Some of the more storied college basketball programs aren’t getting much respect. Whether it’s due to starting a little slow or other teams looking more impressive, some good teams are going off at high odds to make the Final Four. A number of teams look good now. But you have to factor in the schedules they’ve played. Teams like Oklahoma, Iowa State, and BYU are winning impressively. But they’ve also played some soft schedules. A team with three or four losses against formidable foes is a better value play. We’ll look at some 2024 March Madness longshots now.
It’s not often that the Tar Heels wind up in a longshot category. But with North Carolina +3000 to win the NCAA Tournament, it falls into that category. As usual, UNC played a pretty tough slate. Ken Pomeroy had the Tar Heels with the 22nd-toughest non-conference schedule in the country. Overall, North Carolina has played the 10th-toughest slate of any team.
The college basketball records show the Tar Heels are 11-3, losing in overtime to Villanova. North Carolina lost a close one to Kentucky, 87-83, and also lost to UConn. But the Tar Heels show wins over Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Clemson, which are decent teams.
The Tar Heels are solid on both ends of the floor, ranking No. 11 in Pomeroy’s offensive ratings and No. 16 on defense. If one aspect of their game is off a little bit, the other can pick up the slack.
The odds aren’t huge on North Carolina, but you have to give them a look at +600.
The Bears are another big-name program that’s going off at some generous odds. Baylor is 12-2 on the season. The Bears haven’t played nearly as tough a schedule as North Carolina. Pomeroy has the Bears at No. 96, but Baylor has beaten decent Auburn and Florida teams this season. The Bears are 10-3 against the college basketball lines so far this season.
The Bears are carried by the offense. More specifically, the 3-pointer. Baylor is the top 3-point shooting team in the country at 45%. Baylor is pretty selective in 3-point shooting, so there’s a trade-off. The Bears don’t shoot as many 3-pointers as you’d like to see. But the main reason the shooting percentage is so high is because they take good shots.
Baylor’s defense isn’t that bad. It does get overshadowed by the offense, however. Kenpom rankings have the Bears ranked No. 70 in defense. Baylor is tough against the 3-pointers but fairly average against the 2-point field goal.
But at odds of +750 to make the Final Four, the Bears are worth a look as one of the 2024 March Madness longshots.
When you play San Diego State, you know you will be facing a tough defense. That’s again the story for the 13-2 Aztecs. Pomeroy has San Diego State No. 11 in his defensive ratings. The Aztecs have played a tough slate this year, with the preseason schedule rated No. 14 by Pomeroy. San Diego State’s overall schedule is ranked No. 25. You would like to see the Aztecs do a little better against the spread. At 6-7 ATS, it’s a little tricky to pull the trigger on the Aztecs as one of your NCAAB picks.
The Aztecs can score and are solid inside and from the foul line. San Diego State doesn’t make a lot of turnovers, which helps get them some extra shots. The Aztecs can be a little shaky on 3-point field goals but don’t have to take too many of them.
On defense, San Diego State holds teams to 28.5% shooting on 3-pointers, which is one of the best in college basketball. The Aztecs are better than average against the 2-pointer and reasonably good at forcing turnovers.
The offense can be spotty at times for most teams. But defense doesn’t have a habit of disappearing in games, so the Aztecs are worth a look at odds of +1600 as another of the 2024 Final Four longshots.