National Championship Odds: Bettors Love Gonzaga, Illinois

Jalen Suggs #1 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs reaches for a loose ball against the Loyola Marymount Lions in the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center on February 27, 2021 in Spokane, Washington. Gonzaga defeats Loyola Marymount 86-69. (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)
(Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)

If Gonzaga posts college basketball’s first undefeated season in 45 years, more than 16 percent of all BetMGM bets placed on the national championship will cash.

Gonzaga officially punched their ticket for a 22nd consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance with a win over BYU in the WCC Championship Tuesday. And in tying Michigan State (for now) for the fourth-longest streak in tournament history, they also presumably clinched the No. 1 overall seed and potentially retained the top spot in national championships odds entering Selection Sunday. 

As of Thursday, the Bulldogs sat one spot ahead of Baylor in both Bracketology and national championship odds. They’re 26-0 this season, haven’t lost since Feb. 22, 2020, just one of two losses in the last two seasons, and rank first in most NCAA Tournament metrics, including NET, KenPom, and BPI. And bettors are buying it, placing more national championship bets and money on Gonzaga than any other team.

Current ticket and handle breakdown (and projected seed) for the 25 most-bet teams in national championship odds:

TeamTicketsHandleSeed
Gonzaga16.6%24.3%1
Illinois8.6%13.7%1
Michigan7.1%8.1%1
Baylor6.9%4.6%1
Alabama4.6%3.4%2
Iowa3.7%4.6%2
Villanova3.3%2.1%3
Tennessee3.3%7.0%7
Kansas2.9%1.0%3
West Virginia2.6%2.3%3
Florida State2.3%1.0%4
Houston2.3%3.4%2
UConn2.1%1.3%7
Kentucky1.9%2.1%N/A
Duke1.8%1.2%N/A
Ohio State1.8%1.3%2
Texas1.5%1.4%5
Virginia1.5%1.0%4
Arizona State1.2%1.0%N/A
Memphis1.2%0.9%N/A
Texas Tech1.2%0.9%6
Michigan State1.0%0.4%10
Creighton0.9%1.2%5
Wisconsin0.9%1.3%6
Oklahoma0.9%0.3%6

Of the top 25 teams, Gonzaga is one of nine teams earning a higher handle share than ticket share. With a difference of 7.7 percentage points (24.3 percent handle to 16.6 percent tickets), they also lead in handle-to-ticket difference, though the gap to the next closest team isn’t nearly as big as the gaps in ticket and handle share. They’ve generated nearly twice as many tickets as the next closest team, Illinois, and have a handle edge of 10.6 percentage points over the Illini. The Bulldogs, however, are only 2.6 percentage points (7.7 to 5.1) ahead of Illinois in handle-to-ticket difference. 

Michigan State is the only projected double-digit seed in the top 25; the Spartans lost to Maryland on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament but have still received 1 percent of all national championship tickets, 22nd-most in the country. And if the Spartans unexpectedly fall outside the committee’s field by Sunday, they’ll be one of five non-tournament teams in the top 25, a group led by Kentucky and Duke.

Gonzaga has been a national championship favorite in the books and polls since the preseason. And they’ll enter the 2021 NCAA Tournament as the most popular pick to win their first national title.

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Andrew Doughty is a writer for BetMGM and host of High Motor by BetMGM, an NFL and college football podcast available on Apple Podcasts and everywhere else. He has written for Sports Illustrated, HERO Sports, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter: @DoughtyBetMGM

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