March Madness - 2020 National Champion early-value odds

Apr 8, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Virginia Cavaliers head coach Tony Bennett is presented with the national championship trophy after defeating the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the championship game of the 2019 men's Final Four at US Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

A 2018 season that ended in shocking sorrow for Virginia fueled a determined and joyous championship run in 2019.

It takes its place as one of sports’ all-time redemption stories and, at the same time, was a profitable one for Virginia futures backers who swooped up the 14/1 opening odds last April and then perhaps doubled down on the Cavaliers at 20/1 to win the title when the season tipped off last fall.

Monday night while the Cavs and their futures backers were celebrating and the opening bars of the “One Shining Moment” were playing on CBS, the 2020 NCAA Tournament opening odds were being unveiled across the country. To no one’s surprise, Kentucky and the defending champs topped the Las Vegas Superbook list at 7/1, followed closely by Duke and Michigan State at 8/1 and Michigan at 12-1.

But for those seeking better value at an attractive double-digit-odds opening pricetag – such as Virginia was 12 months ago – here’s an early look at five “longer-shot” plays which could pay off handsomely at this time next year:

Gonzaga (14/1)

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Coach Mark Few’s program could follow the recent disappointment-to-championship paths of Virginia and Villanova, especially if studs Brandon Clarke and Zach Norvell don’t follow Rui Hachimura to the NBA. The question has become not if the Bulldogs will be a factor in the Big Dance, but is this the year they finally break through and win it all?

Villanova (14/1)

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Elite recruits Bryan Antoine and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl join a trio of returning starters for coach Jay Wright, who could continue his even-numbered year championship pattern with a third title in five seasons.

Kansas (20/1)

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Sure there are lingering and pertinent questions concerning any lasting links between the program and the FBI recruiting scandal. Questions also exist whether elite big man Udoka Azubuike returns for his senior season. If the answers are the right ones after a disappointing Murphy’s Law 2018-19 season, Bill Self’s program could re-emerge as an bona fide national title threat.

Oregon (20/1)

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Dana Altman’s Ducks made a late-season charge to the Sweet 16 where they gave the eventual-champion Cavaliers all they could handle. If inside-force Kenny Wooten returns to join senior point guard Payton Pritchard and a strong class of incoming recruits and emerging players, Oregon could make a run at the top in Atlanta.

Marquette (50/1)

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Here’s the longest shot of our quintet, but it’s a worthwhile one as the Golden Eagles appear in the top eight of the early 2020 top-25 rankings at USA Today, CBS Sports, ESPN and The Sporting News. The key will be if guard Markus Howard, the 2018-19 Big East player of the year, returns for his senior year. If so, Marquette could have its starting five intact from a 24-10 team in addition to a solid group of transfers and recruits.

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