5 NCAA Tournament Sleeper Picks That Could Boost Your 2021 Bracket

Written By Drew Ellis on March 17, 2021

Bracket-filling is certainly a popular way to make money come mid-March. However, nailing your NCAA Tournament sleeper pick provides a chance at a much larger payout.

Although most focus in on the top seeds, there is a lot of value for Michigan sports bettors in teams that are a No. 3 seed or worse.

Here are five teams we like that possess longer odds to win March Madness.

1. Kansas Jayhawks

The Jayhawks had a COVID-19 scare that eliminated the team from last week’s Big 12 Conference Tournament.

As a No. 3  seed in the West region, Kansas could face some roster challenges this opening week, but it could also close to full strength. Kansas should be at 100% depth-wise if it reaches the second week of the tournament.

Prior to the coronavirus issues, Kansas had won eight of its last nine, including a victory over No. 1 seed Baylor. The Jayhawks sit 19th in ESPN’s BPI Rankings with a 20-8 record.

Oddsmakers are listing them anywhere from +2500 to +6000 to win it all.

Kansas could match up favorably with second-seeded Iowa in the West. The Jayhawks faced top-seeded Gonzaga early in the season. It was a 102-90 loss in late November, but it showed Kansas has the firepower to run with the Bulldogs.

Kansas has five players averaging nearly double figures in scoring, and the Jayhawks have reached the Elite Eight in three of their past four tournament appearances.

2. Tennessee Volunteers

The Volunteers are the No. 5 seed out of the Midwest.

Oddsmakers are listing Tennessee as low as +4000 to as high as +5500 to win the NCAA Tournament.

Tennessee is a team that has beaten quality teams such as Kansas, while also playing competitive with Alabama, the No. 2 seed in the East.

The Volunteers are 12th in the BPI Rankings coming into March Madness with an 18-8 record.

Tennessee is playing in arguably the toughest region, but the Vols have shown that, at their best, they can play with anyone.

The Vols rank 22nd nationally in defense, allowing just 62.7 points per game while holding opponents to 40.2% shooting.

Offensively, Tennessee has a balanced attack, which can lend itself well to being an NCAA Tournament sleeper pick. Seven players average from 8.2 to 12.5 points per game. One of them is senior forward John Fulkerson, who is questionable to play this weekend with facial injuries.

3. Texas Tech Red Raiders

The Red Raiders are no strangers to a Final Four run. They reached the national championship game in the most recent NCAA Tournament (all the way back in 2019!) as a No. 3 seed.

This year, Texas Tech finds itself as the No. 6 seed in the South. Most sportsbooks are listing Texas Tech at +6000 or longer to win the title. BetMGM Sportsbook has a surprising +2500 line for them.

The Red Raiders were just 17-10 overall, but still come into the tournament eighth in the BPI.

Tech’s big strength is its defense. It was a big part of their run to the title game in 2019 and could be a big reason for a Cinderella run this spring. They give up just 63.3 points per game and hold opponents to 40.8% shooting, doing so while battling through the highly-rated Big 12.

Mac McClung has led the team with 15.7 points per game and is capable of taking over a game down the stretch.

4. Loyola-Chicago Ramblers

The Missouri Valley Conference champions are a team with much longer odds that may be worth a cheap flyer.

Loyola-Chicago was the 1963 NCAA Tournament champion and made a memorable Final Four run in 2018.

This year’s Loyola squad is the No. 8 seed in the Midwest with a 24-4 record.

The Ramblers are 21st in the BPI, which is a strong spot for an MVC program.

Loyola is ranging from +4000 to +7000 in odds to win the tournament. For Final Four odds, Loyola is listed around +1000 to +1400, depending on the sportsbook.

Although they are not battle-tested because the limitations of a schedule altered by COVID-19, the Ramblers still have a lot of confidence.

They boast the top defense in the nation, allowing just 55.7 points per game. Offensively, Loyola shoots an impressive 50.4% from the field.

Center Cameron Krutwig is one of the top centers in the tournament. He averages 15.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 57.9%.

If that’s not enough, keep in mind that 101-year-old good luck charm Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt will accompany the team again for this year’s tournament.

The only potential problem for this NCAA Tournament sleeper pick? Likely being matched up with in-state foe and top-seeded Illinois in the second round. The Illini are as hot as any team in the country heading into the Big Dance.

5. LSU Tigers

Another No. 8 seed to consider as a sleeper is LSU (18-9).

LSU is ranking from +4000 to +10000 in regards to winning the tournament, so make sure to get max value if you are making a bet.

The Tigers have a few attractive qualities, the first being their high-powered offense. LSU ranks eighth nationally in scoring at 82.1 points per game. Their 3-point defense holds opponents to 30.1 % shooting as well.

Come March, a hot-shooting team can be tough to stop, and LSU made a run to the SEC Tournament finals while pushing Alabama to the brink Sunday.

As part of the East Region, the window seems open for a big upset. Top-seeded Michigan is dealing with a major injury to forward Isaiah Livers, while other top seeds such Alabama, Texas, Florida State, Colorado and BYU don’t possess robust Final Four history.

Sitting 24th in the BPI rankings, LSU could make an impact in this tournament.

Photo by Mark Humphrey/AP
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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis has lived in Michigan his whole life, and has been writing professionally for the last 21 years. Ellis has covered anything from youth baseball in mid-Michigan, a top-25 college football program, and pro sports in the Detroit area. Always keeping busy, Ellis also has over 10 years of experience in covering sports betting, handling all major sports.

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