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Dan Ippolito

As Casino City's associate editor, Dan produces and edits all of our weekly newsletters, and he writes about the gaming industry for our websites and the GPWA Times Magazine. Dan graduated from Marist College in 2017 with a degree in Communications and a concentration in Sports.

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Top 10 bets to win the 2023 Men’s College Basketball Big Dance

13 Mar 2023

By Dan Ippolito
On Sunday night, teams on the bubble either heard their name get called or slowly watched the bracket fill up to realize the NIT was the next stop for them. Now, we have 68 teams competing to make it to the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at NRG Stadium in Houston.

Yes, March Madness is here.

Overall, it is very strange not to have North Carolina in the bracket this year as the Tar Heels became the first preseason No. 1 team to not make the tournament since 1985.

I’m sure many say this every year, but this does feel like a tournament where it is anyone’s to take.

OK, maybe not just anyone, especially when you consider that since seeding for the Big Dance began back in 1978, only four teams (NC State in 1983, Villanova in 1985 and UConn in both 2011 and 2014) with pre-tournament odds of better than 20-to-1 have been crowned the eventual champion.

But this year there really are a number of teams that have the resume and capability to do some serious damage in the field. Here, we take a look at who we think have the best chance to cut down the nets on 3 April.

10. Michigan State
If you follow March Madness each year, well, you have gotten familiar with seeing the Michigan State Spartans in the bracket. Head coach Tom Izzo and his Spartans have made the tournament in 25 straight seasons, the second-longest active streak, only trailing last year’s champ, Kansas (33).

As the No. 7 seed in the East region, MSU will open its tournament play against Southern Cal, where the Spartans are favored by two points at bet365 Sportsbook & Racebook. The identity of this team is experience. The upper-classman leaders — A.J. Hoggard, Tyson Walker, Joey Hauser and Malik Hall — are all key pieces and have helped underclassmen like Jaden Akins and Jaxon Kohler improve.

Sparty won’t have an easy road to get to the Final Four, but when this team is on, it is tough to beat. Don’t be shocked if the Spartans make a deep push toward the Final Four.

The team is +1400 to win the East Region on bet365 and +8000 to win the title on Everygame Sportsbook.

9. Connecticut
Rollercoaster season doesn’t describe the Huskies’ season well enough, but it will do. The team was 14-0 and seemed like nothing could get in its way, but that thought came to a crashing end quickly.

Beginning on 31 December, the previously perfect Huskies proceeded to lose six of their next eight games, but rebounded to win nine of their next 11 games. They are going into the tournament playing very solid basketball and will matchup against Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels in the first round as a 9.5-point favorite.

The duo of Adama Sanogo and Jordan Hawkins is what makes this team scary. At 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds, Sanogo is going to beat up the opposing big men inside and be a rim protecting force on the defensive side. While the centers are struggling and exhausted trying to contain Sanogo, the sophomore Hawkins is tough to guard with his ability to score at all three levels.

If he beats you off the dribble, you better have help near the hoop because not only is he a good finisher at the rim, but also if you foul him, he shoots 88% from the line.

The Huskies run nine players deep and are +450 on bet365 to win the West Region and +1600 to win it all.

8. Purdue
I could simply write Zach Edey here and that would probably be enough to explain why this team is on the list, but I won’t.

However, I will say it is no surprise that the gameplan is fire the ball inside to the 7-foot-4 giant in the post and let him go to work. Averaging 22 points and nearly 13 boards per game, Edey could very well be the National Player of the Year. You may think, well just foul him and put a guy that size to the line. That’s one of his more impressive stats to me, his free throw percentage sits at 74%, which in college is decent and for a center like him, is pretty damn good.

When Edey is doubled, or even tripled, on the catch, he isn’t afraid to kick it out to a number of shooters on the Boilermakers. Freshman guards Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith teamed up with junior Mason Gillis can really take pressure off Edey when they are knocking down open looks.

The top seed in the East region will face the winner of the play-in game between Texas Southern and Fairleigh Dickinson. The Boilermakers are the favorites to win the region at +300 on bet365 and Everygame lists them at +1000 to run the table and win it all.

7. Texas
The Texas Longhorns made a big statement this weekend when they won the Big 12 title game over Kansas, 76-56. Both teams were missing a key player, but to beat a team like Kansas by 20, Texas was telling the rest of the March Madness field to keep an eye on the Longhorns.

