March Madness 2022: Which NCAA Tournament Teams Are Worth a Bet in the Futures Market

Mar 1, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Bennedict Mathurin (0) celebrates
Mar 1, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Arizona Wildcats guard Bennedict Mathurin (0) celebrates / Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Conference championship week is upon us, with teams set to make their final case to the selection committee for where they stand amongst the college basketball landscape.

With the 2022 NCAA men's tournament drawing closer and conference titles are on the line, the games become more important and the season-long data can help drive us to more informed decision making. Let's check in with our KenPom data to see who has moved amongst our three tiers and may be signaling a bet in the National Championship futures market.

Here is a refresher from a prior article as to what this exercise is supposed to do:

If you've read my college basketball work before, you know I reference KenPom in nearly every article. Ken Pomeroy has generated a way to use metrics that are incredibly predictive towards getting the final outcome of the game and the true difference between the 358 college basketball teams. It's incredibly insightful and has revolutionized how we view the game. You can look up more on him if you want and I suggest using his site when handicapping this, but enough gassing up KenPom, let's use his tools to craft a Champion.

I'm going to focus on two of the many metrics that are available, adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency, to help narrow the field of our Champion.

Dating back to 2002, all but two teams have been inside the top 20 on both sides of the ball. Those two teams are the 2014 Connecticut Huskies, led by Shabazz Napier, and the 2021 Baylor Bears.

All odds are courtesy of WynnBET Sportsbook:

National Championship Contenders: Arizona Shows Title Upside

We lost a few members from last week's 20/20 group, which we have indicated is historically predictive of national title winners, but I left this past week most impressed with Arizona.

The Wildcats bounced back after a road loss at Colorado (known for having the best home court advantage in the country) by out-classing USC on the road by 20 points. The Wildcats have moved to the second choice to win it all behind their two way attack, especially inside, ranking top five in both 2-point offense and defense.

Tommy Lloyd's team all but certainly has a No. 1 seed in the bag and the team looks the part of a Final Four threat.

I actually believe the discussion this week should be the four teams not in this group despite being characterized as National Championship contenders. Their numbers are below, but Kentucky, Duke, Auburn and Kansas all fall into the Almost Famous category despite being in the mix for a top seed. Are they not as balanced as their reputations may lead you to believe? Is this a little slip before a title run?

Time will tell, and there's always movement on conference championship week, but each team seems to be capped a bit at the moment, can they breakthrough and rejoin Arizona and Gonzaga, among other atop the rankings?

Meanwhile, UCLA continues to fly under the radar, looking complete in a home win over USC, snapping a five game skid to the Trojans. They are top 15 in KenPom's adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency despite likely not reaching higher than a 3 seed in the tourney.

Final Four Contenders and Beyond?

Again, these are teams that are top 50 on both sides of the ball, so they are knocking on the door of the 20/20 club, but need to do a bit more work.

Some teams worth noting are surging up the ranks of KenPom, namely Arkansas, who already qualifies on defense and is a few big offensive outings from breaking into the top 20. The Hogs have have lost twice since January 12th by a combined five points so the momentum is there, but I'm curious if they are peaking too early. With a lethal scorer in JD Notae, Arkansas does seem primed for a run to some extent.

I touched on the four elite teams above that comprise the top of this category, but also keep an eye on San Francisco, who is now 21st in KenPom's overall rankings. The Dons play Monday night against Gonzaga, but win or lose expect them to make the field of 68. They may not be National Championship good, but with the right bracket the team's efficiency down low with Yahuen Massalski and strong perimeter defense make them a nightmare matchup as a 9 seed or worse.

Cinderella's and First Round Upsets

As I allude to in this tweet, Texas Tech falls to this group, as their offense goes through too many dry spells to cash in on their No. 1 defense. The team has struggled away from Lubbock, going 3-6 in Big 12 play, and the team is bottom 100 in both protecting the ball and 3-point percentage. There's no denying the defensive talent, but if a team gets hot on the right night, they may not have the offense to match it.

Another to keep an eye on is Iowa, who may have the profile of an uneven that can't get stops, but their defense is vastly improving from behind outside the top 100 a few weeks ago.

The Hawkeyes look more like a top 10 team each time they play, going 8-2 since February 1st, nearly knocking off Illinois on the road in the regular season finale. The defense is up to 71st in the country and with stud forward Keegan Murray they can outpace any team in the country. We'll see if the defense continues its upward trajectory heading into the tournament.

You can find all of Reed's bets HERE!