NCAA Predictions: Kentucky is favorite to win, East is wide open

Like the rest of the nation, we're temporarily suspending our interest in politics to devote every ounce of our mental energy to the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Fortunately, the same online betting sites we use to predict presidential elections can give us a lot of information about March Madness.

Kentucky is the top ranked NCAA basketball team in the country and the clear favorite to win the tournament at 26.7 percent odds. Those are tremendous odds, given that the team has to win six straight games against the best teams in the country (if you county an opening round game against 16-seed Western Kentucky).

The presence of Kentucky makes the South region the most dangerous for other top ranked teams: No. 2 Duke, No. 3 Baylor, and No. 4 Indiana all have the lowest likelihood of winning the title compared with the other teams of similar rankings.

The East is the most wide-open region due to the ineligibility of top ranked Syracuse's start center, Fab Melo. Second ranked Ohio State is 12.1 percent likely to win the tournament, the highest odds for a team not in the top seed. Fifth ranked Vanderbilt is the most likely seed outside the top 4 to escape their region.

The West is the least respected of the regions, with top seed Michigan State at only 8.1 percent likelihood to win the tournament. In the Midwest, North Carolina and Kansas are both quite strong at 13.0 % likelihood and 8.7 percent likelihood of winning, respectively, despite the fact that they would need to go through each other in the quarterfinals.

Sources: Betfair and PredictWise. Please follow along live with PredictWise's real-time likelihoods of winning the tournament.

David Rothschild is an economist at Yahoo! Research. He has a Ph.D. in applied economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter @DavMicRot and email him at

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