The 2017 NCAA tournament is well underway, and it’s been nothing short of madness. The upsets have been plentiful, the heroes have found their moments to shine, and even some Cinderellas have managed to dance their way into our hearts. So far, this year’s tourney has been everything we could’ve hope for. And lucky for us, there’s still more to come.
Now that the field has been dwindled down significantly, the oddsmakers in Vegas have already started to rethink their previous assessment. Here are the teams with the best odds of cutting down the nets at the 2017 NCAA tournament.
8. (tie) Michigan
The Michigan Wolverines entered the tournament as one of the hottest teams in the country. They won their last five games of the season — four of which occurred in the conference tourney and resulted in an unlikely Big Ten tournament title — and were rewarded the No. 7 seed in the Midwest Region. And not even the bright lights of the Big Dance have been able to slow this group down.
John Beilein’s Wolverines held off a valiant Oklahoma State team in the first round, and followed up that win with a stunning victory over the No. 2-seeded Louisville Cardinals in the second round. Next up, is a date in the Sweet 16 with an athletic Oregon Ducks squad. With the way Michigan has handled its business lately, a spot in the Elite Eight is not out of the question.
8. (tie) Baylor
After finishing the year as the No. 12-ranked team in the AP poll, the Baylor Bears earned the No. 3 seed in a loaded East Region. And while the top two teams — Villanova and Duke — in that part of the bracket have been eliminated, the Bears continue to chug along; the dream of a national championship still in sight.
Baylor knocked out No. 14 New Mexico State in the first round, and dispatched a feisty USC squad in the second round. If the Bears are able to overcome a confident South Carolina team in the Sweet 16, they’ll be one step closer to punching a ticket in the Final Four. Of course, taking down the Gamecocks has proven to be easier said than done. Just ask the Blue Devils.
Despite coming into the tournament on a two-game losing streak, the Florida Gators — who finished the season as the No. 20-ranked team in the final AP poll — have found their groove on the biggest stage. The East Region’s No. 4 seed defeated East Tennessee State in the first round, and then quickly proceeded to blow out Virginia in the second round by the score of 65-39. It’ll be interesting to see what Florida can do against a super disciplined Wisconsin team in their upcoming Sweet 16 showdown.
The Kentucky Wildcats aren’t perfect, but they’re definitely legit. Behind gifted freshman scorer, Malik Monk, the Cats put up over 85 points per game, won both the SEC regular season and tournament crowns, and finished the year as the No. 5 team in the AP poll. That success has carried over to the Big Dance.
As the No. 2 seed in the South Region, Kentucky defeated Northern Kentucky and Wichita State in its first two games of the tournament. Next up is a much-anticipated matchup with the third-seeded UCLA Bruins in the Sweet 16. If you thought the Wildcats were confident now, just imagine how they’ll feel if they knock off Westwood’s finest. Time for head coach John Calipari to earn that paycheck.
UCLA started off the year as the No. 16-ranked team in the country. Then freshman sensation Lonzo Ball broke onto the scene, taking control of the offense and and turning the Bruins into one of the most exciting squads in the nation.
With the 6-foot-6 freshman pushing the tempo, UCLA led the nation in scoring at over 90 points per game, finished with best offensive rating in college basketball, and earned a No. 3 seed in the South Region. Since the tournament began, the Bruins have continued to impose their will on the opposition, handily defeating both Kent State and Cincinnati. We expect that the Kentucky Wildcats will give them a run for their Sweet 16. However, if Ball brings his A-game, it’s hard not to like the Bruins’ chances.
3. (tie) Gonzaga
The Gonzaga Bulldogs never seem to get the respect they deserve. Sure, they finished the regular season as the No. 2 team in the nation and earned the No. 1 seed in the West Region, but most fans still seem to have a hard time picturing the Zags as the last team standing. This isn’t a problem for coach Mark Few and the Bulldogs — they’re quite used to playing the role of the underdog. Feel free to doubt Gonzaga if you dare; just don’t come crying to us when this squad winds up dancing its way to a confetti shower.
3. (tie) Arizona
The Arizona Wildcats are peaking at just the right time. Following a Pac-12 tournament title, the No. 4 team in the country entered the Dance on a four-game winning streak. And while they were forced to settle for the No. 2 seed in the West Region, Sean Miller and company have done nothing but take care of business, defeating both North Dakota State and Saint Mary’s (CA). Although Xavier is expected to give them a run for their money in the Sweet 16, it’s hard to imagine the Wildcats not advancing.
2. North Carolina
The North Carolina Tar Heels lost in heartbreaking fashion in last year’s national championship game. In 2017, Roy Williams and company are poised to rebound in a major way. After winning their second straight ACC regular-season crown, the South Region’s No. 1 seed has continued to live up to the hype, dispatching both Texas South and Arkansas in the first and second rounds, respectively.
The Butler Bulldogs, whom North Carolina will face in the Sweet 16, are most certainly a formidable opponent. Yet, we like Roy Williams’ chances of adding to his already impressive tournament haul.
Although they floundered in their conference tournament, the Kansas Jayhawks — who were awarded the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region — are still among the most complete teams in the country. After winning the Big 12 regular-season title for the 13th consecutive season, Bill Self’s group entered the tournament ranked No. 3 in the final AP poll and has quickly asserted its dominance over the rest of the field. At this moment, the Jayhawks appear to be the team to beat. No pressure.