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2022 March Madness NCAA Tournament Futures: UCLA and Kansas

We’ve narrowed the field for the NCAA Tournament from 68 to 16 and feel it is now the right time to take stock of the futures market.

Gonzaga (+230) remains the favorite to take down the nets in New Orleans, while other top seeds Kansas (+450) and Arizona (+500) are hot on the Bulldogs’ heels.

But which futures bets have the best value on the current board? Without further ado, here are some of my best futures bets for both the regional semifinals and national championship markets.

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Best Bet #1: UCLA Reaches Final Four (+225)

A chaotic start in the east region has left the three, four, eight and 15 seeded four contenders in the regional semifinals. Of those four, I believe the fourth seeded UCLA Bruins are well positioned to emerge from the region.

The No. 3 Purdue Boilermakers (-125) are the favorites to come out of the region, but I believe the price reflects more of the bookies’ certainty that it will escape Saint Peter’s in the next round. However, I personally believe that UCLA is a better, more balanced team.

UCLA players celebrate during their win over Saint Mary's.
UCLA players celebrate during their win over Saint Mary’s.
Getty Images

Head Coach Mick Cronin’s team has the sixth best adjusted efficiency margin among tournament teams, as well as the fifth best adjusted defensive efficiency, both according to kenpom.com. And although the Boilermakers have the second-best adjusted offensive efficiency among tournament teams, UCLA is a respectable eighth place in that category.

Assuming the seeding holds and Purdue and UCLA meet in the regional finals, I would make UCLA a favorite in this game. The reasoning? Purdue is atrocious on the defensive end. Of the 16 teams remaining in the tournament, head coach Matt Painter’s team ranks 15th in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Compare that metric to a UCLA offensive that had the fourth-best effective field goal percentage all season and third-best offensive rating (per sports-reference.com) against a very good St. Mary’s defense, and I believe it are reasons to believe in the Bruins.


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Best Bet #2: Kansas Jayhawks Reach Final Four (-175)

We warned Kansas to move out of this region early in the tournament, and while I’m not usually one to put such a high price on it, somehow this region has become even more favorable for the Jayhawks.

Providence will be the opponent for head coach Bill Self’s side in the regional semifinals, but should Kansas progress, they’re guaranteed double digits in the regional finals. I believe Kansas price for making the national semifinals should be closer to -215 so there is a hint of value in terms of implied probability at current price.

Beyond that implied odds advantage, there are reasons to back the Jayhawks. A 79-72 second-round win over Creighton might be cause for concern, but that game gave Kansas its fourth-best adjusted offensive efficiency since February 1.

Also, I’m encouraged by the fact that Kansas doesn’t settle for three-point attempts — the game against Creighton had the third-lowest three-point attempt rate this season — and has shown they can hit the free-throw line. In its last two games against tournament teams with a top-10 seeding list, Kansas has averaged 26 free-throw attempts and an 87 percent conversion rate.

That should help him roll easily against a Providence team that sits 13th out of 16 in adjusted defensive efficiency and (possibly) a Miami that ranks last in the same category. Even though it’s Iowa State in the regional finals, Kansas has won both head-to-heads this season and should cross.

I can also get behind a Kansas National Champion Future at the current price but ultimately believe this is the safest play.

https://nypost.com/2022/03/22/ncaa-tournament-futures-update-best-bets/ 2022 March Madness NCAA Tournament Futures: UCLA and Kansas

JOE HERNANDEZ

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