Coming into the NCAA tournament, UConn was a favorite team of those who appreciate analytics.
Efficiency stats like the ones at KenPom.com indicated the Huskies were incredibly underseeded as a No. 4. KenPom had UConn ranked fourth overall, and most other analytics sites had the Huskies in the top five.
After a good first week at the NCAA tournament, bettors are on UConn.
Of all the Sweet 16 games on Thursday and Friday, UConn is the most popular side among bettors.
UConn is on a hot streak
UConn is a 3.5-point favorite at BetMGM for its game against Arkansas, and 79 percent of the money bet on the spread is on the Huskies. That’s a big number, specially considering Arkansas is a big school too and is coming off a win over top-seed Kansas. It’s not like UConn happened to draw a team from a one-bid league that got through as a double-digit seed.
Bettors just trust UConn and for good reason. Adama Sanogo is a dominant big man who is an elite scorer and rebounder. The Huskies get good guard play. They shot it very well from behind the 3-point line in their last game, an impressive win over St. Mary’s. It’s a team that is balanced on offense and defense (hence the strong efficiency stats).
Arkansas is a talented team that had a disappointing season after being ranked in the top 10 of preseason polls. But the Razorbacks have used the tournament as a fresh start. The win over Kansas proved they can beat anyone in the tournament field.
But bettors aren’t worried about laying 3.5 points against Arkansas.
Kansas State another popular bet
In terms of money bet, two other teams getting the most action are Kansas State +1.5 over Michigan State and Tennessee -5.5 over Florida Atlantic. Kansas State is the rare team to be a better seed than its opponent and also ranked higher at KenPom, yet still be an underdog.
In terms of percentage of bets made (not total money bet), UConn is the most popular side at 70 percent. The second-most popular team, in terms of tickets, is Princeton. In the Tigers’ game against Creighton, 66 percent of bets are on Princeton at +9.5. Princeton is a surprise entry in the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed and bettors like their chances of at least covering a large spread.
It was a wild and unpredictable first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. Bettors have a few teams they’ve identified as good bets heading into the second week of March Madness.