5 Mid-Majors to Bet on Reaching the Final Four in 2019

5 Mid-Majors to Bet on Reaching the Final Four in 2019

They may be big-time names with, in some cases, some rock-solid history, but they come from small-time conferences and thus can often been seen as underdogs.

During March Madness betting season anything can happen, however, so these are our favorite mid-major programs with a shot to crack the Final Four.

5. #11 St. Mary’s (+4000 to reach Final Four)

Region: South

When people talk about the West Coast Conference, they’re usually making a reference to Gonzaga.

But despite the Zags' sheer dominance of the conference since 2000, their "little brother" has made some pretty big noise on its own. With 11 losses, the Gaels don’t sport one of the nation’s prettiest records on paper amongst mid-majors.

That being said, they hung with some higher seeds in Mississippi State and LSU and lost to both by just four points. They also beat fellow mid-major powerhouse and NCAA Tournament squad New Mexico State by 15 back in November.

But the cherry on top came at the end of their run in the WCC Tournament in a final against the Zags, which up until that point were starting to look unbeatable. St. Mary's knocked off the heavily favored Bulldogs in a 60-47 stunner, earning their berth in the field of 68 the hard way.

They'll face a tough road to Minneapolis starting with Villanova but when they're on, the Gaels can hang with the best. Riding high on the confidence gained by denying its in-conference tormentor a title, St. Mary's may be worth a look on opening weekend and beyond.

4. #7 Nevada (+2000 to reach Final Four)

Region: West

Can the Wolf Pack improve on last season's dramatic run to the Sweet Sixteen?

They may not be sneaking up on anyone this time, but they have the same seed and all three of their top scorers (Cody and Caleb Martin and Jordan Caroline) back for their senior season.

Their offense is down a little from last season when they averaged 82.6 points per game (18th in the nation). Despite that, they still scored just over 80 points per game in 2018-19 and substantially improved their scoring defense allowing just 66.7 points per game compared to 73.1 in 2017-18.

Eric Musselman has become known for his fiery personality and he'll be looking to push his team over the top as it navigates through a very tough, but doable path to the Final Four.

If the Wolf Pack get past the Gators as expected, Michigan in the Round of 32 will be a tough draw, but Nevada's experience could be a difference-maker in what should be a high-scoring affair.

If the Pack can knock off the Wolverines, a program that made the championship game last season, that confidence boost could propel them to heights previously thought unreachable.

3. #7 Cincinnati (+1500 to reach Final Four)

Region: South

Houston may have been the big, bad team to beat for most of the season in the AAC, but Cincinnati has a knack for showing up in March.

That appears to be the case yet again as coach Mick Cronin's squad is peaking at the right time following an upset win in the conference title game.

The Bearcats are always a tough out thanks to Cronin's physical brand of basketball that transcends each of his rosters and they have a pretty favorable path to a deep tournament run if they can carry momentum over from this past weekend.

Cincy has made every tournament since 2010-11, but it hasn't made it past the Round of 32 since 2011-12. That could change this season.

Games against Iowa and potentially Tennessee will be played in Columbus, Ohio which will give Cincinnati a certainly unexpected home-court advantage in what promises to be some close, gritty contests.

Given that Cincy lost only one game (to Houston, whom they just beat in the AAC Title game) in front of a home crowd all season long, giving fans such a short distance to travel could be a legitimate factor in getting the Bearcats to the Sweet Sixteen.

Beyond that, anything can happen as we've seen year after year.

2. #3 Houston (+500 to reach Final Four)

Region: Midwest

The Cougars have done plenty to gain the nation's attention throughout the season despite coming up just short in the AAC Conference Tournament.

Head coach Kelvin Sampson has been to the NCAA Tourney 14 times amassing a 13-13 record with trips to the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight and Final Four under his belt.

Houston, the fifth stop in his controversial but relatively successful head coaching career, has provided a bit of a renaissance for Sampson after his disgraceful exit from Indiana saw him float around for a few years as an NBA assistant.

He has maybe his best team in over a decade as well as some favorable matchups that could pave the way for a return to glory in the form of a Midwest regional championship.

The Cougs are favored fairly comfortably against Georgia State, and they would be against either Iowa State or Ohio State in the Round of 32. The big challenge will be potentially Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen.

Outside of its conference, Houston beat four NCAA Tournament teams (LSU, Utah State, Oregon and St. Louis) so the quality wins are there and could indicate the ability of this team to match up with just about anybody.

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1. #1 Gonzaga (+150 to reach Final Four)

Region: West

Not much argument needs to be made for Mark Few and the Bulldogs as they’re only technically considered a “mid-major” by most fans and NCAA basketball experts.

Having made the last 19 tourneys (yes, you read that right) in a row, Gonzaga is a mainstay and has plenty of experience and savvy to go with what could be its most talented roster in program history.

KenPom has it ranked second in the nation behind only Virginia and for good reason. Gonzaga has already defeated a popular championship pick, Duke, back in the Maui Invitational Final which only highlighted an overall impressive nonconference slate that also included:

  • Texas A&M (W 94-71)
  • Illinois (W 84-78)
  • Arizona (W 91-74)
  • Creighton (W 103-92)
  • Washington (W 81-79)
  • Tennessee (L 76-73)
  • North Carolina (L 103-90)

A lot has changed since conference play began, obviously, but whether or not the Bulldogs can compete at the highest possible level of competition should not be a question lingering in the minds of fans of NCAA betting.

With a fully healthy Killian Tillie back in the lineup and getting back into his groove, the Zags should rebound from their embarrassing WCC tournament loss and could be set up nicely for a return to the Final Four (and even the National Championship Game) after getting bounced in the Sweet Sixteen last season.

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