Defending champion UConn opens as consensus March Madness favorite

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No team has repeated as March Madness winner since the Florida Gators did it in 2007 and 2008, but that hasn’t stopped reigning champion UConn from opening as the consensus favorite among sportsbooks and bettors this year.

The Huskies, who won the 2023 NCAA Men’s National Championship with a 17-point blowout of San Diego State, enter this year’s March Madness as the No. 1 seed in the East and are the favorites in all but two states, according to bet365‘s data.

Only Kentucky and North Carolina bettors have backed a different team to win, championing their respective home state Wildcats and Tar Heels.

UConn come into March Madness off the back of a 31-3 regular season record and with the top ranking of the regular season AP poll under their belt after winning the Big East Tournament 73-57 over Marquette. The Huskies begin the defense of their 2023 title by taking on No. 16 seed Stetson.

Across the 10 U.S. states within which bet365 operates, as well as the Canadian province of Ontario, Connecticut is backed by at least 22% of bet365 bettors, up to a high of 31.6% in New Jersey.

In North Carolina, 32.1% favor the Tar Heels, who went 27-7 in the regular season and reached the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship Game to secure the No. 1 seed in the West. In Kentucky, the Wildcats are fancied by 33.1% of bettors despite being the third seed in the South Region alongside No. 1 Houston, No. 2 Marquette and No. 4 Duke.

bet365 Bracket Challenge

bet365 is also offering the free-to-play Bracket Challenge this year for bettors and sports fans to make their picks.

In partnership with Incentive Games, the predictor game asks users to predict the result of every game during the 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Players earn points based on the accuracy of their predictions and the overall winner earns a top prize of $100,000. If anyone manages to get every result right, they would win a $10 million jackpot.

Americans to bet big on March Madness again

As always, the American Gaming Association expects March Madness to see a flurry of betting activity, with their new projections estimating that Americans will legally wager $2.72 billion on NCAA men’s and women’s college basketball in the next two weeks. That would be equivalent to 2.2% of the total handle wagered legally in 2023 and is estimated to be nearly twice as much as the total wagered on this year’s Super Bowl.

An Eilers and Krejcik report suggests that New York will lead the way by laying down almost 15% of the total nationwide handle.