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Three NCAA Basketball Underdogs that Can Win it All

December 16, 2021
NCAA basketball underdog picks to win championship in 2022

Despite getting beat in last year’s NCAA final, Gonzaga opened this season as the favorite to win its first-ever national championship. The Bulldogs have suffered two losses already this season and are currently ranked No. 5 in the nation with an 8-2 overall record. 

Baylor, which knocked off Gonzaga in last year’s championship, opened the season given odds of +1800 to repeat at major online sportsbooks. The Bears entire starting five from a year ago moved on, but a few weeks into the new season and Baylor is back on top. Head coach Scott Drew’s team is currently 9-0 and ranked No. 1 in the country.

Familiar names like Duke (+800), Kansas (+1400), UCLA (+1400), and Villanova (+1400) are near the top of board, but what about the underdogs? Where are those teams that could pull off a huge upset and win a title in 2022? 

Here’s a look at three possibilities.

 

Not Just a Football School

National championships and Alabama football go hand in hand, but basketball? Head coach Nate Oats guided the Crimson Tide to a 26-7 record last year and an SEC title. Alabama also advanced to the Sweet Sixteen.

At 8-1 so far this season, Alabama is ranked No. 6 and is poised to make some noise come tournament time. The Tide are slowly moving up the board and are now listed at +2300 to win it all. Jaden Shackleford is one of the best all-around guards in the country. He averages 18.2 points, and 7.0 rebounds a game for Oats. Jahvon Quinerly (14.8 ppg) and Keon Ellis (12.0) give Oats a backcourt that is explosive. Alabama is tied for 11th in the nation in scoring. 

The Tide is experienced and deep. They won an SEC title last year and are set to do it again. Don’t be surprised when Alabama exceeds their Sweet Sixteen trip from a year ago.

 

Hogs Take Next Step

Eric Musselman is well known for his ability to turn around college basketball programs. He did it at Nevada and is now doing it at Arkansas. The Razorbacks went 20-12 in Musselman’s first season, one that was shortened due to the coronavirus.

Last season, Musselman guided the Hogs to a 25-7 record, a second-place finish in the SEC, and all the way to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. Arkansas is currently given +3500 odds at sportsbooks to win this year’s national title, but bettors should take notice.

The Hogs started the new season with eight straight victories before a loss to Oklahoma. Arkansas is currently ranked No. 24 in the country. Musselman lost his top two scorers – Moses Moody and Justin Smith – from last season, but the Razorbacks return J.D. Notae who is off to a great start this season. The senior guard averages 18.1 points per game to lead the Hogs. 

Transfers Au’Diese Toney (12.4 ppg), Chris Lykes (11.8), and Stanley Umude (9.2) are all making an impact. Musselman has the makings of an SEC champion and a team that can go deep in the NCAA tournament.

 

The Extreme Longshot

Teams that win the NCAA title typically come from a major conference, but the Atlantic 10’s St. Bonaventure could be really special this season. The Bonnies are off to an 8-2 start with losses to a strong Northern Iowa program and a ranked UConn. 

After winning the A-10 title and advancing to the NCAA tournament as a No. 9 seed last year, St. Bonaventure returns the entire starting five. All five starters averaged in double figures last year and, so far, are doing the same in 2021-22.

Kyle Lofton and Jaren Holmes each average 17.4 points per game to lead the Bonnies. St. Bonaventure should challenge for another A-10 title and head coach Mark Schmidt has the type of team that can go deep in the NCAA tournament. The Bonnies are huge longshot at +6600, but experience wins championships. Just ask Baylor.