At this late point in the NCAA tournament, the chances of discovering remaining futures value for teams to win a national championship are as likely as finding someone still willing to call the Big Ten the best conference in the country.
Gonzaga and Baylor look like who we thought they were, but their respective + 155 and + 300 prices aren’t worth a play with four more wins still needed. The moneyline rollovers for these two are the only options now, even with the added work needed in comparison to purchasing one futures ticket.
Lovable Loyola-Chicago, which was north of 50-1 before the tournament is now + 900 on DraftKings. That number must mean the book has more than a few people who took a pre-flop flyer on the Ramblers.
There is one last field to hunt on for plus numbers so late in March. That is banking on the right candidate — among many worthy ones — to win the Most Outstanding Player award.
A MOP bet is clearly making a correlated play to go along with a national championship selection. That is why bookmakers have a top-heavy list of Gonzaga and Baylor players. The last player to win the award who wasn’t also a national champ was Hakeem Olajuwon in 1983 when Lorenzo Charles took the big prize away from the Dream.
According to DraftKings, here are the favorites to win the MOP: Corey Kispert, Gonzaga + 450; Jared Butler, Baylor + 600; Drew Timme, Gonzaga + 600; Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga + 800; Cameron Krutwig, Loyola-Chicago + 900; MaCio Teague, Baylor + 1300; Davion Mitchell, Baylor + 1500; Joel Ayayi, Gonzaga + 2000; Hunter Dickinson, Michigan + 2000; Quentin Grimes, Houston + 2000; Herbert Jones, Alabama + 2000.
Before getting bounced by Loyola-Chicago, Illinois had two players (Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu + 900) with the third-lowest odds. Now that the Illini are off the board, Butler and Timme move up behind Kispert, the odds-on favorite from the beginning.
From a valuation standpoint, the number of candidates helps create deeper numbers down the board; however, with so many legitimate players for two programs that look destined to play in the Final Four, the handicapping process becomes even more difficult.
You can easily make a case for Gonzaga and Baylor winning it all, but if you then had to tell a story for who will be most responsible, it would take multiple chapters to write.
Just think back to 2019 at the start of the Final Four when bookmakers made Virginia’s Kyle Guy (+ 375) the favorite at a lower price than teammates Ty Jerome and De’Andre Hunter. The rationale was if the favored Cavs were to win, the offense would go through Guy on every possession. Guy was in fact the ball-dominant figure and wound up winning the award over Hunter, who was the leading scorer in the final game against Texas Tech.
But in 2018, Jalen Brunson, Villanova’s Guy-like quarterback was the odds-on favorite, but teammate Donte DiVincenzo took home the honors after scoring 31 points in the championship game.
To help get you through the downtime before the Sweet 16 starts and distract you from all those ripped-up Illinois, Ohio State, Iowa and Texas tickets on the floor of your TV room, here is some information for possible MOP plays.
There are a couple of ways to make MOP bets.
First, you could do this as a double down on an existing futures ticket for Gonzaga or Baylor. There should be some amount of confidence in one or both teams making a championship game appearance, so you can look to add on your winnings by selecting one or two of their players to win MOP.
For example, you can lock in a Kispert MOP ticket now to go along with a Gonzaga future or Butler for Baylor. Those multiple tickets in hand can help increase your national championship night winnings and provide some security to make other in-game plays if the Final Four is going according to your predictions.
At plus prices, you can even consider getting multiple MOP tickets if you are in need of some action and sweat.
Or you can use a MOP ticket as a hedge against an existing futures play. Say Gonzaga does play Baylor in the final, you can bet a player on the opposing team of your future play for a better payout price than just taking the opposing team straight up.
If you have Baylor at a favorable futures price, taking Gonzaga on the moneyline in the final game will be hard to hedge because the Zags would come at a minus price. But a couple of bucks on plus MOP options — Kispert, Timme, etc. — can be an alternative hedge route.
This is obviously not a foolproof hedge. Multiple players can win the MOP against just one team; however, it is an idea to ponder, especially for those looking to hedge as little as possible but still desiring some level of protection on a futures ticket.
Another option is to make your national championship future play now by backing a particular player instead of his team. That ticket on the player for MOP is going to pay out better than the team. At this point, Houston is + 900 on the futures board, while star player Quentin Grimes is + 2000 for the MOP.
If Houston does make a late tournament run, you can be confident Grimes is responsible, especially since teammate DeJon Jarreau is hobbled with a hip pointer.
If you are interested in making a MOP futures play with the most possible value attached, do it before the Sweet 16 games tip off. Each team that gets knocked off shrinks the board and the odds.
Before Gonzaga’s Monday game against Oklahoma, Kispert was + 700. And right before Illinois fell, Butler was + 1000.
