The Daily Sweat: UConn becomes an even bigger favorite among unusual Final 4

Cinderellas can make deep, incredible runs in the NCAA tournament, but the story almost never ends with a championship.

For as many great stories as we've had in March Madness of unexpected teams making a run, there are very few champions that aren't traditional powers in the sport. Baylor didn't have a ton of great basketball history before it won in 2021. Maybe the same can be said for Virginia in 2019. But they were both No. 1 seeds. Since the tournament expanded in 1985, the program that looks most out of place among the champions is UNLV, and that 1990 Rebels team was incredible. Teams like George Mason, VCU or Loyola Chicago can get to the Final Four, but a championship has been out of reach.

If that history continues, UConn is the most likely champion this year. We have three programs that have never been to the Final Four before, and then the Huskies. UConn has four national championships. The Huskies are also huge favorites at BetMGM to win it all in Houston next Monday:

UConn -125

San Diego State +360

Miami +500

Florida Atlantic +600

UConn was +300 when the Elite Eight started. The Huskies' odds had a huge shift when there was more chaos over the weekend.

That makes sense. UConn has played very well this tournament. They were underseeded as a No. 4, and are the highest seed left in this wacky NCAA tournament. And, as stated above, there's no champion in the modern era like SDSU, Miami or Florida Atlantic. Go try to find a comp for them. You'll come up empty.

But this NCAA tournament is already an outlier. It's the first one without a single No. 1 seed making the Elite Eight. It's the first Final Four without a No. 1, 2 or 3 seed. The three teams getting plus odds to win it all have all proven themselves to be capable of beating anyone in the field. If there's going to be any year in which a Cinderella finally breaks through and cashes a nice ticket as the champion, this is the one.

Florida Atlantic Owls center Vladislav Goldin (50) kisses a piece of the net after FAU's Elite Eight win. (Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
Florida Atlantic Owls center Vladislav Goldin (50) kisses a piece of the net after FAU's Elite Eight win. (Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Here's a first look at the sports betting slate for Monday:

Embiid vs. Jokic

A hotly contested NBA MVP debate continues Monday night. The Philadelphia 76ers play at the Denver Nuggets, which means it will be Joel Embiid vs. Nikola Jokic. The first time the two top MVP favorites met, Embiid outplayed Jokic on Christmas Day and the 76ers won. For this game the Nuggets are 4.5-point favorites.

Embiid has taken over as the MVP favorite, though his odds have dropped a touch since last week. He is -150 at BetMGM, down from -200 last week, and Jokic is right behind at +185. That makes for a fun game on Monday night.

The rest of the NBA

The best games on the schedule Monday all happen out west. The Minnesota Timberwolves, off a win over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night, face the Sacramento Kings. The Kings are 4.5-point favorites with the Timberwolves on the second night of a back-to-back. And in Los Angeles, the Clippers try to regroup with Paul George out due to a knee injury, and they're 3.5-point favorites against a Chicago Bulls team that has played very well lately.

NHL has 6-game card

The highlight of the NHL slate on Monday night is probably the New Jersey Devils, three points behind the Carolina Panthers in the Metropolitan Division, facing the New York Islanders. The Devils are a -125 road favorite against an Islanders team that is currently in the playoff field but needs some points down the stretch to stay there.

What's the best bet?

I'll take the Nuggets at home. They had a weird slump a few weeks ago, but a decisive win over the Milwaukee Bucks was a sign they're out of it. Denver has been really good all season, especially at home, and I like them to cover in what should be an entertaining game.