The No. 2 seed in the Midwest (-13.5 on Everygame) will open its tournament play with a matchup against Colgate. Texas will be coached by Rodney Terry after Chris Beard was fired a few months back after alleged domestic violence investigations in which the charges were eventually dropped.

The Longhorns are fast and they are physical. Marcus Carr is the team’s leading scoring at 16 points per game and he likes to have the ball in his hands down the stretch in clutch moments, he is simply never afraid of the moment.

Carr shares the backcourt with Tyrese Hunter and one of the best names in college basketball, Sir’Jabari Rice. Timmy Allen, Dylan Disu and Christian Bishop are the top forwards on the Texas team, but Allen missed the Big 12 title game and is day-to-day with a leg injury, but is hoping to go in the opening round.

The Longhorns have won four straight, three of which came against ranked opponents. Heading into the tournament, they are playing some of their best ball. As the second favorite to come out of the Midwest region (+400), Texas is listed on bet365 at +1600 to be named champions come 3 April.

6. Marquette
Sticking with another two seed, we move back to the East region where Marquette (-10.5 on Everygame) is set to take on Vermont in the opening round.

I haven’t watched a ton of Marquette this year, but from what I have seen is that Olivier-Maxence Prosper is long, athletic and can change the game in the blink of an eye, plus he is only third on the team in scoring.

Kam Jones leads the Golden Eagles in points per game at 15, but there is more to this team than Prosper and Jones.

I am going to give teams a piece of advice that they hopefully already know. When it comes to Tyler Kolek and David Joplin, DO NOT LET THEM SHOOT! Both of these players are just under 40% from three on the season and if they get going, well you might as well start packing up.

Coach Shaka Smart has his team playing intense defense as he always has his players do even since his days coaching VCU.

Marquette, which won both the Big East regular season and conference championships, is +400 to make it to the Final Four and +2500 to win it all.

5. Duke
What to say about Duke? Well, in their first season without Coach K, the all-time leader in wins, the Blue Devils are simply on a tear over the last couple of weeks.

Even when they aren’t scoring on all cylinders like they are capable of, the Blue Devils can depend on their defense like they did in the ACC title game, a 59-49 victory over Virginia. Sure, the Cavaliers play at one of the slowest paces in college, but holding the No. 13 team in the country to below 50 is still impressive.

If it wasn’t for a player I will speak about shortly, Duke’s Kyle Filipowski would probably be the best freshman in college averaging 15 and nine. Filipowski is teamed up with guard Jeremy Roach, and if you have seen him play, this dude is afraid of nothing and nobody when the ball is in his hands. He is fearless and will attack, attack and attack some more.

Duke is +3300 to be win the National Championship and +800 to come out of the competitive East region. The first-round game for the Blue Devils will be against Oral Roberts (+6.5 on Everygame). Be careful though, just two years ago, Oral Roberts had a run to the Sweet Sixteen after upsetting Ohio State and Florida.

4. Kansas
Kansas Jayhawk fans probably had some worried thoughts during the Big 12 tournament as coach Bill Self was unable to be on the sideline for the final two games due to a health issue; however, it is expected that Self plans to be coaching by the opening round of the tournament.

The style of play for Kansas has changed a little bit since the last couple of years, which includes last year’s title team. There is no dominant center presence on this Jayhawk team like Udoka Azubuike brought last season.

Now, it is the guards and wings that bring the fear to the opposition. Jalen Wilson, a National Player of the Year candidate, scores 20 a game and pulls down eight boards per contest. At 6-foot-8, the forward can matchup against any position and find a way to score.

Wilson has a supporting cast of Gradey Dick who can jump out of the building along with shoot it well from three, Kevin McCullar Jr. who is battling an injury and questionable for Thursday’s game, and floor general Dajuan Harris Jr.

There is no more, dump the ball inside and let the bigs go to work in Kansas. It is now, attack, get to the rim or kick and replace.

Playing Howard on Thursday, the top seed in the West is favored by 21.5 points on Everygame and +300 to make the Final Four on bet365. The Jayhawks also have the third-best odds to win it all at +900 on bet365.

Can the Jayhawks win two straight titles? It isn’t easy to do. Only seven teams in history have won back-to-back men’s basketball national championships and it’s happened just twice in the last 30 years (Duke in 1991 and 1992 and Florida in 2006 and 2007).

3. Alabama
Say hello to the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, the Alabama Crimson Tide. It is the first time in school history that Alabama holds this honor. If you didn’t realize it yet, Alabama is not just a football school anymore, and it has the best freshman, and arguably the best player, in the country.

