UConn's title favorite status strengthens as Arizona soars

League: NCAA Basketball

Posted on: 25 Mar, 2024 at 05:59 PM

Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

UConn's quest to become the first team to repeat as the men's national champion in nearly two decades has gotten off to a dominating start.

Not only do the Huskies own the longest winning streak in the country at nine games, but UConn has now won eight consecutive NCAA Tournament games by double digits. After dispatching No. 16 Stetson and No. 9 Northwestern by an average of 28 points, next up for UConn in the East Regional is No. 5 seed San Diego State on Thursday.

The Huskies opened the tournament as the +360 favorite at DraftKings, and those odds have shortened to +210 ahead of the Sweet 16. It helps that No. 4 Auburn and No. 6 BYU failed to make it out of the first round.

UConn is also the third-biggest liability at BetMGM, where the Huskies are the +200 title favorite and lead the field with 11.8 percent of the total bets and 20.3 percent of the money backing them.

Next is North Carolina with 11.7 and 12.0 percent of the action, respectively, as the Tar Heels have moved from +1300 to +1000 since the start of the tournament. DraftKings reported Monday they had received the most action in the title market in the past 24 hours, followed by UConn.

North Carolina has also cruised through its first two games, but if the Tar Heels get past No. 4 Alabama in the Sweet 16 an Elite Eight date against No. 2 Arizona could lie in wait.

Arizona owns double-digit victories over Long Beach State and Dayton to begin the tournament and will face No. 6 Clemson next. The Wildcats have been the biggest mover of the tournament at DraftKings, where their title odds have shifted 30 percent from +1200 to +900.

Next is Duke, which opened at +3500. The fourth-seeded Blue Devils are now +2200 at the book ahead of a Sweet 16 matchup against top-seeded Houston. After that is a potential matchup against No. 2 seed Marquette.

While UConn does face a difficult road with four of the top five seeds remaining in the East, No. 1 Purdue faces the same challenge in the Midwest. If the Boilermakers can get past No. 5 Gonzaga in the Sweet 16, they would face an Elite Eight duel against either No. 2 Tennessee or No. 3 Creighton.

Purdue has been a popular play at BetMGM, drawing the third most total bets (7.7 percent) on the title winner along with the third most money (9.1 percent).

However, the biggest liability remains North Carolina State, the 11th seed in the South. The surprise ACC Championship winner has kept the ride rolling with opening victories over No. 6 seed Texas Tech and an overtime win over No. 14 Oakland.

The only double-digit seed to reach the Sweet 16, the Wolfpack opened the tournament at +15000 to cut down the nets at the end. A third of the way toward that unlikely event, NC State is now +10000 while drawing 2.1 percent of the total title money wagered.

Now that a program that finished below .500 in conference play clinched its first Sweet 16 since 2015, NC State star DJ Burns Jr. was asked for his message to the Wolfpack's doubters.

"I'm just saying welcome back," he said. "They didn't really believe in us. They probably still don't, but that doesn't matter to us. We're just going to stay together."

--Field Level Media