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NY Post
New York Post
1 Apr 2023


NextImg:Why UConn is the deserved March Madness 2023 favorite ahead of Final Four

For as crazy and chaotic as March Madness usually is, the first four rounds of this year’s NCAA Tournament have delivered a level of mayhem unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

All four No. 1 seeds were knocked out by the Sweet 16 for the first time, with one losing in the first round for only the second time ever.

It’s also the first Final Four without a single top-three seed, and the sum of this year’s combined seeds (23) are the second-highest in tournament history.

And yet, for all of the parity and unpredictability, UConn finds itself as the overwhelming favorite (-125, BetMGM) to win its fifth title in the last 25 years.

And the Huskies’ dominance to this point makes it hard to bet against them.

Connecticut’s 28-point win over Gonzaga to reach Saturday’s semifinal round was the largest win by any team in the Elite Eight in over 30 years.

It was also UConn’s fourth win by at least 15 points through the first four rounds — a feat that’s been matched just nine times in NCAA Tournament history.

Five of those previous nine teams won it all, including these very Huskies in 2004.

That implies a 55.5 percent win percentage, which is right in line with UConn’s current odds.

And the four that didn’t cut down the nets? All lost to a No. 1 seed in the Final Four or championship game.

There won’t be any of those awaiting Connecticut this year in one of the weakest Final Fours we’ve ever seen.

UConn Huskies forward Adama Sanogo celebrates after cutting the net down after advancing to the Final Four

UConn Huskies forward Adama Sanogo celebrates after cutting the net down after advancing to the Final Four
Getty Images

The highest combined seed total in the Final Four came in 2011 when, ironically, UConn was also the highest remaining seed (3) alongside No. 4 Kentucky, No. 8 Butler and No. 11 VCU.

Sure enough, the Huskies outlasted Kentucky in the semifinal before routing Butler by 12 points in the championship game — tied for the sixth-biggest margin in a title game this century.

It’s not just about the seeding, either.

Before the season, No. 5 seeds San Diego State and Miami were both priced as high as 80/1 to win it all.

Jordan Hawkins of the UConn Huskies

Jordan Hawkins of the UConn Huskies
Getty Images

No. 9 seed Florida Atlantic didn’t even make the cut until February, when the Owls debuted at 250/1 to win their first-ever title.

Just how unlikely would it be if one of those teams won the title this year? In the available betting data from Sports Odds History, we’ve never seen a team with a preseason price longer than 65/1 eventually win it all.

Surprise, surprise: that team was also Connecticut, which went on a Cinderella run in 2014 as a No. 7 seed and beat eighth-seeded Kentucky in the title game.

Those Huskies were led by tournament hero Shabazz Napier, who averaged 21.2 points across six games to punctuate UConn’s championship run.

This year, the clear standout of this tournament has been UConn center Adama Sanogo, who is averaging 20 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks on 65.5% shooting through the first four rounds.

That’s to say nothing of secondary star Jordan Hawkins (17.3 ppg), who is making his case to be a lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft.

Let’s be clear: none of this means that UConn is a lock to win it all. As we have seen over the last month, there is no such thing in this tournament.

But the Huskies have earned their short price as the prohibitive favorite in this year’s field, and history suggests they’re worth the investment.