There is no real equivalent in the UK, and so it's hard for us to understand the sheer excitement and anticipation that builds ahead of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament – known commercially as 'March Madness' – each and every year in the United States.
Bringing together 68 of the finest college basketball teams in the country, university sport is big business in the US and with huge sums of sponsorship money and TV revenue to be made, it is little wonder that most educational establishments are willing to invest heavily in their teams.
As such, the standard of play is much higher and the players involved much more professional in their approach; many on show at March Madness will go on to lucrative careers in the NBA.
This high standard of play has piqued the interest of fans all across the globe, and as such is it any wonder that many online betting sites in the UK now offer odds on March Madness as part of their basketball betting platform? This betting preview will help guide you in the right direction!
March Madness is the jazzy branding of the NCAA Division 1 championship, which brings together the finest college basketball teams from across the United States. Taking place each spring (hence the moniker), March Madness determines the national college basketball champions by drawing the winners of each of the 32 regional conferences, plus 36 teams chosen by the NCAA committee, in a straight knockout format.
Held across three weekends, the teams are whittled down from 68 to 64 to 32 in a standard knockout format, before the final rounds are branded Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four (the leading team from each region), before the final itself is decided from the two winning semi-finalists. The winner of this final is dubbed NCAA Division 1 champion.
The history books reveal a couple of fallen giants of college basketball. UCLA, the most decorated team in March Madness history with eleven NCAA championships are not expected to progress beyond the Elite Eight in 2017. A similar fate is being predicted for Kentucky, who have eight titles to their name.
North Carolina and Duke University are tied with five wins, and that pairing is far more likely to see success this year; Duke in particular look a smart bet. Completing the NCAA elite is the University of Connecticut with four national titles. The following teams are worth a look in 2017:
The reigning NCAA champions are Villanova, out of Philadelphia, who are known as the Wildcats. They picked up their second NCAA title in 2016 after defeating North Carolina 77-74 with a three-pointer on the buzzer. It was a dramatic finale, and has led to last year’s final being described as ‘one of the greatest in the history of NCAA Tournament Championships’.
The Wildcats are hotly tipped to regain their crown under the smart stewardship of Jay Wright, but the draw in the East region has not been kind and they could face a Sweet Sixteen clash with either Florida or Virginia; two of the other more fancied teams in the field. That could be some encounter.
The number two seed Duke University is another hot tip, and their draw is perhaps somewhat easier than that of Villanova. They enjoyed a smooth passage through the ACC regional tournament, and now their toughest obstacle en route to an Elite Eight clash with, well, probably those Wildcats, will be SMU or Baylor in the round of 16.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are expected to dominate the West Division, although they weren’t really tested in qualifying. A potential clash with West Virginia at Sweet Sixteen will tell us more about their abilities.
The Midwest Region looks particularly tough to call, and while Kansas head the market as the number one seeds they face plenty of potential landmines in Oklahoma, Iowa (who beat Kansas in the regular season) and the in-form Minnesota. Making a prediction here is fraught with danger.
In the South section, University of North Carolina will be desperate to make up for lost time after tasting defeat in the Championship final 12 months ago, and they have a favourable draw having retained their number one seed status. But two defeats in their last four matches of regular play suggest there are vulnerabilities.
And so maybe Kentucky – if they can climb out of the stacked bottom bracket – are the team to watch from the South. However, this is March Madness, and as the name suggests anything can – and usually does – happen!
The Kansas City Jayhawks have been installed as the bookmakers’ favourites – they are a best price of 8/1 with bet365 – and that seems like a fair price. They have retained their number one seed status, and while the Midwest Division does look particularly competitive on paper, they can call upon perhaps the most fully-rounded roster of players, aided by outstanding new recruit Josh Jackson.
They showed tremendous character in the regular season, winning many of their matches after overcoming a deficit, and that kind of spirit and togetherness will be key as the spotlight brightens into the Elite Eight and after. We anticipate they will overcome Villanova in the Championship final.
From a betting perspective, simply backing Kansas to win the Midwest Region is a generous 9/4 with Ladbrokes, and that is perhaps the smartest play of the whole of March Madness. As a side bet, there is plenty to be said for backing Duke Blue Devils each way, which will pay out even if they lose in the final.
They are available at 5/1 with some bookmakers but Winner have them at an outstanding 9/1. Duke are the form team heading into the competition, and if they can negotiate the Regionals then they will be a strong proposition as they hunt for a sixth NCAA title. Visit Ladbrokes today for even more March Madness markets!