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Best bets to win ‘most wide-open’ NCAA Tournament ever

Updated February 16, 2023 - 7:16 pm

The NCAA Tournament is less than a month away, and there are still plenty of teams worth a bet to win it all.

“Any team 50-1 or less, you can make an argument that they have a chance,” Westgate SuperBook oddsmaker Ed Salmons said. “Out of all the (30) years I’ve done this, this is the most wide-open tournament I’ve ever seen. There are just no good teams.”

Houston is the 6-1 favorite at the SuperBook to win the NCAA title, and Alabama (7-1) is the only other team with single-digit odds. There are 11 teams with odds of 20-1 or less and 25 teams with odds of 50-1 or less.

“This year kind of reminds me of 2014, the last time UConn won it,” Goldsheet.com handicapper Bruce Marshall said. “There’s no real dominant team.”

Marshall is high on the Big East.

“The Big East has got four or five teams that could get to the Final Four and maybe win it even,” he said. “The league is just really good.”

Marshall singled out Connecticut (20-1), Creighton, Marquette and Xavier (30-1), and Providence (100-1).

Providence, 100-1

VegasInsider.com handicapper Brian Edwards recommends a play on Providence at 100-1.

“They had a big win (Tuesday) to end Creighton’s eight-game winning streak, and they’re ranked 30th by KenPom,” said Edwards (@vegasbedwards), referring to the respected analytics website.

“They have two shameful losses, at Saint John’s and on a neutral court to Saint Louis. But they’ve beaten UConn, Marquette and Creighton, three teams in the top 12 on KenPom.”

Marshall can’t believe the Friars are 100-1.

“That’s a tremendous bet. Providence might be the best team in the Big East. I think Providence is better than UConn,” he said. “Providence can beat anybody. They have a great coach (Ed Cooley).”

Kansas State, 70-1

Edwards bet Kansas State at 99-1 in January, and pro sports bettor Paul Stone likes the Wildcats at 70-1 at Circa Sports.

Kansas State got off to a 15-1 start before losing six of its last 10.

“I know they’ve been struggling lately, but that’s just life on the road in the Big 12 this year,” Edwards said. “I still think they’re a Sweet 16 team. At 99-1, if they make the Sweet 16, I might be able to get creative to get a profit.”

Stone said Kansas State will go as far as Markquis Nowell takes it.

“When he’s cooking and his offensive game is right, the Wildcats are a tough out,” said Stone (@PaulStoneSports). “They got off to a 6-1 start in the Big 12, which is arguably the toughest league in the nation, and they climbed as high as No. 5 in the major polls.”

Miami, 50-1

Edwards also likes Miami, ranked No. 32 by KenPom, at 50-1.

“I’ve been backing Miami constantly, and they’ve been really good to me, for the most part,” he said. “They went to the Elite Eight last year, and they’ve got a lot of that personnel back.”

Connecticut, 22-1

Connecticut started 14-0 before losing eight of its last 12. But that hasn’t stopped bettors from pounding the Huskies at the SuperBook, where they’re down to 20-1.

“They won’t stop betting UConn, and they keep losing,” Salmons said.

Connecticut beat Marquette on Feb. 7 before losing at Creighton on Saturday. Edwards liked the Huskies at 30-1. They’re still available at 22-1 at BetMGM.

“They’re still worth a shot at 30-1. If they’re 15-1, I would not be interested,” he said. “They looked like the best team in the country in November and December. If they play the way they did against Marquette, they looked like a Final Four team for sure, if not the best team in the country.”

Arizona, 22-1

Stone also recommends a play on Arizona, which is still 22-1 at Circa Sports despite being as low as 8-1 at other books.

“Arizona beat three really good basketball teams (Cincinnati, San Diego State and Creighton) in a three-day span to win the Maui Invitational the week of Thanksgiving,” Stone said. “They have a really balanced team and good frontcourt.”

Kent State, 1,000-1

For an extreme long shot, Stone suggests taking Kent State at 1,000-1 at Circa.

“They’re probably 50-50 to even get in the tournament,” he said. “But in a 12-day span earlier this year, they played Charleston, Houston and Gonzaga and led all three on the road with less than four minutes left.

“You invest $10 at 1,000-1. That’s $10,000. If you go to Circa, $10 will get you a cup of coffee. Skip that cup of coffee, take that $10 down to the book and put it on Kent State to win it all.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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