Kansas and 5 March Madness Bets to Avoid in 2019
Betting on the NCAA Tournament can be tricky. There is an awful lot to consider in a 68-team field, and it doesn’t help that March Madness is known for its upsets. Just last year, a No. 1 seed was beaten in the first round by a 16-seed when Virginia fell in shocking fashion at the hands of UMBC.
Virginia was not just a regional No. 1 seed. They were the top-seeded team in the entire bracket. The fact that they lost to a team nobody had ever heard of sent shockwaves through the world of college basketball. If a loaded Virginia team isn’t safe against the University of Maryland-Baltimore County Terriers, are any bets safe?
Trying to separate contenders from pretenders is often difficult. The Virginia-UMBC example is obviously an extreme outlier, but you can be certain that a number of teams with aspirations of cutting down the nets this March will see their dreams shattered far earlier than most expect. It’s just the nature of the tourney.
Betting on March Madness can certainly be profitable, but you have to be careful about where to place your bets. Some teams are just traps. In an attempt to try and make sense of what will be a crowded field, the following are 5 teams I would be wary of backing from a betting perspective in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
Syracuse Orange (+7500 to Win NCAA Tournament)
It’s safe to say the Syracuse Orange won’t be making it to the Big Dance as a team many will have pegged for national title contention. That said, there is something about March and Syracuse that go together. Without question, you can be sure that Jim Boeheim’s outfit will garner quite a bit of momentum from the betting public once the tournament field is announced.
And, it will have nothing to do with the quality of this year’s Syracuse team. People will see Syracuse in the bracket and automatically assume that the Orange will embark on yet another deep run into the tourney. Boeheim’s success in March is unquestioned, and we have seen him help lift undermanned teams to unexpected heights before. Who’s to say he can’t do it again this year?
As of this writing, Cuse are ranked 41st in the KenPom rankings. The Orange have a 17-7 overall record and they have managed to go 8-3 in the ACC, which is fairly impressive given the depth in the conference. The Orange are currently fourth in the ACC, just 2 games back of first-place Duke. Time is running out, but the Orange can likely solidify their seeding in March by a strong showing in the conference tournament.
It does feel bold to suggest that Syracuse won’t have success in the tournament, but I’m willing to take that risk. Still, the track record is daunting. The Orange have qualified for the tournament in 3 of the 5 years since they moved into the ACC. Cuse went all the way to the Final Four in the 2015-16 season despite finishing the regular season 23-14 with a 9-9 ACC record. Last year, Boeheim’s crew advanced to the Sweet Sixteen despite going just 8-10 in conference play.
Syracuse is listed at +7500 to win it all this season. While there is plenty of profit potential in those odds, they should be longer. The Orange are listed that high because of what they have accomplished in the past more than what they have done so far this season.
Kansas Jayhawks (+3000)
Kansas started the season as the top-ranked team in the country, according to the AP poll. The Jayhawks have been tabbed as a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed in the tournament in each of the last 9 seasons, but that streak looks like it could be in jeopardy. Kansas surged to the top of the preseason poll thanks in part to the decision of Lagerald Vick to return to school, but things haven’t been as rosy for Bill Self’s team as many expected.
The Jayhawks did pick up a nice overtime win at TCU on February 11, but they have gone just 18-6 overall this season. What started the year as the top-ranked team in the nation has fallen to 14th as of mid-February. Mid-season rankings are hardly relevant once March rolls around, but Kansas’ inconsistency has been troublesome.
Kansas is currently in second in the Big 12, just behind Kansas State. This Jayhawks team has a solid collection of talent, but one thing it’s lacking is that transcendent star player that we’ve seen carry the team in years past. There is no Joel Embiid, Nick Collison or even Mario Chalmers on the squad this season.
Dedric Lawson looks like the real deal, and the Memphis transfer may very well wind up in the Naismith National Player of the Year conversation. However, the rest of the team is lacking considerably. Udoka Azubuike can’t stay on the court, while youngsters like Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes are turnover machines. Turning the ball over is a death knell once the game slows down in March, and their inexperience could wind up costing the Jayhawks when it matters most.
Vick has been relatively disappointing this season, and the team recently announced he has taken a leave of absence for undisclosed reasons. Dotson and Grimes haven’t made up for their turnover-happy play by helping stretch the floor much, either. Opposing defenses will key in on Lawson, and Kansas may struggle to make their opponents pay.
One-man teams typically don’t go deep into the tournament. Stephen Curry at Davidson was something of an exception, but Dedric Lawson is no Steph Curry. I’ll pass on the Jayhawks all day long at +3000 to win it all this year.
Virginia Cavaliers (+750)
This year’s Virginia team is not the same one that stunk it up last year and got blown out in the first round by UMBC. That said, it’s difficult to take them all that seriously considering that inauspicious memory.
One area that is clearly improved when it comes to the Cavaliers is their offense. Tony Bennett built Virginia into a defensive powerhouse last season, but the team was lacking on the offensive end. Once the defense started to leak against UMBC, Virginia didn’t have enough offensive firepower to keep up.
Virginia is ranked No. 4 in the country as of this writing. The Cavaliers are 20-2 to this point, with a 9-2 mark in the ACC. A 9-2 mark is nothing to shake a stick at in what is easily the most stacked conference in America. The Cavs’ lone 2 losses of the season have come at the hands of Duke, which is, again, nothing to be ashamed of.
