2017 NCAA Tournament: Which Futures Are Offering Value Before the Sweet 16?

For the past few months, I have utilized our bracket simulator predictions to determine which schools were offering value in the futures market. By converting each school’s future price into an implied probability, I have been able to identify several schools with a positive expected value. My initial analysis highlighted Florida (+4000), Louisville (+1700) and Gonzaga (+1000) as the three top value plays, with Virginia (+3000), Wichita State (+15000), Baylor (+3500) and West Virginia (+2000) right behind them.

Fast forward more than two months and four of those teams are still competing for the national championship — although the odds have moved dramatically in some instances. The table below examines the title odds from before the season, before the start of the NCAA Tournament, and the current odds at the Westgate Superbook.

Team Current Odds (3/20/17) Pre-Tournament Odds (3/12/17) Opening Odds (4/5/2016)
KANSAS +400 +800 +1000
NORTH CAROLINA +400 +600 +1500
GONZAGA +600 +1000 +8000
ARIZONA +600 +1200 +2000
KENTUCKY +700 +800 +600
UCLA +700 +1200 +8000
PURDUE +1800 +3000 +4000
MICHIGAN +1800 +8000 +10000
WISCONSIN +1800 +8000 +3000
WEST VIRGINIA +1800 +3000 +3000
BAYLOR +1800 +4000 +8000
FLORIDA +1800 +3000 +10000
OREGON +2000 +2500 +2000
BUTLER +4000 +5000 +8000
SOUTH CAROLINA +8000 +20000 +20000
XAVIER +10000 +50000 +2000
SETON HALL N/A +30000 +5000
KANSAS STATE N/A +30000 +30000
IOWA STATE N/A +6000 +5000
MINNESOTA N/A +8000 +30000
PROVIDENCE N/A +30000 +30000
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE N/A +30000 +100000
NOTRE DAME N/A +8000 +20000
WICHITA STATE N/A +8000 +10000
OKLAHOMA STATE N/A +10000 +30000
CINCINNATI N/A +10000 +10000
MICHIGAN STATE N/A +10000 +1200
FLORIDA STATE N/A +3000 +20000
ST MARY'S (CA) N/A +10000 +20000
VIRGINIA N/A +4000 +2000
NORTHWESTERN N/A +20000 +30000
MARYLAND N/A +20000 +4000
VIRGINIA TECH N/A +20000 +30000
CREIGHTON N/A +30000 +20000
MIAMI (FL) N/A +30000 +5000
WAKE FOREST N/A +30000 +30000
MARQUETTE N/A +30000 +30000
VCU N/A +30000 +20000
VANDERBILT N/A +30000 +20000
ARKANSAS N/A +30000 +30000
DAYTON N/A +30000 +20000
RHODE ISLAND N/A +10000 +30000
DUKE N/A +500 +450
NEW MEXICO STATE N/A +500000 +200000
KENT STATE N/A +500000 +200000
VILLANOVA N/A +800 +800
IONA N/A +500000 +100000
LOUISVILLE N/A +1200 +1000
FLORIDA GULF COAST N/A +200000 +200000
PRINCETON N/A +100000 +30000
FIELD N/A +50000 +50000
USC N/A +50000 +20000
SMU N/A +3000 +10000
NEVADA N/A +50000 +200000
SOUTH DAKOTA STATE N/A +500000 +100000

Gonzaga opened the season as an 80/1 longshot to win the national championship, but they’re currently tied with the third-best odds at 6/1. Kansas (10/1) and North Carolina (15/1) entered the season as strong contenders to win the title, and they’re currently tied as the co-favorites. In an interesting twist, Kentucky actually has longer odds of winning the title now (7/1) than they did before the season (6/1).

The table below compares the current championship odds and implied probabilities at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook with the latest probabilities from our bracket simulator in order to find undervalued teams. Any values of above “1” indicate positive expected returns. This only represents one sportsbook, and we strongly encourage bettors to shop for the best line before placing a wager.

School Seed Probability Westgate Westgate Implied Westgate Value
North Carolina 1 10.4% +400 20.00% 0.52
Kansas 1 7.8% +400 20.00% 0.39
Gonzaga 1 20.2% +600 14.29% 1.41
Arizona 2 4.3% +600 14.29% 0.30
Kentucky 2 10.6% +700 12.50% 0.85
UCLA 3 2.7% +700 12.50% 0.22
Florida 4 10.9% +1800 5.26% 2.07
West Virginia 4 7.5% +1800 5.26% 1.43
Baylor 3 6.0% +1800 5.26% 1.14
Purdue 4 5.3% +1800 5.26% 1.01
Wisconsin 8 3.4% +1800 5.26% 0.65
Michigan 7 3.0% +1800 5.26% 0.57
Oregon 3 4.5% +2000 4.76% 0.95
Butler 4 1.6% +4000 2.44% 0.66
South Carolina 7 1.3% +8000 1.23% 1.05
Xavier 11 0.6% +10000 0.99% 0.61

Our numbers indicate that Florida (+1800), West Virginia (+1800), Gonzaga (+600) and Baylor (+1800) are the top values on the futures market, but bettors would be wise to utilize an alternative strategy when betting these futures. In most single-elimination situations, it’s far more profitable to roll over the moneyline as opposed to betting into futures — especially late in the season when there’s significant juice built into the futures market.

As an example, let’s compare how bettors would fare by taking Baylor’s future now as opposed to rolling over the moneyline in four consecutive games. Baylor is +1800 to win the national championship, meaning a $100 bet would return a total of $1900 if the Bears win the title (the $100 initial wager plus an $1800 profit). Pretty straight forward, but let’s look at potential lines for their future games.

Baylor is -165 against South Carolina, meaning a $100 bet would yield $160.61 (the $100 initial wager plus a $60.61 profit). Baylor would likely be a small underdog against the winner of Wisconsin/Florida, so let’s assume a spread of +1 and moneyline of +100. Rolling over that $160.61 wager would yield $321.22 (the initial $160.61 wager plus a $160.61 profit). After that, Baylor would likely be a sizeable underdog in consecutive games.

If we assume the most likely scenario in which Gonzaga wins the West Region, Baylor would likely be an underdog of +5 on the spread and +180 on the moneyline in the Final Four. At that point, rolling over the moneyline would yield $899.42 (the initial $321.22 wager plus a $578.20 profit).

Based on public perception, Baylor would likely be a slightly larger underdog against either Kansas or North Carolina, but for the sake of argument, we’ll assume the same +180 moneyline in the national championship game. Rolling over the moneyline for a fourth consecutive game would yield $2518.38 (the initial $899.42 plus a $1618.96 profit). As you can see, that’s a far more lucrative strategy than Baylor’s futures at +1800.

Round Opponent Moneyline Initial Wager Profit Total Return
Sweet 16 South Carolina -165 $100 $60.61 $160.61
Elite 8 Wisconsin/Florida +100 $160.61 $160.61 $321.22
Final 4 Gonzaga +180 $321.22 $578.20 $899.42
Nat'l Championship Kansas/UNC +180 $899.42 $1618.96 $2518.38

This is an oversimplification and these returns would obviously be smaller if there are any major upsets in the other regions. Baylor would be a smaller underdog against Arizona than they would against Gonzaga, and those would obviously impact the overall returns from rolling over the moneyline. That said, Baylor would need to pull off several moneyline upsets in order to win the national championship.

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David Solar

David Solar is the Content Manager at Sports Insights. He specializes in sports betting analytics and creating data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

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