Analysis | Three best value bets to win the NCAA women’s basketball tournament

Analysis | Three best value bets to win the NCAA women’s basketball tournament

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

South Carolina is clearly the best women’s basketball team in the country. The Gamecocks are the only undefeated team in Division I, with a sparkling 25-0 record, including a 12-0 mark in the SEC. They have played (and beaten) six ranked teams, and all but three of their wins — against North Carolina, Utah and LSU — have been by double digits.

But that performance has made the Gamecocks huge favorites to win this year’s championship — and has depressed their value in the betting markets to as low as +110, barely better than even-money odds against the field. If we are going to look for a big score in the NCAA women’s title market, we have to look at other options. Luckily, they aren’t hard to find, starting with Stanford from the powerful Pac-12.

Stanford, +1500 to win the national championship at FanDuel

Stanford has played the fourth-toughest schedule, per Sports Reference, but the Cardinal is 9-3 against Quadrant 1 opponents and 5-0 against Quadrant 2 opponents. Its best win of the season is probably a 65-56 victory against No. 9 Oregon State in which Kiki Iriafen had 36 points and 12 rebounds, part of a stretch during which she had five straight double-doubles.

Stanford (23-3) has the country’s second-highest margin of victory per contest after adjusting for strength of schedule, per Her Hoop Stats. Last season, LSU was in a similar position — ranked No. 2 in the country, per Her Hoop Stats, at a big price to win the title — and the Tigers indeed won it all, rewarding those who took a risk several weeks before Selection Sunday. I will be sure to capitalize on this similar opportunity.

Here are two other national title wagers that appear to have value as we inch closer to the start of March Madness.

Connecticut, +2000 to win the national championship at FanDuel

Connecticut’s résumé is complex. The Huskies are undefeated in Big East play at 15-0 but have faltered against nonconference opponents (8-5) and are 0-4 against top-15 teams, with all of those losses by double digits. The Huskies also have been devastated by injuries. This is why their price to win the title is so high. However, their underlying metrics appear to be nearly as strong as those of any team in the field.

After adjusting their margin of victory for strength of schedule, the Huskies have been the second-best team in the nation behind only South Carolina, per the Simple Rating System at Sports Reference. Connecticut is also efficient, scoring 28.6 net points per 100 possessions more than its opponents, per Her Hoop Stats, the sixth-highest mark this season.

Equally good in transition (1.1 points per play per Synergy Sports, ranking 25th) and in a half-court offense (0.96 points per play, 12th), Connecticut has the potential to make a splash in March.

Texas +2500 to win the national championship at DraftKings

The Longhorns (24-3) are ranked No. 5 in the country by the Associated Press and No. 8 in the selection committee’s top 16, but they appear undervalued in the betting markets. Texas has won six straight, including back-to-back wins in early February against then-No. 13 Baylor and then-No. 2 Kansas State. In that latter win, Madison Booker and Taylor Jones combined for 33 points in a performance that highlighted the Longhorns’ perimeter defense, which is among the best in the country (75th percentile per Synergy Sports). Kansas State made just 3 of 21 three-point attempts in that game. But Texas’s rim protection is also solid; the Longhorns are holding opponents to 48 percent shooting at the rim and less than a point per possession (to rank in the 86th percentile).

Texas also ranks in the top 10 in points per game (82.9, seventh) and offensive rebounding rate (43 percent, second), leading to 1.2 points per putback (97th percentile). Jones is the star here, converting a team-high 27 putbacks (out of 37 opportunities). She’s also a force on the defensive end, averaging 1.8 blocked shots with a career high of seven in the Longhorns’ win over Cincinnati in January.

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