Regardless of who you want to back — favorite or long shot — his MOP odds will be lower once this weekend’s games start.
Since 1999, here’s how the MOP has been awarded by position: point guard 8; shooting guard 4; small forward 5; power forward 3; center 1.
Based on the recent trend, this award is becoming increasingly guard/perimeter dominated. A guard has been the MOP every year since 2014. The last big man to win the award was Anthony Davis in 2012, and he spent plenty of time around the arc. The last true post big man to win the award was Emeka Okafor for Connecticut in 2004.
This means the attention for this award belongs on those who have the ball in their hands the most and those who shoot 3-pointers.
Corey Kispert + 450
The 3-point shooting forward is averaging 16 points per game in the first two rounds of the tournament. He has the profile of the recent MOPs, is the No.1 option on offense and does his scoring all around the court.
Drew Timme + 600
The 6-10 forward is scoring 20 points per game in the tournament, including 30 points and 13 rebounds against Oklahoma in the second round. He is Gonzaga’s Mr. Inside to complement Kispert’s Mr. Outside.
Jalen Suggs + 800
The multidimensional point guard shines more on the court than in the box score, and that might hinder his MOP chances, even though the chatter about him possibly being the top pick in the NBA is heating up. He is averaging 11 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Joel Ayayi + 2000
Like Suggs, another playmaking guard who takes on different roles that limit MOP-like statistics. Still, he is more than capable of being the Zags’ leading scorer in the Final Four. He played a team-high 38 minutes against Oklahoma.
The best play for a Gonzaga MOP future is Timme. As the main scoring threat, Kispert is always going to get the most defensive attention when the Zags have the ball. As an unselfish player, that is great for the team, not so much for bettors looking for big offensive numbers.
The varying roles of Suggs and Ayayi along with backcourt mate Andrew Nembhard make it difficult to back just one Gonzaga guard.
Timme was dominant against the Sooners. Looking toward a possible Baylor matchup, the Bears have tremendous perimeter defense while their difficulties on that end of the court are usually in the post area, where Timme does most of his damage. The pace Gonzaga has played all season also helps Timme to consistently beat opposing big men down the court — a key attribute at the end of a long tournament.
This play goes against the MOP trend of guards winning the award; however, from a value standpoint and with a Baylor final in mind, Timme has the best opportunity to stand out among his outstanding teammates.
Jared Butler + 600
In two tournament games, the floor general is averaging just shy of 15 points, four rebounds and five assists. Good numbers across the board, just like he did during the regular season. Working in his favor is that he is the acknowledged star of the team and will get most of the media attention when conversation turns to the Bears. That is a valuable commodity for would-be MOPs.
MaCio Teague + 1300
He came out scoring in the Bears’ first game against Hartford with 22 points. Then, against Wisconsin, his output dropped to nine. He is the second guard option behind Butler, so Teague has the potential to show some variance on offense.
Davion Mitchell + 1500
The third gun of such a deep and talented Bears backcourt. He has been a little more consistent in tournament scoring than Teague with 12 and 16 points in Baylor’s two games. He is also the best perimeter defender, which is another aspect that helps the team but not necessarily bettors with MOP futures in mind.
Any Baylor MOP futures must include Butler. He plays a starring role for the Bears and has emerged as the face of the program. Butler’s play and contributions (like UVA’s Guy) provide him a better opportunity to outshine Teague and Mitchell, who will likely offset each other. In this case, the favorite also provides the most value.
OTHER MOP VALUE PLAYS
Hunter Dickinson, Michigan + 2000
Another pick that bucks the guard trend, but against LSU, the Wolverines looked to pound the ball to this old-school center every possession. With the ball consistently in his hands and the team still looking for someone to replace Isaiah Livers’ scoring, the odds are worth a small play if you think Michigan advances.
Cameron Krutwig, Loyola-Chicago + 900
Same logic as above. If you see Loyola-Chicago making another Final Four trip, then get a Krutwig MOP ticket as a bonus because if they do, it will undoubtedly be on the back of their ballyhooed big man.
Jaden Shackelford, Alabama + 3000
The confidence level for Michigan to win the East Region is trending down while the Tide are becoming a popular choice. If you want to roll with the Crimson Tide to make it to the Final Four, take along a 30-1 Shackelford MOP futures ticket for the ride The 6-foot-3 guard fits the profile of recent MOPs and has emerged from the talented pack of Jahvon Quinerly, Herb Jones and John Petty to be Bama’s go-to player.
Buddy Boeheim, Syracuse + 8000
The Midwest bracket is open and Syracuse can see its way from the 11 seed to the Final Four. At the 80-1 price, it’s worth the price of a small glass of orange juice to see if the coach’s son can get them there.