -6.5 vs. Oral Roberts, Saint Mary’s -3.5 vs. Virginia Commonwealth and San Diego State -4.5 vs. College of Charleston, though Miami-Fla. Is only -2.5 vs. Drake, so Drake will probably be a very popular pick of bracket players.
It’s not until we get to the 7-10 matchups that we find lower seeds favored with No. 10 Utah State -2 vs. No. 7 Missouri and No. 10 Boise State -1 vs. No. 7 Northwestern. There are also two No. 9 seeds favored over No. 8s with West Virginia -2.5 vs. Maryland and Auburn -1 vs. Iowa.
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