By Mark Anderson
LAS VEGAS — March Madness isn't just about filling out — and later trashing — brackets. There are more ways to bet the field in the NCAA Tournament, an event that will consume basketball fans over the next three weeks. Here's a look at the favorites, underdogs and longshots.
WHO’S FAVORED TO REACH THE FINAL FOUR?
Top-ranked Houston is the plus-120 favorite to emerge as the Midwest Region representative and play in Houston, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. That means a $100 bet pays $120. The next top team in the region is Texas at plus-450.
No. 4 Alabama, which is the No. 1 overall seed, is plus-190 to come out of the South. Next is No, 8 Arizona at plus-440.
The most competitive region appears to be the West. No. 3 Kansas is a slight favorite at plus-320, just ahead of No. 2 UCLA at plus-350. No. 9 Gonzaga isn't far behind at plus-400.
No. 5 Purdue is at plus-300 to come out of the East, with No. 6 Marquette next at plus-420.
WHO’S FAVORED TO WIN THE TITLE?
Oddsmakers agree with the NCAA selection committee that the No. 1 seeds are the favorites — Houston at plus-500, Alabama at plus-800, Kansas at plus-1,000 and Purdue at plus-1,200.
After that, oddsmakers favor UCLA at plus-1,400, Gonzaga at plus 1,500, Arizona at plus-1,600, No. 7 Texas at plus-1,900, and No. 10 Baylor and Marquette each at plus-2,100.
WHO IS THE BIGGEST UNDERDOG?
If you're looking for the next Saint Peter's or Loyola-Chicago, check out these options.
Sixteen teams are listed at plus-50,000: Colgate, Furman, Grand Canyon, Howard, Kennesaw State, Kent State, Louisiana, Montana State, Nevada, Northern Kentucky, Southeast Missouri State, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas Southern, UC Santa Barbara, UNC Asheville and Vermont.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST SPREAD DIFFERENCE?
Kansas is a 21 1/2-point favorite over Howard in their first-round matchup. Beyond that, Houston is favored by 19 1/2 points over Northern Kentucky, UCLA by 17 1/2 over UNC Asheville and Gonzaga by 15 1/2 over Grand Canyon.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST OVER/UNDER?
The old saying is that life is too short to bet the under, but it's often the wise play. Some of these totals may give bettors second thoughts before taking the over, but that doesn't mean it's the wrong move. The highest totals are Gonzaga-Grand Canyon at 156 1/2, Missouri-Utah State at 154 1/2, Texas A&M Corpus Christi-Southeast Missouri State at 153 1/2, Auburn-Iowa and Xavier-Kennesaw State each at 151 1/2 and Florida Atlantic-Memphis at 150 1/2.
NOT REAL UNDERDOGS
Just because the committee seeds one team over another doesn't necessarily mean it's the better team in the minds of the oddsmakers. Here are the games where the lower seed is the favorite on the early line: Tenth-seeded Utah State by 2 1/2 points over seventh-seeded Missouri, 10th-seeded Boise State a half-point over seventh-seeded Northwestern and ninth-seeded West Virginia by 2 1/2 over eighth-seeded Maryland,
More information will be available later this week on this year's brackets, but history can be a guide. Looking back at 2022, there were no perfect brackets on ESPN’s Tournament Challenge bracket game after the first round, and only 13 of 17.36 million got 31 of the 32 games right. There were 12,529 brackets that correctly picked the Final Four and 7.02% of brackets made the right call on Kansas winning the national championship.