2017 March Madness Betting: 2 Sure Picks, 3 Value Picks

wichita-state-bettingIf you’re betting March Madness futures, you know that Villanova, Gonzaga, North Carolina, and Kansas are the most-heavily favored teams to win it all. But which of these schools is THE best bet to win the NCAA Tournament?

Beyond this, it’s also nice to have some value bets that can win you lots of money with for a small wager. That said, let’s look at two sure bets in 2017 March Madness, along with three teams that are undervalued in our GTBets futures.

2 Sure Bets

North Carolina; 27-7 record
No. 1 seed in South Regional; +600 odds

There’s absolutely no value to be had in betting on the Tar Heels to win. At +600 odds, they’re the biggest favorite at GTBets and are one of the top four seeds. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for the closest thing to a sure bet, then we suggest North Carolina. This team made it to the championship last year, where they were beaten by Villanova. Justin Jackson (18.1 PPG) and Joel Berry II (14.8 PPG) remember this as well as anybody, and they’re out for redemption. The Tar Heels have great size down low in Kennedy Meeks (12.6 PPG, 9.1 RPG) and Isaiah Hicks (12.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG). They also shoot a high overall percentage, meaning they’re less ripe for an upset than other top-tier teams.

Gonzaga Bulldogs; 32-1 record
No. 1 seed in West Regional; +850

gonzaga-2017-final-four-bettingMark Few’s teams have consistently made it to the tournament each year. However, the problem is that they’ve yet to advance beyond the Elite Eight, and they play in a weak conference. Based on these factors, we feel that Gonzaga is not only slightly undervalued, but also being overlooked as a legitimate championship team. We wrote about this team in depth a few weeks ago, with the jest being that this is Few’s best defensive squad, and they don’t rely on a Kelly Olynyk or Domantas Sabonis to carry them. Nigel Williams-Goss leads a balanced scoring effort with 16.9 PPG, while Przemek Karnowski (12.6 PPG), Jordan Matthews (10.4 PPG), Zach Collins (10.2 PPG), and Jonathan Williams (10.2 PPG) all make significant contributions.

3 Undervalued Teams

Louisville Cardinals; 24-8 record
No. 2 seed in Midwest Regional; +1400

donovan-mitchell-louisvilleIs it possible to be undervalued when you’re a No. 2 seed? Considering that Louisville is paying off at 14 to 1 odds, we think they might be given how wide open the Midwest Regional is. Kansas (+850) has gotten all the headlines and are picked far more than the Cardinals to make it out of this regional, but we don’t think they’re really this far apart. Louisville has good young players in Donovan Mitchell (15.7 PPG) and Deng Adel (11.9 PPG), while Quentin Snyder (12.7 PPG), Jaylen Johnson (8.1 PPG), and Mangok Mathiang (7.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG) provide scoring and strong leadership.

West Virginia Mountaineers; 26-8 record
No. 4 seed in West Regional; +3500

west-virginia-basketballThe Mountaineers aren’t getting much love at our sportsbook with +3500 odds of winning. And a big part of this is that they’ve lost eight games and didn’t win the Big-12. But they were competitive in all their losses, and have notable victories over Kansas and Baylor. We’re not saying that this makes West Virginia the favorite to cut down the nets in Phoenix this April. But if you’re looking for a team with moderate odds and a realistic chance of winning, then we like the Mountaineers. They’re set for a date with Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, provided both teams win their first two games.

Wichita State Shockers; 30-4 record
No. 10 seed in South Regional; +7500

The Shockers have advanced past the first round of the tournament in each of the past five seasons, including a Final Four trip in 2013, and a Sweet 16 appearance in 2015. Greg Marshall’s squad know how to win in March Madness, which is why we’re surprised that they’re only a No. 10 seed. Playing in the Missouri Valley Conference never helps their cause, but they competed against several teams from major conferences, including Louisville, who beat them 62-52. If Wichita State beats No. 7 Dayton in the first round – which we think they will – they’ll face No. 2 Kentucky in the second round. If they can win this game, then watch out for the Shockers!

Is This the Gonzaga Team that Wins March Madness?

gonzaga-2017-final-four-bettingThe Gonzaga Bulldogs have now made the NCAA Tournament 18 straight years. Barring any historic snub, they’ll make it 19 straight years in 2017. This will tie Michigan State for the fifth-best streak regarding consecutive tournament appearances.

