Skip to content

2024 NCAA title futures: 5 long-shot teams that can improve their resume

Icon Sportswire / Getty

Find year-round coverage of betting news and insights for all sports by visiting our Betting section and subscribing to push notifications.

The NCAA Tournament gets a later-than-usual start this year, giving teams a bit more time to improve on their postseason positioning from last Saturday's sneak preview of the selection committee's top 16 teams.

Amazingly, none of the 2023 Final Four - UConn, San Diego State, Miami, or Florida Atlantic - were seeded within the top 16 at this time last year, and only the Huskies were a top-four seed in the tournament. So, while you might think the national champion is on the committee's practice list from Feb. 17, 2024, that's not necessarily the case.

National Championship odds

Here's a look at the futures market for college basketball's national championship, with the seedings of those making the cut during CBS' made-for-TV preview this past Saturday:

(2) Connecticut +400
(1) Purdue +750
(3) Houston +850
(4) Arizona +1000
(6) Tennessee +1300
(5) North Carolina +1800
(13) Auburn +2000
(11) Iowa St. +2000
(8) Kansas +2000
(9) Alabama +2500
Kentucky +2500
(7) Marquette +2500
(12) Duke +3000
Creighton +3300
(10) Baylor +4000
(15) Illinois +4000
Michigan St. +5000
BYU +6000
(16) Wisconsin +6000
Dayton +7500
Saint Mary's +7500
(14) San Diego St. +7500

Others available at +10000 or longer at theScore Bet

Kentucky and Creighton are getting more credit in the betting market than the committee gave them last week. That may have to do with both squads getting a nice resume win after the seeding was announced. Kentucky won handily at Auburn and Creighton smoked UConn in Omaha. Those two teams could easily get into the upper echelon, but their odds already imply they'll be dangerous.

San Diego State, replete with pieces from last year's Final Four team, has the longest odds of a team with an inside track at a top-four seed. Conceptually, that's what we should be looking for when defining value.

Best bets

There's no guarantee that we'll have anything close to last season's quadrant of long shots (like +5000 Miami) this coming March Madness, but what this article pre-supposes is, "what if we do?"

Everyone can still make the NCAA Tournament by winning their conference. However, let's look for teams outside of the 22 listed above, at +10000 or longer, that can get an automatic bid or an at-large bid. The following teams can improve their seeding and March Madness path, making them an interesting ticket at long-shot odds.

Wake Forest (+10000) rating: 21
Current projected seed: First four out
Key games remaining: vs. Duke, vs. Clemson, ACC Tournament

Wake Forest has the highest Kenpom rating of a team with odds +10000 or longer. Its resume needs some work, but the team has home games against tournament teams in Duke and Clemson. Currently fourth in the ACC, the Demon Deacons can also grab a bye into the conference tournament quarter-finals, giving them a chance to get another quality win or two right before Selection Sunday. Moving up to the 10-line in the bracket would be huge for a team whose metrics suggest they could be dangerous.

Texas Tech (+10000) rating: 25
Current projected seed: No. 6
Key games remaining: vs. Texas, vs. Baylor, Big 12 Tournament

With the additions of Houston and BYU (along with Cincinnati and UCF), the Big 12 is a nightmare. The Red Raiders are currently a sweet spot that we want to target - the 6- or 7-seed range - where you avoid the 1-seed in your region until the second weekend.

Colorado St. (+10000) rating: 28
Current projected seed: No. 6
Key games remaining: @New Mexico, vs. Nevada, MWC Tournament

The Mountain West is like Game of Thrones this season, as six teams have a case for an invitation to the big dance and the top seven have between four and six conference losses. Only San Diego State and New Mexico have a better Kenpom rating, but the Aztecs are +7500 and the Lobos are currently projected as a 10-seed (and thus less safe). Colorado State has four double-digit scorers, and its only home loss came by three to Saint Mary's.

Florida (+10000) rating: 27
Current projected seed: No. 7
Key games remaining: @Alabama, vs. Alabama, SEC Tournament

Everyone loses at Alabama, so Wednesday's game in Tuscaloosa is a bonus to Florida's ever-improving resume. Had the Gators not been nipped by Texas A&M in a game they led throughout, they would be on an eight-game SEC winning streak. Projected to face North Carolina in the second round, they'd be about a four-point underdog.

TCU (+10000) rating: 30
Current projected seed: No. 9
Key games remaining: vs. Baylor, Big 12 Tournament

TCU beat Houston and almost won at Allen Fieldhouse, losing to Kansas by a bucket. If you can do either of those things, you can make a run in the NCAA Tournament and perhaps knock off a top seed along the way, especially as an 8-seed or 9-seed. However, with a strong finish, the Horned Frogs might get a 7-seed.

The longest shot

As a general exercise, it's worth looking for a team that's securely in the NCAA Tournament but who has the longest odds. That may differ from sportsbook to sportsbook, but the most likely find is either Boise State (projected 9-seed) or Utah State (projected 7-seed). Both these Mountain West teams are in the top 50 in Kenpom and can improve their seeding and come into March already battle-tested. Given what we saw last year, you can do worse at 250-1.

Matt Russell is the lead betting analyst for theScore. If there's a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on social media @mrussauthentic.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox