It’s the maddest March yet, and this year’s path to the Final Four has already proven to be arguably the most improbable of any year in the sport’s history.Upsets have not only happened but have been historically monumental. Since the NCAA tournament’s inception, a 16-seeded team had failed to beat a 1- seeded team 135 out of 135 tries spanning 34 years.
Enter the Retrievers of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. There have been 16 vs. 1 matchups where an outside chance of underdog victory seemed at least remotely plausible, but this wasn’t one of them. Virginia wasn’t just a 1 seed; they were the overall 1 seed, ACC Champions, and defensive stalwarts.But that’s the unpredictable nature of a single game elimination tournament, where one-off night quickly erases a season’s worth of domination. That’s why the odds of which remaining teams will advance to the Final Four should be approached with open-minded trepidation.
Now that all tickets to the Sweet 16 have officially been punched, it’s hard not to look ahead and think about the betting odds for Final Four.
In the South regional bracket, Kentucky stands as the favorite to reach the Final Four with a 57% chance according to current analytics. As the highest remaining seed (5) in the South Region, the Kentucky Wildcats will square up against another crop of Wildcats in Kansas State this Thursday in Atlanta, with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line. Should they win, Coach Calipari’s youngest Kentucky team yet will play the winner of Cinderella match-up between Loyola-Chicago vs. Nevada.
Despite being the youngest team in college basketball, the 2017-18 Kentucky Wildcats have found their stride at the perfect time, having won 10 of their last 11 games, the young ‘Cats find themselves with the bracket wide open if they can capitalize on their good fortune.
Villanova (more Wildcats?!) has the second-best chance to reach the Final Four in the East Region, with a 54% probability. It would be their second Final Four appearance in three years, and the odds are in their favor to reach it. However, even with the second highest odds to advance, to do so, Villanova will first have to beat West Virginia, who looks locked in and boasts one of the most vaunted defensive units in the country in addition to a wealth of veteran leadership. If they were able to survive that contest, the Wildcats of the north would meet the winner of Texas Tech vs. Purdue, both of whom are capable of giving Villanova problems.
The Midwest Region seems to be shaping for an Elite Eight bout between Kansas and Duke, assuming both take care of business in the Sweet 16, with the Duke Blue Devils being given a 49% chance of making it through to the final weekend. Surging Syracuse and Clemson will both have something to say about how the region shakes out, though.
Finally, Gonzaga has the fourth best odds to reach their second Final Four in as many seasons at 41%. If they can top 9 seed Florida State, the Zags would await the winner of Michigan vs. Texas A&M, both of whom are playing impressive basketball and are more than capable of reaching the Final Four themselves.
So, we know who the oddsmakers think should punch their proverbial tickets to the 2018 Final Four in San Antonio, but if the first weekend is any indication, they could be completely wrong.
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