Bookmakers love Houston and Alabama

The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament begins today and with it will come tons and tons of betting. The American Gaming Association projects that 68 million Americans will wager $15.5 billion during March Madness. With that in mind, let’s take a look at who the sportsbooks are tabbing as the favorites, both for the overall tournament and in each region (odds coming from FanDuel, for no other reason except that it was the first site that popped into my head).

For odds on the overall champion, it is pretty much what you might expect. The four No. 1 seeds are the four favorites, with Houston at +500, Alabama +700, and both Kansas and Purdue at +1,200. Among the most interesting things in the championship odds is Houston coming in as the favorite, even though Alabama was the selection committee’s overall top seed. Houston’s question mark right now is the availability of First Team All-American Marcus Sasser, who suffered a groin injury in the AAC tournament semis.

Also of interest is the fact that UCLA, the No. 2 seed in the West Region, has the same +1,200 odds as Kansas, the No. 1 seed in that region, and Purdue. And then Gonzaga, the No. 3 seed in the West, has the next-best overall odds at +1,500 (tied with Texas and Arizona).

Some surprises in three regions

Sticking with the West Region, considering the above paragraph, it should come as no surprise that Kansas and UCLA are tied as the favorites to win that quarter of the bracket at +330. Gonzaga follows at +400, followed by UConn, TCU, and Saint Mary’s. TCU is the No. 6 seed, while Saint Mary’s is the No. 5, so there is a little bit of a flip-flop there.

In the Midwest Region, Houston is the heavy favorite to make the Final Four at +135 – bookmakers are likely counting on Sasser returning. The only other team with triple-digit odds is Texas at +350. Indiana, Xavier, and Texas A&M are all tied at +1,000. The notable part there is that Texas A&M is just a No. 7 seed, though to be severely under-seeded after finishing second in the SEC and ranked 17th in both polls. In the meantime, the No. 5 seed in the region, ACC regular season co-champ Miami, is only given +2,000 odds by FanDuel, also sitting behind No. 6 seed Iowa State.

Moving to the South Region, it’s a similar situation to the Midwest at the top, with No. 1 seed Alabama the favorite at +150, followed by No. 2 Arizona at +380. FanDuel thinks the region is more open than is the Midwest, though, with two other teams at triple-digit odds. No. 3 Baylor is at +600 and then it’s No. 6 Creighton at +850, ahead of the other ACC regular season co-champ No. 4 Virginia and No. 5 seed San Diego State, both a +1500. FanDuel really does not like No. 7 seed Missouri, placing it 11th in its odds to come out of the South Region.

Finally, in the East Region, the top of the roster is very tight. No. 1 seed Purdue with unanimous First Team All-American Zach Edey, is the favorite at +300, but No. 2 Marquette is right behind at +370. No. 4 Tennessee is next at +550, No. 5 Duke is +650, and No. 6 Kentucky is at +800. No. 3 seed Kansas State is getting no love from odds makers here, coming in at +1,200.

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