Comparing NCAA Bracket vs Oddsmakers Favorites

Fact Checked by Matt Asher

The Sweet Sixteen is upon us and every year there are games where the odds offered at sportsbooks do not match up with the selection committee’s seeding. This occurs because sportsbooks determine odds based on power ratings that are like publicly available predictive metrics like those found at or, whereas the committee largely determines seeding from résumés and mostly uses the predictive metrics that appear on the team sheet as sorting tools.

Sweet Sixteen Matchups Where Lower Seed is Favored

Even though North Carolina sports betting in not yet live, sports fans are locked into March Madness thanks to UNC and Duke making the Sweet Sixteen. Surprisingly, though, Duke represents the only higher seed not favored to win its Sweet Sixteen matchup. Below, we break down the Sweet Sixteen matchup where the lower seed is favored in the odds: (2) Duke vs (3) Texas Tech.

2 Duke
3 Texas Tech
Underdog: -102
Favorite: -118

Despite the higher seed for the Blue Devils, it's clear bookmakers agree UNC has an easier path forward now that they've both advanced.

Editor's Note: With North Carolina betting apps currently prohibited, these odds are from DraftKings Sportsbook, one the top sportsbooks in the US. DraftKings currently accepts bets in states like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Colorado and Arizona, among others.

2 Duke (+1) vs 3 Texas Tech

After a wild first week that included six overtime games, the NCAA Tournament is down to the final 16 teams. While there are plenty of intriguing matchups upcoming, due to the seed distribution of the teams left (10 top 4 seeds advanced, while four double-digit seeds also made it out of the opening week) only one lower seeded team is currently favored in the Sweet 16.

In a bit of a mild surprise given the public’s typical sentiment on Duke and the close nature of the teams, 27-9 Texas Tech is a -1.5 favorite over the 30-6 Blue Devils at both FanDuel and BetMGM and a -1 favorite at DraftKings. These lines look even more interesting when you dig a layer deeper and examine the futures odds at all three sites.

Despite the half-point closer spread, DraftKings actually gives Texas Tech a better shot to win the national title than the other books, pricing them at +1300 compared to +1600 for Duke. FanDuel lists both teams at +1500 in the futures market, while BetMGM has Duke at +1400 and the Red Raiders at +1600.

2 Duke +1Underdog: -102Probability: 50.5%
3 Texas Tech -1Favorite: -118Probability: 54.1%

Looking at the predictive metrics does not add much clarity either, as KenPom and Torvik rate Texas Tech higher, however Sagarin and ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) prefer Duke. The on the court dynamics here are fascinating as Duke has the nation’s fourth best offense per KenPom, and Texas Tech ranks first defensively according to the site.

The Blue Devils have five potential first round draft picks on their roster, led by potential top 3 selection Paolo Banchero, and are proficient at scoring from every level. Despite often playing initiator by committee, Duke is also excellent at taking care of the ball, averaging just 10.3 turnovers a game as a team. They will face their biggest test of the year in this area, as Texas Tech forces more turnovers than any other team the Blue Devils have played this season.

The Red Raiders have had point guard issues of their own at times this season, but their top seven players by minutes all stand between 6’5” and 6’8”, allowing them to play an aggressive, switching defense with ease. This is also Duke’s worst team at forcing turnovers in at least 25 years (KenPom only has turnover percentage data dating back to 1996-1997), which should help mitigate some of Texas Tech’s potential problems.

Ultimately, I am taking Texas Tech to win as I believe their defense can cause more problems for Duke’s offense than the other way around. The Red Raiders are -118 on the moneyline at FanDuel and -110 at DraftKings and BetMGM, whereas the Blue Devils are -102 at FanDuel and -110 at DraftKings and BetMGM.

UPDATE: The content below this point was originally published on March 16, 2022.

First Round Matchups Where the Lower Seed was Favored

The NCAA Tournament opened with 3 games featuring lower seed favored to beat higher seeds. We broke them down below:

8 Boise State
9 Memphis
Underdog: +125
Favorite: -145
6 Colorado State
11 Michigan
Underdog: +125
Favorite: -145
7 Ohio State
10 Loyola Chicago
Pick'Em: -110
Pick'Em: -110


8 Boise State (+2.5) vs 9 Memphis

The game will take place on Thursday, March 17 at 1:45 p.m. ET on TNT.

The other game that all three of FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM have the lower-seeded team favored in is also during Thursday afternoon’s first window.  Boise State went 27-7 and won both the Mountain West regular season and conference tournament title, but the 21-10 Memphis Tigers are currently a -2.5 point favorite over them at all three sportsbooks.  

As with Colorado State and Michigan, Boise State is two spots ahead of Memphis on KenPom, but below the Tigers on the other major predictive metrics, indicating the same is likely true of the sportsbooks’ in-house power ratings. Memphis has been playing excellent basketball lately, losing only twice since January 23, and will bring a type of athleticism to the court that Boise State has yet to see this year.

