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.

NIL and NCAA: What to know about the new policy and how NBC Sports can help

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As of July 1, 2021, a new NCAA policy has been in effect allowing student-athletes from all three divisions to monetize their name, image, and likeness (often referred to as NIL). As long as the activities are “consistent with the law of the state where the school is located,” athletes now have the opportunity to accept endorsements from brands, monetize their social media presences, and work with professional firms to coordinate deals.

Click here for additional information and guidelines regarding NCAA NIL policies and keep reading to find answers to questions such as how NIL works as well as how NBC Sports can help.

What is NIL and NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct is coming to a school near you. The program enables college student-athletes to earn money from their name, image, and likeness (NIL) through a unique marketplace that connects athletes with advertisers. NBC Sports Athlete Direct will work to provide equal opportunities to all student-athletes, regardless of which team you play on or any statistical performance.

How will the NIL Marketplace work?

Advertisers will use NBC Sports Athlete Direct to make NIL offers available to college student-athletes. College student-athletes will then have the option to participate in the NIL offer. Those who decide to participate and complete the advertiser’s campaign requirements will be compensated based on a predetermined rate.

How much money can athletes make participating in NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Compensation will vary by advertiser campaign.

When will NBC Sports Athlete Direct launch and how can I sign up?

NBC Sports Athlete Direct will officially launch in the Fall of 2022 but prior to that, we will be launching a pilot program soon, exclusively for Temple and Vanderbilt student-athletes.

In the meantime, click here to fill out a student-athlete interest form and once it is available at your school, we will notify you and provide you with additional information on how to sign up.

If I participate in NIL offers from NBC Sports Athlete Direct, do I still have the freedom to do other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct?

Yes, this program is non-exclusive so our student-athletes will have the freedom to participate in other NIL deals that are not related to NBC Sports Athlete Direct.

What are the rules or restrictions for participating in this program?

Unfortunately, international students and students under the age of 18 are not eligible to participate in the pilot program at this time.

Kentucky to allow college athletes to earn off likeness

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear signed an executive order Thursday allowing the state’s college athletes – including players on the nationally renowned Kentucky and Louisville men’s basketball teams – to make money through the use of their name, image or likeness.

The Democratic governor said he took the action as a matter of fairness for college athletes. It will spare Kentucky’s colleges from being at a competitive disadvantage with rivals in other states that will have laws enabling athletes to profit off their name, image or likeness, he said.

“This is important to our student-athletes, who for decades, others – whether it’s companies or institutions – have profited on,” Beshear told reporters. “These athletes deserve to be a part of that.”

Beshear said his executive order takes effect July 1, when similar legislation passed in several other states will become law. His office said he was the first governor to make the change by executive order.

The governor’s action won praise from the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville. UK plays in the Southeastern Conference and UofL competes in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“Bringing the state of Kentucky into competitive balance with other states across the country and, more specifically, the Atlantic Coast Conference is critical,” Vince Tyra, U of L’s vice president for intercollegiate athletics, said in a release issued by the governor’s office.

UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart said the governor’s action “provides us the flexibility we need at this time to further develop policies around name, image and likeness.”

“We are appreciative of that support, as it is a bridge until such time as state and/or federal laws are enacted,” Barnhart said in the same release from Beshear’s office. “The landscape of college sports is now in the midst of dramatic and historic change – perhaps the biggest set of shifts and changes since scholarships were first awarded decades ago.”

In Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas, laws go into effect July 1 that make it impermissible for the NCAA and members schools to prevent athletes from being paid by third parties for things like sponsorship deals, online endorsements and personal appearances.

The NCAA had hoped for a national law from Congress that has not come, and its own rule-making has been bogged down for months. College sports leaders are instead moving toward the type of patchwork regulation they have been warning against for months.