Kansas, North Carolina atop NCAA Tournament odds heading into Sweet 16

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With the Final Four due to be played in Glendale, Arizona, the updated odds to win the NCAA Tournament are tempting bettors to back a western team, even though it’s been 20 years since one cut down the nets in April.

The Kansas Jayhawks and North Carolina Tar Heels, respectively, are 1-2 on the college basketball champion futures with odds of +475 and +500 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.  But some of the more interesting movement since the dust settled from the first weekend – when the past two national champions, Villanova and Duke, were each bounced – involves teams from (or close to) the West Coast.

The Arizona Wildcats – who have the lure of a Final Four practically in their backyard – and Gonzaga Bulldogs have each climbed up to +650, after being listed at +1200 and +1000 respectively. The two might be on a collision course for the West Region title, with Wildcats star Lauri Markannen going up against a swarming Zags defense.

The UCLA Bruins (+900) have better value, since their run is premised on having to go through the Kentucky Wildcats (+1000) and potentially North Carolina just to make the Final Four. The Bruins have looked impressive; they were one of only two favorites to cover the spread during the eight second-round games last Sunday. A team with talent such as Bryce Alford and Lonzo Ball is an irresistible force, to say the least.

That said, Kansas’ odds have dropped to +475 – from +800 last week – for many reasons, among them the sure handle of point guard Frank Mason III. The Jayhawks don’t necessarily have their Final Four ticket punched, but the remaining Midwest Region field of the Michigan Wolverines (+1600), Oregon Ducks (+1800) and Purdue Boilermakers (+2000) seem eminently beatable.

Star Justin Jackson and North Carolina have tougher competition in the South Region. The Tar Heels have drawn the pesky Butler Bulldogs (+4000) as their Sweet 16 foe and potentially could face the Kentucky-UCLA winner in the Elite Eight, although the survivor will have to recover fast.

Another interesting mover on the board is the Florida Gators (+1200), whose odds have dropped by more than half. The Gators rate the best odds of any team still alive in the East Region. Oddsmakers still don’t think the Baylor Bears (+1600) can keep it together.

The Sweet 16 gets underway on Thursday with four games, including Michigan as a 1.5-point favorite against the Oregon Ducks. As well, Gonzaga is a three-point favorite against the West Virginia Mountaineers.

Kansas is a five-point favorite against Purdue. One trend of note: Kansas is 3-3 SU and 1-5 ATS in its last six games when it was favored against a 4-seed. And Arizona is a 7.5-point favorite against the Xavier Musketeers. Arizona is 5-4-1 ATS in its last 10 games where it was favored by seven to 12.5 points according to the OddsShark College Basketball Database.