8 Boise State +2.5Underdog: +125Probability: 44.1%
9 Memphis -2.5Favorite: -145Probability: 59.2%

The Broncos will likely attempt to slow Memphis down and rely on their top-20 defense, though they will need to find an answer for star freshman center Jalen Duren.  He is a likely top-10 pick in this year’s NBA Draft and is the catalyst for the Tigers elite offensive rebounding and rim protection numbers.

Memphis can be their own worst enemy at times, turning the ball over more by percentage than all but six other teams nationally according to, but given they are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time and the athleticism difference in the game, they seem like the pick here. You can find the Tigers at -140 on the moneyline at FanDuel and at -145 at both DraftKings and BetMGM. Boise State is currently a +125 moneyline underdog at DraftKings, +120 at BetMGM and +116 at FanDuel.

6 Colorado State (+2.5) vs 11 Michigan

The game will take place on Thursday, March 17 at 12:15 p.m. ET on CBS.

This is the opening game of the proper part of the tournament, and it looks like an excellent one.  Colorado State went 25-5 and finished second in a Mountain West Conference that was as strong as it has been since the 2012-13 season, but they are currently a +2.5 point underdog to 17-14 Michigan at all three of FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM.  

KenPom actually has Colorado State ranked two spots ahead of Michigan, though the Rams are below the Wolverines in every other major predictive metric.  The two teams have similar offensive and defensive abilities, but there’s going to be a glaring size differential in the frontcourt that will be interesting to watch play out. 

6 Colorado State +2.5Underdog: +125Probability: 44.1%
11 Michigan -2.5Favorite: -145Probability: 59.2%

Colorado State’s David Roddy won the Mountain West Player of the Year award and is an All-American candidate who averages 19.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks a game on 57.4% shooting as a 6’6” do-it-all small-ball four for the Rams, but Michigan has an imposing front line of its own led by Hunter Dickinson. Dickinson, an All-American himself last season, averages 18.4 points and 8.3 rebounds a game and will be at least three inches taller than the man guarding him all game and often more.

While Michigan can exploit this size difference, Colorado State typically holds their own on the defensive glass and runs a well-spaced offense that can theoretically put the Wolverines in a bind. There’s some potential value taking Colorado State on the moneyline, especially at DraftKings where they are +125, as opposed to +120 at BetMGM and +118 at FanDuel.  Michigan moneyline backers will find them currently priced at -145 on DraftKings and BetMGM and at -142 on FanDuel.

7 Ohio State vs 10 Loyola Chicago (Pick'Em)

The game will take place on Friday, March 18 at 12:15 p.m. ET on CBS.

While there are several other games that are close to having the lower-seeded team favored (Texas – Virginia Tech, Murray State – San Francisco, USC – Miami (FL), Providence – South Dakota State, Michigan State – Davidson and Seton Hall – TCU all have lines within two points at various books), this is the last game that has a lower-seeded team favored, though not at all three sportsbooks.  

The 25-7 Missouri Valley conference tournament champion Ramblers are -1.5 point favorites over Ohio State at BetMGM and -1-point favorites at DraftKings.  FanDuel has the 19-11 Buckeyes favored by one and the moneylines are all over the place, so this is certainly a divisive game.

7 Ohio StatePick'Em: -110Probability: 52.4%
10 Loyola ChicagoPick'Em: -110Probability: 52.4%

The predictive metrics are split on this game as well with most slightly preferring Ohio State, though unlike the other two games KenPom has the lower-seeded team projected to win this one, as Loyola Chicago currently sits eight spots ahead of Ohio State in his invaluable rankings.  The game itself projects to be a slow-paced one, though it features two high-level offensive teams.

However, Loyola is the more balanced of the two, as both their offense and defense rank in the top-50 nationally, while Ohio State sits 131st in adjusted defensive efficiency per The Buckeyes certainly have a talent edge in the game, as EJ Liddell and Malaki Branham are both potential first-round picks who can put a team on their back, but Loyola is an experienced group who retained all their key pieces from last season’s Sweet 16 run except Cameron Krutwig.  

Given that experience factor, Ohio State’s defensive woes and the fact the Buckeyes have lost four of their last five games, I like Loyola Chicago in this one, though I would recommend betting this one against the spread rather than the moneyline for value purposes.  If you really want to bet on the moneyline, it is currently Loyola -110 and Ohio State -110 at FanDuel, Loyola -110 and Ohio State -110 at DraftKings, and both -110 at BetMGM.


Josh Markowitz

Josh Markowitz is a freelance writer for He is a lifelong sports fan with an emphasis on college basketball, football, baseball and the scouting/evaluation process. A graduate of Elon University's School of Communications, Josh also has experience in television production.

Cited by leading media organizations, such as: