NCAA basketball betting: Should bettors trust the Big Ten during March Madness?

Sam Cooper
·3-min read

It has been 21 years since a Big Ten team won the national championship in men’s basketball.

But as last weekend's Ohio State vs. Michigan showdown showed, the league is as good as it’s ever been. Behind a 22-point effort from freshman big man Hunter Dickinson, the Wolverines emerged with a hard-fought 92-87 road win and moved up to No. 3 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, behind Gonzaga and Baylor, the nation’s two remaining unbeaten teams.

Behind one-loss Michigan, though, are three other Big Ten teams ranked in the most recent NET’s top 10 — No. 5 Illinois, No. 6 Iowa and No. 7 Ohio State. And when the NCAA tournament bracket is revealed, don’t be surprised if you see as many as 10 teams from the Big Ten en route to March Madness.

To further illustrate the level of competition in the conference this season, Penn State, a team with an 8-12 overall record, a 5-11 mark in Big Ten play and virtually no shot of reaching the NCAA tournament, is ranked No. 41 in the NET. By comparison, the ACC and Pac-12 have just four teams ranked in the top 40 of the NET. PSU is the Big Ten’s ninth-highest team in the rankings.

Will that night-to-night competitiveness translate to deep runs in the NCAA tournament? The Big Ten has typically been well-represented in Final Fours, but you have to go back to Michigan State in 2000 to find the most recent national champion. Since then, the conference has had at least one team reach the Final Four 12 times with seven title game appearances. None of those teams were able to win it all.

Some think the drought can be attributed to Big Ten teams being worn down from the grueling regular season. It’s something you should keep in mind when you approach national champion futures betting at BetMGM.

As the odds currently sit, the only team I would seriously consider is Illinois at +2000. That’s tremendous value for a team with a national player of the year candidate in Ayo Dosunmu, one of the nation’s best big men in Kofi Cockburn and an array of other offensive threats scattered throughout the roster. As long as Dosunmu is healthy (he's expected to miss a few games after breaking his nose), the Illini could be poised to make a deep run. 

Michigan currently sits at +500, again behind just Gonzaga and Baylor at +300 apiece. A senior-laden team in Wisconsin sits at +1300 with Ohio State at +1400 and Iowa at +1800. Other than Illinois, Purdue, down at +6600, could also be worth a flier based on value alone. The Boilermakers are currently ranked No. 26 in the NET. 

There is much better value with other top teams from across the country. Virginia, on the heels of a few losses, is down to +2500 and is worth a look. Elsewhere, USC and West Virginia also have +2500 odds, while surging squads like Arkansas and Kansas have odds of +4000 and +5000, respectively.

The Big Ten may be the best conference in the country, but there is better value to be found from conferences with more recent NCAA tournament success.

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