NCAA Basketball Tournament March Madness Preview: Houston Cougars are the bookmakers’ favorite to win it all!

The NCAA Basketball Tournament tips off with bookmakers backing the Houston Cougars as the favorite to win March Madness. 

You may notice that some of the usual suspects are missing from the top-five favorites list for the 2023 NCAA Basketball Tournament. Gonzaga, Duke, and Kentucky find themselves just outside of the top-five favorites. However, that doesn’t mean one of the three teams won’t get its hands on the top prize in NCAA basketball.

Let’s break down the tournament with our NCAA Basketball March Madness Preview.

When is the NCAA Basketball Tournament?

The NCAA tournament tips off with the first round on Thursday, March 16. However, before the first round begins, the play-in round, also known as the First Four, will take place on Tuesday, March 14, and Wednesday, March 15.

The tournament’s schedule is:

  • First Four: March 14-15
  • First round: March 16-17
  • Second round: March 18-19
  • Sweet 16: March 23-24
  • Elite Eight: March 25-26
  • Final Four: April 1
  • NCAA championship game: April 3

Who is the No 1 seed?

The Alabama Crimson Tide received the No 1 overall seed for this year’s tournament. The SEC team had a regular season record of 29-5. The Tide are +700 to win the tournament.

Houston is the second seed overall, but the Cougars have the best odds to win the tournament. Houston is at odds of +500 to win it all.

NCAA Basketball Tournament outright winner odds

If you plan on taking a punt on the NCAA Basketball Tournament outright winner, we suggest you examine the odds provided by different sportsbooks to find the best available.

Here is a look at the outright winner odds provided by Bet365 as of March 14.

  • Houston +500
  • Alabama +700
  • Kansas +1100
  • Purdue +1100
  • UCLA +1200
  • Gonzaga +1400
  • Arizona +1600
  • Texas +1600
  • UCONN +1600
  • Baylor +2000
  • Marquette +2000
  • Tennessee +2500

You can find the odds for your team or betting selection on your favorite sportsbook. For now, the 12 teams listed above are considered the bookmakers’ favorite to lift the NCAA title.

Why is Houston the favorite?

Houston got an odds boost thanks to being placed in the Midwest region. The team has the NCAA’s second-ranked defense. Meanwhile, the offense is ranked in the top 100.

Marcus Sasser’s fitness for the tournament is unlikely to be 100%. Without him, Houston could struggle. Sasser was absent for the AAC Championship Game, as Houston was beaten by 10 points by the Memphis Tigers. Sasser averages over 17 points per game.

The Cougars’ chances could go down in flames without the guard. Even with a partially fit Sasser, Houston may struggle to win against strong teams.

A case for the Purdue Boilermakers

Purdue will play in the East Region which has been labeled as the weakest in the NCAA Tournament. The Boilermakers will start off against Texas Southern or FDU. Memphis, Duke, and Tennesse are all possible opponents for the Boilermakers on the way to the Elite Eight.

Purdue’s star player is Zach Edey. He averaged 22.3 points and 12.8 rebounds a game. The East looks wide open and a run to the Elite Eight or Final Four could be on the cards for Purdue.

Who won last season’s NCAA Tournament?

2022 Kansas
2021 Baylor
2019 Virginia
2018 Villanova
2017 North Carolina
2016 Villanova
2015 Duke
2014 Connecticut
2013 Louisville
2012 Kentucky


Only one team claimed the NCAA title twice in the last decade. Villanova won the tournament in 2016 and 2018. The lack of repeat winners over the last 10 years shows just how competitive the tournament is. It also shows how difficult it is to progress in the competition.

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