It’s March, and that means one thing—Madness has arrived in the form of college basketball’s chase for the national championship.
It all begins with conference tournaments, then on to the 68-team field for the NCAA Tournament, culminating in the national title game on April 6TH in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
March Madness betting is among the most exciting times of the year in Las Vegas, and with the explosion of legalized sports betting in other parts of the country, it has opened up numerous chances for punters to make their choice.
Finding value is imperative, and that usually means finding the favorites. Anybody can bet the chalk. So, we’re here to help you find some March Madness sleepers.
What’s a sleeper?
In nine of the last 10 Final Fours, there has been at least one team that was a no. 5 seed or worse. So that’s the definition we will go with, concentrating on three teams currently projecting outside the top 4 seeds that offer good odds on cutting down the nets.
Here’s what we’ll list from each March Madness sleeper team:
- Odds to win NCAA tourney (at BetOnline)
- Ranking at kenpom.com
- NET ranking from the NCAA
- Projected seed (via ESPN)
Let’s get to it.
Betting Value for Ohio State
The Buckeyes are just a cut above .500 in the rugged Big Ten, but have shown the ability to score some big wins.
- 33-1 at BetOnline
- KenPom.com rank: 8
- NET ranking: 16
- Projected seed: 6
Included in that is a 25-point drubbing over ranked Villanova and a 32-point victory over another ranked team in Minnesota. The Buckeyes also have wins over top 10 teams in Kentucky and Maryland.
That’s the kind of resume you look for in a sleeper. While the overall record appears pedestrian, when at its best, Ohio State is an obvious contender. This is a team once ranked as high as no. 2 by the Associated Press.
Without a doubt, the Buckeyes are capable of getting hot and winning six straight to earn the crown. At 33-1 odds, that’s a nice payoff.
- Kaleb Wesson, 14.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG
- J. Carton, 10.4 PPG. 2.8 RPG
- Andre Wesson, 9.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG
The Buckeyes feature a balanced attack with a deep bench. At six-foot-nine and 270 pounds, Kaleb Wesson is a load and leads the team in both points and rebounds.
But it’s on the defensive end where the Buckeyes are at their best. They allow just 62.3 points per game, 20th of 353 teams. If you recall, Virginia won it all last season with a stifling defense.
Few leagues can compare with the Big Ten for preparing a team for the NCAA Tournament.
It might be better for your wager if the Buckeyes do not make a big run in its conference tourney. That would allow them to rest up for the Big Dance and perhaps give you better odds.
Ohio State has been bounced in the second round in Chris Holtmann’s first two seasons as the Buckeyes coach. This is an experienced team that could easily be ready to take the next step.
Will Florida Surprise March Madness Bettors?
The Gators are not even a certainty to make the tournament, although it would be a surprise if they didn’t. So, what makes them a good choice for a sleeper?
- 66-1 at BetOnline
- KenPom.com rank: 33
- NET ranking: 33
- Projected seed: 9
Like Ohio State, Florida is very good when at its best. The trouble is, this is a team that has not been at its best for long stretches.
Still, there’s some reason to believe that could change down the stretch.
- Kerry Blackshear, 13.4 PPG, 7.6 RPG
- Keyontae Johnson, 14.0 PPG. 7.1 RPG
- Andrew Nembhard, 11.4 PPG, 5.5 APG
Florida is a young, talented, and inexperienced team outside of one player. That one player is Kerry Blackshear. He is the lone senior on the squad but has tourney experience as a member of a very good Virginia Tech team.
He transferred to Florida for his last season of eligibility. While Blackshear is the only senior on the roster, he is far from the only talented player.
The Gators have six players that were ranked in the top 100 in their senior class in high school.
Admittedly, there are some big ifs here. But if the Gators’ young and talented players have gained enough experience over the regular season, and if they have learned to mesh with Blackshear, this could be a dangerous team.
Regardless, a team with this much talent deserves a look at those long odds.
Consider Betting on UCLA During March Madness
If that projected seed is correct, UCLA is perilously close to missing out on the tournament. But the Bruins have been the hottest team in the Pac 12 and among the hottest in the country.
- 100-1 at BetOnline
- KenPom.com rank: 79
- NET ranking: 76
- Projected seed: 12
UCLA was at its ebb early in the season, culminating in an embarrassing home loss to Cal-State Fullerton just before the start of conference play.
League play was no better, as the Bruins fell to 8-9 overall and 1-3 in conference after a brutal 15-point home loss to Stanford.
Since then, UCLA has caught fire, winning 11 of 13 to vault into first place in the Pac 12 and onto the right side of the tourney bubble.
- Chris Smith, 13.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG
- Jalen Hill, 9.2 PPG. 6.9 RPG
- Jaime Jaquez, 9.0 PPG, 4.8 APG
Two of UCLA’s top players are freshmen and the starting lineup routinely features no seniors, so it shouldn’t be a complete surprise that the Bruins got off to a slow start.
Another factor is new coach Mick Cronin, who made the NCAA Tournament in his last nine seasons at Cincinnati. Cronin is a fine coach, but it likely took some time for his system to kick in at his new school.
If you believe in the hot-hand theory, this could be your team. At 100-1, those are astounding odds for a first-place team in a major conference.
UCLA has won 11 titles in its illustrious history. Of course, the last came 25 years ago. Still, this is not a team to be completely discounted.
Conclusion – Betting The Big Dance in 2020
These three teams are not the only sleepers you can find. Several contenders can be located within the Big Ten alone, aside from our choice Ohio State.
And we did not select any teams from outside what’s considered the major conferences. History has shown that teams from outside those leagues can certainly pull off the shocker.
And this season has been wide open, with no clear favorite. Kansas is likely to be the no. 1 overall seed, but the Jayhawks are hardly the overwhelming choice, having lost three times this season.
Sleepers abound! Finding the right one could be a great way to cash in on some long odds.