Regular season success doesn’t always translate to March. At this point, Bennett probably knows that better than anybody. Still, it’s tough to fully buy into what he’s selling given the shortcomings in recent seasons. Virginia has been a mainstay in the Big Dance under Bennett, but they have yet to advance past the Elite Eight. 2 years ago as a 5 seed in the East regional, Virginia narrowly edged past UNC Wilmington before falling in pathetic fashion in the second round. The Cavaliers mustered just 39 points in a 65-39 humiliation at the hands of Florida that year.
Until we see Virginia actually score in March, I am going to be skeptical of their chances at serious contention. That may sound unfair, but their history has done nothing to instill much confidence. I’ll pass on Virginia to win it all this year at +750.
Cincinnati Bearcats (+10000)
Unlike teams like Virginia and Kansas, Cincinnati won’t enter the NCAA Tournament with a lot of national title buzz. That said, some people may be compelled to pick them because of their history. The Bearcats have a rich history when it comes to March Madness, so perhaps some may see them in the field and hop on board.
Cincinnati is essentially the No. 26 team in the nation as of this writing, which is a gross overstatement. Cincy received 76 votes to make the top-25 in the most recent AP poll, which is the most of any team not listed in the top-25. The Bearcats are 20-4, which is good for second place in the AAC, just behind the Houston Cougars. KenPom has the Bearcats 29th in the nation.
However, this is not a good team. Do not be fooled by that gaudy record and 9-2 conference mark. Cincinnati is a bit like Virginia in that they are a solid team with a good defense that always gets results during the regular season before turning into a pumpkin by the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around. I see no reason to believe this year’s Cincinnati is any better in that regard than other recent Cincinnati teams.
The Bearcats just can’t score enough points to matter in March. They have faced 3 ranked teams all season. In each of those games, Cincinnati failed to even crack 60 points. They were beaten 64-56 by Ohio State, 70-59 by Mississippi State and most recently suffered a 65-58 loss at Houston. When they face good opponents, Cincinnati wilts.
Cincinnati has not made it past the second round in any of head coach Mick Cronin’s seasons at the helm. This team has no hope in March. Do not be fooled by their impressive regular season numbers. Here is how they have fared in the tourney in each of his first 5 years at the helm:
|Regular Season Record||NCAA Tournament Result|
|2013-14: 27-7 (15-3 conference)||Lost in first round|
|2014-15: 13-11 (13-5)||Lost in second round|
|2015-16: 22-11 (12-6)||Lost in first round|
|2016-17: 30-6 (16-2)||Lost in second round|
|2017-18: 31-5 (16-2)||Lost in second round|
Jarron Cumberland is a strong enough offensive talent to carry the team to some wins, but this team has no offensive firepower otherwise. As is the case with Kansas, I expect opposing coaches to gameplan around stopping one player. In the end, Cumberland won’t have enough help.
The Bearcats have appeared in the NCAA Tournament in each of Cronin’s first 5 seasons as head coach. Last year, the Bearcats were AAC regular season and conference champions, and they went 31-5 overall. Cincy was the No. 2 seed in the South Region, just behind Virginia. After toppling Georgia State in the round of 64, Cincinnati was upset 75-73 by seventh-seeded Nevada.
Don’t even consider betting on the Bearcats to win the national title this year at +10000. It’s the most glaring trap bet on the board.
Wisconsin Badgers (+7500)
Wisconsin has been a mainstay in the NCAA Tournament field in recent years, and we can safely expect the Badgers to qualify again this year. They uncharacteristically missed out on the festivities after a down year last season, but Greg Gard’s squad has a respectable 17-7 record to this point this year. The Badgers have gone 9-5 in Big 10 play, which is good for fifth in the conference. They can improve their tournament seeding with a strong showing in the conference tourney.
As is the case with some other blueblood programs on this list, Wisconsin will attract attention from bettors simply due to name recognition. The Badgers knocked off one of the most stacked Kentucky teams in history a couple of years ago en route to making it all the way to the National Championship Game. Wisconsin has a decorated history when it comes to rising up in March, which means their national title odds will get bet down as wagerers flock toward them.
While the Badgers have enjoyed a nice bounce-back campaign, their record is a bit inflated thanks to the relative weakness of the Big 10. We typically think of this as one of the best conferences in America, but that hasn’t been the case this year. Once you get past Michigan and Michigan State, there isn’t a whole lot of quality here.
The Big 10 may get as many as 8 teams into the field in March, which can be attributed to the conference’s reputation more than anything else. Michigan impressively picked up recent wins over North Carolina and Villanova, while Michigan State’s only 2 losses have come against solid Kansas and Louisville sides.
Wisconsin was beaten rather easily by both Michigan schools recently, and the Badgers have some bad losses on their docket, already. Wisconsin has been beaten by teams like Marquette, Minnesota and Purdue so far this season. There is nothing special about any of those teams.
The Badgers are just a trap bet at +7500. This NCAA Tournament looks like it will be fairly wide open, but Wisconsin isn’t a threat in the least to cut down the nets at the end of next month. Pass on Wisconsin at +7500 to win the national title and don’t think twice.