College Basketball Bets: Back UCLA Or Baylor In March Madness?

Written By Eli Hershkovich on February 15, 2023
College Basketball Bets

The 2023 NCAA tournament tips off in just 29 days. While March Madness odds are on the move, UCLA and Baylor have remained near the top of the board. Which team is worth backing for the long-term — if either? Let’s break them down.

Click on any of the odds below to place a wager.

Best Available March Madness Odds

Per the table above, the most valuable number on UCLA is while Baylor is priced at . Both teams opened the season with roughly the same odds, but the Bruins were a bit lower in the market at +2000.

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UCLA Bruins

Mick Cronin’s bunch showcases the third-rated adjusted defensive efficiency, which refers to the amount of points a team would allow per 100 possessions against the average D-I opponent. The Bruins’ ball pressure is at the forefront of their success, forcing the 25th-highest turnover rate. They’re guided by Jaylen Clark, one of the premier on-ball defenders in the country.

UCLA’s ability to impede an opponent’s fast break opportunities is also a key. It ranks No. 42 in ShotQuality transition defense, a product of their athleticism across the floor. In particular, 6-foot-10 freshman Adem Bona owns a top-50 block rate.

Offensively, Wooden Award candidate Jaime Jaquez Jr. has developed into a dominant three-lever scorer. He exhibits ultra-adept footwork, setting up his dribble penetration and mid-range looks. That opens up driving lanes for point guard Tyger Campbell, along with perimeter shots for marksman David Singleton.

However, UCLA sports the 67th-ranked adjusted offensive efficiency since the “official” start of Pac-12 play. When the Bruins are unable to manufacture points in transition, their stagnant half-court attack can get sticky if the opposition shuts down pick-and-roll sets for either Jaquez or Bona.

Daily College Basketball Odds

Baylor Bears

Unlike UCLA, Scott Drew’s crew boasts the top-rated AdjO. His spread ball-screen construction allows for proficient spacing, and the Bears are capitalizing via the 54th-highest 3-point scoring rate. It’s led by a three-headed backcourt in five-star frosh Keyonte George, Adam Flagler, and LJ Cryer.

The latter two guards represent two of the most efficient shooters in D-I. George is an elite-level playmaker in late-shot clock situations as well. Combine those variables with pick-and-roll action for big men Flo Thamba and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, who returned from a knee injury on Feb. 5, and there’s no stopping this unit — with the exception of an off-shooting night.

The Bruins learned that the hard way, surrendering 1.16 PPP to Baylor in the Continental Tire Main Event on Nov. 20.

Nevertheless, Drew’s no-middle defense isn’t nearly as dominant as it was with the 2021 national champs. Once Baylor regained its form post-COVID shutdown, it delivered the eighth-ranked AdjD in the tournament.

As it stands, the Bears rank No. 102 in that department since the beginning of their conference slate. Granted, they’re playing in the toughest league in all of college basketball. But unless Baylor refines its transition defense come March, it’s in some trouble at that end.

College Basketball Bets Conclusion

Although I’m not interested in either team for my college basketball bets, I’d rather take a stab at UCLA. The Bruins’ price tag equates to a 6.25% implied probability of winning the title, and my numbers make it slightly higher.

Couple their stellar defense with a pair of potential future pros in Jaquez and stud freshman Amari Bailey, and Cronin’s team could go on a deep run in March. I just worry about their half-court efficiency.

Outside Shots: Bracketology And March Madness Odds

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