We break down the top five favorites as well as a dark horse to consider for the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
Duke Blue Devils (+500)
The Blue Devils picked the perfect time to heat up with March Madness set to kick off. Despite finishing fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 27-8 record, the red-hot Blue Devils enter the NCAA Tournament riding a four game winning streak — including a huge victory over Notre Dame to close out the season. The Blue Devils have no shortage of offensive weapons, with forward Jayson Tatum leading the way. Tatum — a threat down low — averaged 16 points per game during the 2016-17 season. However the offense will still run through guard Luke Kennard, a consistent perimeter scorer for the Blue Devils. Duke enters March Madness as favorites to win it all as the No. 2 seed in the East bracket.
North Carolina Tar Heels (+800)
No. 1 seeds always get the attention and that won’t change for the North Carolina Tar Heels, who earned the top ranking in the South portion of the bracket. The Tar Heels topped the ACC with a 27-7, but a 10-point loss to the Blue Devils in the final game of the season have many wondering if Roy Williams’ club has what it takes to win it all. The Tar Heels’ road to the Final Four won’t be an easy one, with potential matchups against No. 4 Baylor and No. 3 UCLA along the way.
Kentucky Wildcats (+800)
John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats are playing at an elite level at the right time. Riding a 10-game winning streak, the Wildcats are coming off a much-deserved Southeastern Conference crown — the program’s 30th championship. The Wildcats last won the NCAA Tournament title in 2012 as No. 1 seeds. The school has made it to the semifinals four times over the last five years. So can Kentucky win it all as No. 2 seeds? They’ve done it before in 1998 when the team defeated Utah in the championship.
Kansas Jayhawks (+850)
The Jayhawks deservingly earned a No. 1 seed in March Madness after topping the Big 12 Conference and wrapping up the regular season with a 28-4 record. The Jayhawks closed out the season winning eight of their last nine games. The Jayhawks have a history of winning the NCAA championship as a No. 1 seed. Kansas accomplished the feat in 2008 after defeating fellow top-ranked club Memphis in the championship.
Villanova Wildcats (+1200)
The defending champions want to join an elite class of schools to win back-to-back crowns. What’s working against the Villanova Wildcats is only three teams in the history of the tournament have accomplished that feat. As the tournament’s overall top-ranked team, the pressure will be on the Wildcats, who captured the Big East Conference championship. Villanova has what looks like an easy road to the Final Four until a potential date with the Blue Devils in the semifinals.
Michigan Wolverines (+5000)
The Big Ten doesn’t get much respect at March Madness, despite having representatives in the three of the last five Final Fours. If you’re looking for a dark horse in this year’s tournament, take your chance on the Michigan Wolverines — the Big 10 champs who took down the Wisconsin in championship. The Wolverines are a No. 7 seed and boast a lineup known for being a threat from the three-point line. Let’s not forget just four years ago John Beilein led the Wolverines to the national championship with a similar club.
Pick: Kansas Jayhawks (+850)
Runner up: Duke Blue Devils (+500)