March Madness

The NCAA’s March Madness tournament will consume basketball fans over the next three weeks, starting this week. The top-ranked University of Houston Cougars are the odds-on favorite to make it to the Final Four, which will be played in their hometown.

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, starting this week. Here’s a look at the favorites, underdogs and longshots.

The favorites

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, 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.

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.

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.

The biggest spread difference is at Kansas, a 21 1/2-point favorite over Howard in their first-round matchup March 16. 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.

But 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.