Only a fraction of the NCAA Tournament starting field is still alive, which narrows the field of vision and reduces prices on future wagers for the remaining contenders.
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Even so, this doesn't mean value spots are impossible to find. Last season, Villanova was offered at 12/1 to win it all at the Sweet 16 mark, and believers in the Wildcats were handsomely rewarded.
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|Odds To Win NCAA Tournament (courtesy of William Hill US)
| North Carolina
| West Virginia
| South Carolina
Sportsbooks worldwide have reset their wagering menus on futures to win the NCAA title. Using odds courtesy of William Hill US, let?s take a look at the candidates:
North Carolina (4/1): Now that pre-tournament favorite Duke and defending-champion Villanova have been eliminated, the Tar Heels predictably moved to the top of the betting board.
Although they should have favorable matchups for reaching the Final Four, I'm going to pass at these odds.
This team looks a measurable clip below the one that reached the title game last year. In potential title-game matchups, the Tar Heels could be in trouble against any number of defense-oriented teams coming from the other side of the bracket.
(FOR JOSH NAGEL'S PRE-TOURNAMENT ANALYSIS OF NCAA FUTURE WAGERS, CLICK HERE)
Although you don't want to read too much into any one performance, their 72-65 squeaker over Arkansas on Sunday was cause for concern. It showed a lesser-talented team might be capable of beating North Carolina at its own game, a notion that seemed unfathomable last year.
OTHER TOP CONTENDERS
Kansas (9/2): Of all the performances in the round of 32, the Jayhawks' 90-70 win Sunday over Michigan State had the most pronounced "team-to-beat" feel.
They held off repeated challenges from a rising team led by an iconic coach noted for overachieving in the postseason. Kansas ultimately flexed its muscle and left no doubt about the outcome.
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The Jayhawks still have a torturous road to the title, starting with a difficult matchup against Purdue, and are bound to face a dangerous opponent in the Final Four.
I liked the pre-tournament price on Kansas at 8/1 but, considering all the potential pitfalls, this wager is a pass at this nearly half-off price.
Arizona (9/2): The Wildcats resemble college basketball's version of a championship boxer who finds himself down in the early rounds, but always ends up with his hand raised at the end.
This team has fallen behind often, but its relentless defensive ferocity and clutch shot-making inevitably win out, as they did in the 69-60 second-round win over St. Mary's.
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Arizona was a pre-tournament value at 12/1, and has home-court advantage with the Final Four in Glendale, Ariz. But it?s time to sell high at this adjusted price.
Gonzaga (7/1): The Bulldogs continue to carry the torch as the Top Seed Nobody Wants To Respect and, yet, this is their best chance yet to reach a Final Four.
In order to get there, they face a likely rematch with a full-strength Arizona team they handled 69-62 in early December.
Gonzaga would be favored in the Final Four against any opponent from the East Region, and this scenario would create hedge value with a ticket at this price.
Kentucky (8/1): Although the Wildcats have been far from dominant in their first two wins, they have to be considered a value team with odds that have gone unchanged from their pre-tournament price.
To reach the Final Four, they face a rematch with a UCLA team that beat them at Rupp Arena, and a potential rematch with a North Carolina team they beat 103-100 in the CBS Sports Classic in December.
This team has been inconsistent and erratic but, at its best, is capable of the four-game win streak needed to win it all.
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BEST LONG SHOT
Purdue (20/1): The Boilermakers arguably have the most talented starting five of any team left standing, led by national player of the year front-runner Caleb Swanigan and versatile 7-footer Isaac Haas.
Purdue at times struggled to finish tight games, but reversed this trend with four consecutive close road wins to finish conference play. The Boilermakers took their poise to a new level Saturday when they held off Iowa State 80-76 after blowing a double-digit lead in the second half and briefly trailing.
If they were to upset top-seeded Kansas, a likely Final Four berth awaits. This is the most dangerous Sweet 16 underdog you'll ever find at 20/1 odds.