All of the teams in the top 5 – Kansas (27 straight years), North Carolina (27), Arizona (25), Duke (21), and Michigan State (19) – have earned multiple titles. That said, how long until Gonzaga finally wins one after so many appearances?

They’ve made it to the Elite Eight twice in their history, including 1999 and 2015. However, most of their appearances have been marked by quick tourney exits. But there may be reason to believe that this is finally the year Mark Few and company run through March Madness.

The obvious is that they’re currently ranked number 1 in the nation with a perfect 28-0 record. They’ve once again dominated the West Coast Conference (16-0), and the Bulldogs need 10 more wins to match the 2014-15 Kentucky squad (38-0) for the best start of all time.

Going deeper than record, this Gonzaga unit is one of the best we’ve seen in terms of defense, ranking eighth in the nation. They also have a deep and talented roster, with seven players averaging between 8.0 and 16.3 points per game. We saw a similarly balanced team win it all last year, with Villanova’s victory over North Carolina.

“Our balance and our defensive are leaps and bounds improved from last year,” said guard Nigel Williams-Goss, who leads the team with 16.3 PPG. “And having guys that can switch multiple positions is huge.”

karnowski-gonzagaAs for the defense, this is the first time that the squad has ever ranked first during Few’s stint. A big reason why the Bulldogs are so good defensively is their ability to control the paint, with twin 7-footers Zach Collins (1.6 blocks) and Przemek Karnowski (0.9 blocks) doing a sold job inside. Add the perimeter defense of Williams-Goss and Jordan Matthews, and it’s easy to see why this squad is holding opponents to 61.6 points per game.

“Our defensive numbers are as good as they’ve been,” said Few, “and we’ve had some sneaky good defensive teams.”

As the coach of the Zags for the past 18 years, Few also notes that this is the deepest bench he’s had in a while – if not ever.

“This team has balance,” he explained. “We don’t have a [Kyle] Wiltjer that’s looking to get 30 a night. Or even a [Domantas] Sabonis that we’re running everything through every time down the floor.

mark-few-gonzaga“We can share it. I feel comfortable we have eight guys who can get to double figures if needed.”

As Few alluded to, players like Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis, Kelly Olynyk, and Adam Morrison have led unbalanced Gonzaga offenses. But the 2017 version doesn’t have one dominant player who scores over 20. Williams-Goss is the closest thing, but he’s more than willing to defer to teammates depending upon the game flow.

“This year we just have a more balanced team,” said Williams-Goss, “and we aren’t just focused in on two guys.”

Besides Williams-Goss’ 16.3 points, other consistent Gonzaga scorers include Karnowski (12.8 PPG), Collins (10.6 PPG), Matthews (10.1 PPG), and Jonathan Williams (9.9 PPG)

Some of the past Zags teams would run into trouble in the tournament when their main option was shut down by opposing defenses. But that won’t be a problem this season, given that the Bulldogs can score from so many different positions.

Beyond this, they have good leadership from Power 5 conferences, including Williams-Goss (Washington), Matthews (California), and Williams (Missouri). Throw in Karnowski, a fifth-year senior who’s already been part of four tournament teams, and you can see where the veteran leadership comes from.

“We’re dialed in every single practice, in the gym,” said Karnowski. “We work together. We work hard. And I think that’s very important. We’re 25-0 now and I see the guys focused in practice like they were in the preseason.”

An undefeated pre-tournament record is well within grasp, but Gonzaga doesn’t seem overly concerned with making history. Instead, they’re mostly concerned with the overall body of work, namely how they do in March Madness.

“The novelty of the undefeated season has kind of worn of and they’re pretty focused on the task at hand. They’ve been pretty good at that all year,” Few stated. “They’re really focused.”

Focus is only one part of NCAA Tournament success, especially given how just one bad shooting night can end your season. But if ever there were a Gonzaga squad that’s prepared for the rigors of the tournament, it’s this rendition, which goes 8-9 deep and can play lock-down defense.

Will this be the Gonzaga team that wins the title? An affirmative yes is never within reach when it comes to March Madness, even for the nation’s No. 1 team. But this could very well be the first Bulldogs team that makes it to the Final Four. And once there, they certainly have the depth and talent to compete for the championship.