The 2013 NCAA Tournament bracket is starting to take form, and it’s never too early to start looking for a little value in the futures market.
Below is list of seeds in ESPN.com’s latest bracketology, and we’ve provided the best futures odds we could find for each team (along with our favorite pick in each group).
Keep in mind, sometimes it’s best to wait till the bracket is announced before placing any bets, but the key is maximizing value. For instance, if Duke turns into a much better team when Ryan Kelly returns, that means you’ll get a better price on them now than you would later.
* * *
Note: All futures odds taken from either 5Dimes, Bovada or Sportsbook.ag.
Our Favorite: Duke +850. The Blue Devils have the best tournament coach alive, and they’re a different team this year with forward Ryan Kelly, who’s been out since Jan. 8 with a foot injury and is eyeing a return on Senior Night on March 5. With Kelly, Duke was undefeated against what was power-rated as the most difficult non-conference schedule.
Michigan State +1200
Our Favorite: Michigan State +1200. Two words: Tom Izzo. Six career Final Fours coupled with a young team that is rounding into form as the season progresses mean there’s a great chance this team could make another run. All except one of the Spartans’ losses have come against top-notch competition in true road games, which aren’t a factor in tournament play.
New Mexico +5000
Our Favorite: Louisville +1200. Even though the value isn’t great, we’re not thrilled with any of the other options. New Mexico coach Steve Alford has never made it past the Round of 32, Georgetown’s inept offense will eventually cost them, and Arizona hasn’t exactly impressed against any of the quality Pac-12 opponents. We can’t forget that Louisville was ranked No. 1 just six weeks ago and always seems to turn it on come tournament time.
Kansas State +5000
Oklahoma State +5000
Our Favorite: Kansas State +5000. Because Bill Sny — er, Bruce Weber — is a really great coach. Wait, what? Never mind.
Ohio State +3300
Our Favorite: Wisconsin +6000. We love the Badgers because you know exactly what you’re getting with them. Very rarely are they vulnerable to a letdown against a weaker opponent. Eventually, Bo Ryan’s bunch will break through and make it past the Sweet 16, and holding a 60-to-1 ticket on them when that happens would be awfully nice.
Saint Louis +4500
Notre Dame +10000
Colorado State +10000
Our Favorite: Saint Louis +4500. You’d be hard-pressed to find a college hoops team playing better over the last month than the Billikens, winners of nine in a row in the very tough Atlantic 10 Conference. Included in that streak are a pair of victories over Butler, one over VCU, and two more over Dayton and Richmond. Top-rated defensive efficiency and second-best offensive efficiency in A-10 play. What’s not to like?
San Diego State +15000
Our Favorite: Butler +7500. They’ve faded a little bit since A-10 conference play began, but they also faded a little two years ago in January and February before this happened. Oregon is also worth a look at 100-to-1, but only if point guard Dominic Artis comes back strong from a foot injury.
North Carolina +6000
NC State +6000
Our Favorite: Missouri +6600. Selecting any team that’s currently projected at an 8- or 9-seed hinges on having a weak closing schedule that’d allow them to move up to the 7- or 6-slot, and Mizzou should finish 3-1 or 4-0 before the SEC Tournament. The Tigers also have the talent necessary to knock off one of the NCAA’s big dogs in the Round of 32 if that’s necessary.
Wichita State +7500
Our Favorite: Illinois +10000. You’re getting 100-to-1 on a team with NBA talent that has beaten Gonzaga, Indiana and Ohio State. Chances are they won’t be too intimidated in a potential Round of 32 matchup against a 1-seed, and a victory means you could hedge your way to profit after that.
Saint Mary’s +20000
Iowa State +15000
Our Favorite: Iowa State +15000. Every team in this bunch has a distinct weakness, and Iowa State’s is its complete disinterest in playing defense. But the Cyclones are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country and will be a tough out for anyone, especially if they get hot.
Middle Tennessee N/A
La Salle N/A
Ole Miss* +100000
Our Favorite: Minnesota +8000. Because there’s no other choice. Gross.
Our Favorite: Akron (when odds become available). The best-kept secret in college basketball at the moment could make an Ohio-like run with the right draw.