Best Bets to Win the NCAA Tournament – March Madness Bets

March Madness is coming, and you’re probably gearing up for Selection Sunday, but what are the best bets to win the NCAA Tournament? It’s time to identify the schools  capable of winning it all

Betting on NCAA Tournament futures right now is a great way to gain an advantage before Selection Sunday. Keep reading to find out what teams are legitimate contenders to reward your confidence.

NCAA Tournament Schedule

  • Selection Sunday: 6 p.m. ET March 17 on CBS.
  • First Four: March 19-20.
  • First round: March 21-22.
  • Second round: March 23-24.
  • Sweet 16: March 28-29.
  • Elite Eight: March 30-31.
  • Final Four: April 6 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
  • NCAA championship game: April 8 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
Best Bets NCAA Tournament
Image: Twitter/A Shot For Life

Which Teams Can Win the NCAA Tournament?

When you look at the current AP (Associated Press) Top 25 and compare it with the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s top 16 (released in mid-February), you can see a few obvious leaders.

Purdue, in fact, received the first place vote from all 12 committee members based largely on the Boilermakers’ strength of schedule. Yes, this team, led by player of the year favorite, 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey, is among our teams to consider.

According to NCAA statistics, more than 83% of the committee’s “early reveal” teams (80 of 96 the past six years) were still top four seeds when it came time to study the real brackets.

The AP voters and the committee are in agreement on most of our contenders in the the spotlight. In betting parlance, this list is chalky (it contains a lot of favorites and few surprises). But we’re not talking about teams with a chance for an upset or two; we’re talking about teams capable of winning it all.

Three of the four schools among the committee’s top four are among our top four contenders, while we introduce only one real outsider to this 10-team party.

Our 10 Best, AP Rank (as of March 1) Committee Rank
1. Houston 1, 3
2. UConn 3, 2
3. Purdue 2, 1
4. North Carolina 9, 5
5. Tennessee 4, 6
6. Iowa State 11, 8
7. Arizona 6, 4
8. Marquette 5, 7
9. Kansas 7, 8
10. San Diego State 20, 14

How to Bet on NCAA Tournament Futures

We use five key factors to determine whether a team is going to be able to clear the necessary hurdles – pressure, top competition and unfamiliar surroundings – and hold a strong chance of winning the NCAA title.

Purdue has extra motivation, they lost to Fairleigh Dickinson in a major, first-round upset 63-58 last year (image below). The Boilermakers became only the second No. 1 seed to lose to a 16-seed in tournament history.

Best Bets NCAA Tournament
Image: Twitter/Front Office Sports

Consider these five categories when looking at potential NCAA Tournament futures bets.

1. Major Conference Affiliation

Our top teams, with one exception, are members of traditional “power” conferences. This is important because the level of competition has been strong throughout these teams’ 2023-24 season.

Only San Diego State, from the Mountain West Conference, is the outlier. The Aztecs, though, reached the tournament’s championship game last season, so pedigree is hardly a question.

2. Finishing Strongly

Keep a close eye on the season’s final couple of weeks, as hot teams such as North Carolina, Iowa State and Connecticut seek to carry momentum into their respective conference tournaments.

The 2023 champion UConn Huskies came from a long way back, in terms of pre-tournament favorites, last season as it piled up win after win late in the season.

3. Guards, Guards, Guards

Be sure the teams you’re backing are stocked with talented – and, best case, veteran – guards. These players control the tempo, read the game flow and can create their own shots.

Last season, Florida International rode high-quality guard play all the way to the Final Four, where it joined guard-heavy Miami, Connecticut and San Diego State.

Guard play was a big reason Purdue fell to Farleigh Dickinson last year. The Boilermakers’ guards shot a combined 7-for-29, making Edey’s 21 points almost inconsequential.

4. Team Defense and Buy-in

This category will show up when you watch the Houston Cougars play. There is no other contender so adept at shutting down its opponent.

The Cougars are consistently among the best statistical defensive teams – and, as the basketball adage goes: defense travels. That means no matter where Houston plays its tournament games, there won’t be any worry about its defensive performance.

Houston’s players, including star Jamal Shead, reflect the intensity of their coach, Kelvin Sampson, who has always stressed success through defense.

Iowa State is another top-level defense and should easily advance through the first two rounds.

5. Star Quality

You’ve heard the term “go-to guys”? Every contender needs these players, and virtually all of our top teams carry this asset.

In particular, North Carolina – always a home for top recruits – has developed into a real title contender with the emergence of RJ Davis as a nationally recognized presence, scoring 42 points in a late-February game.

Davis trails only Edey in most sportsbooks’ player of the year futures betting.

Best Bets NCAA Tournament
Image: Twitter/NYR Hoops

The Impact of the NCAA NET Rankings

The NCAA basketball NET rankings (a clever acronym for NCAA Evaluation Tool) are an element for helping handicap the top teams in the nation.

The criteria include strength of schedule divided into quadrants, or “Quad” segments.

A Quad 1 win is the most impressive, defined by home games – win or lose – against top 30 NET ranked teams, neutral-site matchups vs. top 50 and road contests with top 75 teams.

Entering March, the NET rankings had three teams from the Southeastern Conference at Nos. 5-7: Tennessee, Alabama and Auburn.

The top four entering March: Houston, Purdue, Arizona and UConn.

These rankings are important because they underscore the key competitive elements that come with playing top competition. Teams from smaller conferences rarely sustain excellence through six games of the grueling NCAA Tournament schedule.

The NET rankings are updated weekly.


We used a combination of NET rankings and five other key criteria to assess the chances of top teams in the NCAA Tournament. When used together, there are three names that stand out: Houston, UConn, and Purdue.

These three teams have the experience, star players and technical ability as assessed in our first five criteria, as well as topping the NET rankings at the time of writing. They are our best bets to win the NCAA Tournament.


What is the biggest outsider to win the NCAA Tournament?

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How do you bet on the NCAA Tournament?

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Jay Dieffenbach
Sports Betting Expert

Jay is a Sports Betting Writer at, and has been working in US sports for more than 20 years. He's worked for Daily Racing Form, the Arizona Republic, The Athletic and FanDuel among other sports and gambling positions.