Year of the Underdogs? Pitt Fighting to Join Villanova in 2021 March Madness Bracket

Written By Nathan Frederick on January 26, 2021 - Last Updated on February 14, 2021

The spread tells the story.

Pitt hosts North Carolina on Tuesday night, and the game’s betting line at PA online sportsbooks speaks to the changes that have swirled across the college basketball landscape this season.

The Tarheels are only favored by 3.5 points at FanDuel Sportsbook. In prior years, that number would have been much bigger. North Carolina would have been viewed as the bigger brother, maybe even a bully.

But things are quite different this year. Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky are unranked. Pitt is ascending and just beat the Blue Devils last week.

And across the state, Villanova is among the nation’s elite, with a 10-1 record and a No. 3 ranking.

March Madness just around the corner

So a year after having no NCAA Tournament whatsoever, we’re poised for a doozy. Last week, the NCAA announced the dates for March Madness — one of the biggest sports betting events of the year.

The tournament will be held exclusively in Indiana due to COVID-19 protocols, with the first round beginning on March 19-20. The Final Four games will be played on April 3, with a national champion crowned two days later.

Both brand-name Pennsylvania teams (Villanova and Pitt) could make it. And college basketball’s traditional blue bloods are facing a more uphill climb, which makes futures bets rather fascinating.

Let’s take a quick look at the available odds in college basketball betting.

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Can Villanova win another NCAA title? Oddsmakers have them third

At press time, FanDuel Sportsbook has No. 1 Gonzaga as the favorite to win the NCAA Tournament at +280. Baylor is second at +550, followed by Villanova at +900. The rest of the top 10 is as follows:

  • Michigan: +1100
  • Iowa: +1300
  • Texas: +1400
  • Illinois: +1500
  • Tennessee: +1500
  • Wisconsin: +1700
  • Alabama/Houston: +2000

Odds are available on a plethora of college basketball teams. Pitt is currently a long shot at +11000, but perhaps this is the year for the underdogs. Penn State is priced at +10000, and Temple has even longer odds at +15000.

ESPN’s latest Bracketology has Pitt firmly on the bubble

In the latest version of ESPN’s Bracketology, which is a forecast of the NCAA Tournament bracket, Pitt is listed as one of the first four teams out. However, a win over North Carolina on Tuesday could easily push them right into the tournament field.

So tonight’s home contest with the Tarheels, which will be broadcast at 7 p.m. on the ACC Network, is a huge one. As mentioned previously, Pitt is a 3.5-point underdog at FanDuel Sportsbook. The Panthers are +136 on the moneyline, while UNC is -162. The game’s over/under is set at 146.5.

In other upcoming hoops action, Penn State plays at Ohio State at 7 p.m. tomorrow, and Villanova faces UCONN Thursday at 9 p.m. on FS1.

With one NFL game left, college basketball will soon step into the spotlight

The Super Bowl is just two weeks away. And as football season comes to a close, the college basketball games grow bigger and bigger.

Before long, March Madness — that old friend that we missed so much last season — will arrive. And this tournament promises to be an interesting one.

Some of the traditional powers have fallen. And some teams from Pennsylvania could have a chance to contend.

Tonight’s spread tells the story.

But the last chapters have yet to be written.

Lead image credit: AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

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Nathan Frederick

Nathan Frederick is an award-winning writer with more than 1,000 published bylines and two decades of journalism experience. His work has won awards from the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Journalists, the Keystone Press Association, and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He has also authored three books, one of which debuted as an Amazon No. 1 New Release.

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