For as much mayhem that accompanied the opening weekend of March Madness, the top of the betting board as it pertains to championship favorites has sure as heck stagnated as we gear up for the Sweet 16.
Gonzaga remains the betting favorite with a bullet. The Bulldogs' odds have shifted slightly from +220 to +150. Meanwhile, as it was pre-tournament, Baylor and Michigan aren't far behind. Baylor's odds held steady at +400 while Michigan's odds, likely as a nod to the uncertainty surrounding injured wing Isaiah Livers, took a hit from +550 to +700.
But because of the chaos of the first two rounds -- and because the field has shrunk in a matter of days from 68 to 16 -- we've got some unsuspecting threats lingering on the board. For instance: No. 8 seed Loyola Chicago? It has the sixth-best odds to cut down the nets on April 5. And 12th-seeded Oregon State? Underdogs in both its first- and second-round games, the Beavers are now +6000.
There's plenty of other surprises so keep scrolling to see the updated odds. I've also highlighted a few thoughts on the new board and how I may sprinkle some dough accordingly just based on matchups and the bracket. So let's get to it.
Odds via William Hill Sportsbook
The favorite: Gonzaga
I warned you here that fading Gonzaga in your bracket was a bad idea. And OK, sure, I'm not exactly a genius for telling you not to pick against the No. 1 overall seed that has not lost a game all season. But Gonzaga was always going to be the heavy favorite in this tournament. It helps that the West Region, already considered one of the weakest regions, has been decimated. No. 2 seed Iowa: Gone. No. 3 seed Kansas: Murdered by USC. No. 4 seed Virginia: One-and-done. Gonzaga's path to the Final Four would be with wins against a No. 16, No. 8, No. 5 and a No. 6 or No. 7 seed. The value you're getting here is not great, Bob, but just keep all this in the back of your mind as you make your bets.
Interesting mid-tier play: Loyola Chicago
That Illinois team that won 14 of its final 15 games leading into the NCAA Tournament? Yeah, Loyola Chicago beat 'em by 13. It was not a close game. The Ramblers have a star in Cameron Krutwig who is the center (literally and figuratively) of all their actions on offense. But they also have a wealth of talent that in total exceeds their 2018 Final Four team. Led by the No. 1 defense in adjusted efficiency according to KenPom.com data, this team really has the goods to go even further than it did three years ago.
Fun longshot: Oregon
Oregon stomped a really good Iowa team by 15 points and showed its potential with its wing-heavy roster that thrives on disruption by using its length. The Ducks' path isn't that crazy, either. They face No. 6 seed USC in the Sweet 16 and would likely face No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga for a Final Four trip. Now sure, the Gonzaga game is a hang-up. But a 40 minute game with high stakes? With Oregon playing with nothing to lose? If it can get past the Zags, anything can happen.
My favorite bets: SEC schools
I'm enamored with Arkansas, which was one of my Final Four picks before the tournament. Coach Eric Musselman has the Razorbacks not only playing fast -- they rate 17th nationally in adjusted tempo, according to KenPom -- but also playing lockdown defense. Sprinkle in lottery talent Moses Moody and the sudden offensive ascension of Indiana transfer Justin Smith, and I think this team is going to be a real threat in every game it plays because of the top-end coaching and talent. Stock is on the rise in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
I'm also very much infatuated with Alabama. Like Arkansas, Bama plays with a top-20 pace. And like Arkansas, its defense all season has been nails. But the big difference between the two is the Tide launch 3-pointers at such an absurd rate and shoot it so well, they can absolutely bury teams. For Alabama, it's just another asset to put next to its No. 2-rated defense.
"Most people can understand the numbers behind it. It's not that complicated," Alabama coach Nate Oats told CBS Sports last month. "But you've got to be able to have an offense that generates at the rim and open 3s. You don't want to just jack up 3s, that's bad basketball. If your offense generates a lot of mid-range 2s, but you talk about the numbers, it makes no sense. If you're going to run Bobby Knight motion, you're gonna get a lot of mid-range 2s … You've got to have an offense that generates at-the-rim 2s and kick-out 3s."
If you want to get weird: Syracuse
Just a few weeks ago, Syracuse was a team considered to be on the bubble and potentially on the outside looking in of the NCAA Tournament picture. But as the No. 11 seed in the vaunted Midwest Region, the Orange have knocked off better-seeded teams (San Diego State and West Virginia) in consecutive games. Now they're in the Sweet 16 looking to keep moving.
I'm not ruling them out. Cuse's zone defense has given teams real fits this postseason. And when you combine that element with Buddy Boeheim doing his best Carmelo Anthony impression, Syracuse is that team that got hot at the right time ... and who knows how this run ends.