March Madness is almost here, and this season’s Final Four could look a lot different than last year’s. Though the 2022 NCAA Tournament got out to another exciting start, it’s Final Four was all about the blue blood. Kansas won its fourth NCAA title, emerging from a Final Four that featured other prestigious programs as well in Duke, North Carolina, and Villanova.
The Jayhawks have the chance to go back-to-back. Duke is making a late-season run but North Carolina and Villanova are currently not projected to make the tournament.
With a few of the tournament’s perennial top teams struggling, it opens the door for some other teams to possibly win the title for the first time in their program’s history. For anyone making March Madness predictions, ahead are five teams that could win the NCAA basketball odds Tournament for the first time.
1. Houston Cougars
With +650 odds, the Houston Cougars have the best odds to win March Madness. Houston finished the regular season 29-2 and spent plenty of the season ranked No. 1.
The Cougars own one of the best defenses in the nation, with their 56.5 points allowed ranking second in the nation. They are also in the top 10 in both KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ratings, ranking fifth and sixth, respectively. Veteran guards Marcus Sasser and Jamal Shead bring tournament experience while freshman Jarace Walker gets it done down low.
Houston’s NRG Stadium is also hosting the Final Four this year, a big advantage for the Cougars should they make it.
2. Purdue Boilermakers
The Purdue Boilermakers are another team who have been ranked No. 1 for a number of weeks, finishing the regular season 26-5 and in first place in the Big Ten.
Purdue is led by National Player of the Year favorite Zach Edey, a 7-foot-4 center who makes it difficult for anyone trying to guard him. Edey is third in the nation in rebounds while the supporting cast around him has played well most of the season. Purdue has a pair of freshmen guards Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith, who are second and third on the team in scoring, respectively, and provide offensive options outside of Edey.
🌟 One of the most-dominating seasons in Big Ten history. @zach_edey is your PLAYER OF THE YEAR! pic.twitter.com/C8ZVI1TiQc
— Purdue Men’s Basketball (@BoilerBall) March 7, 2023
3. Alabama Crimson Tide
Despite the Alabama Crimson Tide dominating college basketball news for outside issues surrounding their leading scorer, Brandon Miller, they have refused to let it affect them. Alabama has continued to be successful and remains one of the favorites to win the championship with +850 in the College basketball lines.
Alabama went 26-5 behind Miller and its top-10 scoring offense, but Alabama’s defense has been just as imperative to its success. The Crimson Tide leads the nation in rebounds while KenPom ranks them third in adjusted defensive efficiency.
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4. Texas Longhorns
The Texas Longhorns have dealt with their own off-court issues this season with the firing of head coach Chris Bear. Texas was able to stay strong through it all under the guidance of interim head coach Rodney Terry.
Texas finished second in the Big 12, ending the regular season with a 23-8 record. Not only do the Longhorns have plenty of veteran experience, led by leading scorer Marcus Carr, but they get a boost from their bench in Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year Sir’Jabari Rice, their second-leading scorer. Texas is also in the top 20 in both of KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ratings, ranking 16th and 20th, respectively.
the second player in Texas history to win the @Big12Conference Sixth Man Award? That’s @_jabariii 🤘 pic.twitter.com/5BzYJ8zJL2
— Texas Men’s Basketball (@TexasMBB) March 5, 2023
5. Creighton Bluejays
The Creighton Bluejays are more of a long shot than these other teams, but at +3500 odds, they could be a good bet for those making March Madness picks.
Creighton was expected to be a contender in the postseason, but after big man Ryan Kalkbrenner missed three games, the Bluejays hit a six-game skid midseason. Kalkbrenner is the Bluejays’ leading scorer and also disrupts opponents at the rim, but Creighton has a number of other playmakers as well, with five players averaging double digits. The Bluejays are also solid defensively; they are 10th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency rating.
The conference tournaments still remain for each of these teams, which could reveal more about who has what it takes to win it all, and March Madness expert picks may change again.