The Daily Sweat: Duke overtakes Kansas as favorite to win NCAA championship
Before the Sweet 16, you could have had Duke — with their four projected first-round picks and Hall of Fame coach — at 14-to-1 odds to win the NCAA tournament.
After the Final Four is set, Duke is your new favorite.
Kansas was the favorite after the Sweet 16, but that flipped after the Elite Eight. Duke is +160 to win the NCAA championship at BetMGM in Mike Krzyzewski's final season. Kansas, the lone remaining No. 1 seed, isn't far behind at +180. That moved slightly from Sunday night, when Duke was +155 and Kansas was +185. Villanova is +475 (and probably the best value left) and North Carolina is +500.
Part of the reason the odds favor Duke now is it has the easier of the two Final Four matchups. Kansas gets Villanova, a No. 2 seed, though the Wildcats' road is tougher with second-leading scorer Justin Moore out with an Achilles injury. The Blue Devils get North Carolina, which is playing much better but was still a No. 8 seed coming into the tournament. Duke might be a small underdog in a title game to Kansas if the two teams meet next Monday.
But the other reason Duke has become the favorite is its potential has finally come around this tournament. It was evident early in the season, especially when the Blue Devils beat Gonzaga, but late in the season there were some odd losses and a few unimpressive wins too. Since then Duke has won and covered in three straight games. Since trailing Michigan State late in a second-round game, the Blue Devils have been on a nice roll.
Now that St. Peter's is out of the tournament, the focus of the tournament will go to Krzyzewski's final season and if Duke can send him out with a title. The odds say that's the most likely outcome.
Here's a first look at the sports betting slate for Monday:
Final Four in women's tournament to be set
South Carolina and Stanford, a pair of No. 1 seeds, advanced to the Final Four on Sunday. A couple more try to move on with Elite Eight games Monday.
No. 2 seed UConn is a 4.5-point favorite over top seed NC State and No. 1 seed Louisville is favored over third-seed Michigan by 4.5 points. It's not a big surprise UConn is favored over a No. 1 seed, given their years of dominance in the sport. The winners move on to play Final Four games on Friday in Minneapolis, with the championship game coming Sunday.
Nine games in the NBA
Perhaps the most interesting game on the NBA slate for Monday is the Boston Celtics at the Toronto Raptors. The Celtics are the NBA's hottest team and showed it again Sunday with a 134-112 dismantling of a pretty good Minnesota Timberwolves team. The Celtics play back-to-back against a capable Raptors team and are 4.5-point underdogs. Celtics center Robert Williams II will be out with a knee injury and the team could rest others like Jayson Tatum, so watch the lineups. It should be a good test for both teams.
Another fun matchup is the Denver Nuggets, with Nikola Jokic playing even better than last season when he won MVP, facing the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets are 2.5-point home underdogs. The Hornets have been up and down a bit this season, which isn't surprising from a young team, but have been playing well of late.
What else is happening in sports?
There are five NHL games, including the Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals in a good matchup. The Hurricanes, who are having a fantastic season and lead the Metropolitan Division, are -135 road favorites.
That's about it in the sports world, unless you're into spring training baseball.
What's the best bet?
At this time in the NBA season you're looking for teams that are still battling, and there are a few. The Orlando Magic have been showing signs of life late in the regular season, and I'll take them +9.5 over a Cleveland Cavaliers team that is struggling a bit lately. The Magic should be able to keep this close.