Brandon Miller is just shy of averaging 20 per game and adds eight boards. As a college freshman, shooting 86% from the foul line and 41% from three is truly impressive. At 6-foot-9 with a long reach, Miller is able to shoot over most defenders.

Miller found himself in the headlines for other reasons in the last few weeks. In January, Miller’s since-dismissed teammate, Darius Miles, was apart of a fatal shooting. Jamea Jones Harris, a 23-year-old, was killed and reports came out that Miller delivered the gun to Miles on the night of the shooting. However, Miller’s lawyer says Miller never touched the gun and he is still able to play and has since the reports came out. Obviously, a story like that just doesn’t go away, so we will see how it will or will not affect the team as a whole.

Bama can score the ball at will. Averaging 82 per game is good enough to be ranked 10th in college basketball and they only give up 68 per game.

A big part of the team’s defensive success is Charles Bediako. The sophomore averages 1.8 blocks per game, but that number doesn’t do him justice. The number of shots that he affects is much higher than that.

This team isn’t afraid to shoot it from deep. Between Miller, Marcus Sears, Jahvon Quinerly and Jaden Bradley, the confidence is through the roof.

Do not let the Crimson Tide get out and run because they like to push the tempo and go fast. This team is a problem and the second-favorite to win it all on Everygame at +750 and the favorite to make it out of the South region at +180.

Alabama opens the tournament on Thursday against the winner of the play-in game between Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Southeast Missouri State.

2. Houston
Speaking of playing fast, Houston has to be one of the most athletic, tough and fearless teams I have seen play in a long time. Whether it is off a missed shot or made basket, Houston rips the ball out and is down the floor in one or two quick passes.

The starting five of Marcus Sasser, Jarace Walker, J’Wan Roberts, Jamal Shead and Tramon Mark play a good chunk of the minutes, but the Cougars’ bench is just as physical and tough.

The offense puts up 75 per game, and yes that is pretty average, but the separation from other teams comes on defense. Houston is the second-best defensive scoring team in the nation only giving up 56 per battle. The Cougars have only given up at least 70 points just four times all season.

Why aren’t they at the top of my list? Well, Sasser, the team’s best scorer and one of the leaders suffered a groin injury in the American Athletic Conference semifinal and missed the final against Memphis. The 10-point loss to the Tigers was just the third all season for Houston. There is hope he will return for the Big Dance, but that kind of injury can be tricky.

With that said, Houston is still the favorite on bet365 to win the National Title at +550 and +135 to make it out of the Midwest. Northern Kentucky will be Houston’s first opponent Thursday night and the Cougars are favored by 19.5 on Everygame.

1. Arizona
Finally, my top pick. This team may or may not have been my first bet on DraftKings since it launched in Massachusetts last Friday. On Saturday night, the Wildcats were -1 against UCLA in the Pac 12 title game in Las Vegas and the Wildcats covered by two, much to my liking.

Anyways, coach Tommy Lloyd has his team playing inside-out with the bigs leading the way. In fact, in six out of the last seven games, either Oumar Ballo and Azuolas Tubelis have been the team’s leading scorer. Makes sense why they are the two leading scorers on the team for the season.

But let me give credit to the guards and wings on this team too. Arizona has five players with significant minutes that shoot over 35% from behind the arc, including Kerr Kriisa who can definitely be streaky. He could go 6-for-7 from three or 1-for-7 and it wouldn’t surprise many Wildcat fans, but he never loses confidence. As a team, Arizona shoots 38% from behind the three-point arc, so you better close out hard. The only problem with that is if you close out hard, the ball is most likely getting dumped inside to their two best players.

Courtney Ramey, a veteran transfer from Texas, has been a major lift to the scoring of this team and also allows Pelle Larsson, a starter last year, to be able to come off of the bench this year and be a spark on the offensive end. Ramey came up big Saturday night by hitting the game-winning three with less than 10 seconds left, his only made field goal of the night.

So, what do you do? Guard the lethal three-point shooters? Protect the paint from the duo of big men? Well, you can’t do both really and that’s what makes this team a terrifying threat and a defensive gameplan nightmare for opposing coaches.

The No. 2 seed in the South (-14.5 on Everygame) will square off against Princeton in the first round. Arizona is +1600 on Everygame to be crowned champions and bet365 lists them at +450 to make the Final Four.
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