Caesars Sportsbook oddsmakers disagree with the NCAA Tournament selection committee because while Kentucky is the No. 2 seed in the East Region, the Wildcats are +275 favorites to win the East over No. 1 seed and defending national champion Baylor, which is +300. The East is the only region in the 2022 Big Dance where the top seed isn't favored to win it.
It's the eighth time in school history Kentucky has earned a No. 2 seed since tourney seedings began in 1980. In its most recent NCAA appearance, the Cats were the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region of the 2019 tournament, defeating Abilene Christian, Wofford and Houston before losing to Auburn in overtime in the regional finals. There was no NCAA Tournament in 2020 and UK didn't make it last year.
Kentucky will face No. 15 Saint Peter's in the first round, and UK is 48-10 in NCAA Tournament openers, winning 25 of its last 26 opening-round games.
Last year the 32 teams that were seeded in the Top 8 in their respective region combined to go 33-20 (.623) straight up through the first weekend. That was the second-worst record through the Round of 32 by schools occupying seeds No.1 to No. 8 since the tournament expanded in 1985. According to Grant Tucker, Caesars Sportsbook's lead college basketball trader, expect more of the same this March.
"This is one of the most wide-open years I can remember," said Tucker. "There is quality from top to bottom. Even some of these teams seeded 14 or 15 are very good and shouldn't be taken lightly. Playing teams like (No. 12 seed) Wyoming and (No. 14 seed) Montana State might seem like a breeze for some of these higher-seeded teams, but I don't think that is going to be the case. I do expect teams like Gonzaga, Baylor, Kansas and Kentucky to go pretty far, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is one of those years where you see a bunch of upsets, especially in the first couple of rounds. There will definitely be some teams on upset alert early."
To win the national title, Gonzaga (top seed in West) is the +350 favorite followed South No. 1 Arizona (+600) and then Kentucky (+800). The Zags have been the favorites to win the NCAA Tournament since the national championship futures were released at Caesars Sportsbook last April 5, opening at +550.
Gonzaga ranks first in total number of tickets (8 percent) and total dollars wagered (17 percent) in national championship futures wagering. The pre-tournament betting favorite has won seven of the past 16 NCAA Tournaments. Gonzaga and Kentucky would meet in a potential Final Four matchup.
"It is top-heavy and then there are a bunch of teams within the 20/1-price range," Tucker said. "The +350 price for Gonzaga doesn't really turn heads. Everyone is looking for a bigger payout. I think we'll see people looking for these bluebloods like Kentucky, Duke and Kansas. Bettors will be playing those teams that have had tournament success before once they see that bigger price."
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