March Madness 2023 NCAAB Odds Update: Sasser Injury Looms Large For Houston

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Head coach Kelvin Sampson of the Houston Cougars instructs Marcus Sasser #0 and Jamal Shead #1 on March 05, 2023. Justin Ford/Getty Images/AFP

The field of 68 teams for the 2023 NCAAB Tournament is out, and the top four seeds are Alabama, Houston, Kansas, and Purdue, with no real surprises there.

Let’s take a look at some opening odds for the Big Dance and our NCAAB picks to reach the NRG Stadium in Houston. 

Remember, fans from the Lone Star State who want to wager on this game should check out our top-rated Texas betting sites.

2023 NCAAB Tournament 

This writer certainly can’t remember the last time an NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was played without the likes of bluebloods North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin, but that’s the case this year.

UNC became the first preseason No. 1 team in the country to miss the Big Dance since it expanded to 64 teams in 1985. The Heels passed on an NIT invite, but both the Wolverines and Badgers are playing in it. The Buckeyes weren’t even good enough to qualify for that. 

In two of the past three years, we’ve seen an NFL team win the Super Bowl in its own stadium. The University of Houston can somewhat do the same come early April with the Final Four in that city, although the Cougars don’t play their home games at NRG Stadium which is normally home of the NFL’s Texans. 

Houston had been the betting favorite for weeks to win the NCAAB Tournament but is now a (+600) second favorite at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review) after losing in the AAC title game to Memphis and sitting star Marcus Sasser for that game due to injury. He slipped on the floor in Saturday’s win over Cincinnati. 

Sasser is Key for Houston

Sasser was named the AAC Player of the Year and in the regular season ranked sixth in the American Athletic Conference with 17.1 points per game and among the Top 10 in assists (3.3 apg, 10th), free throw percentage (83.1, 7th), three-point field goal percentage (38.2, 6th), three-point field goals per game (2.7, 4th) and assist-turnover ratio (2.06, 5th).  

Last year, he was only able to play in 12 games, missing the entire postseason, due to a season-ending foot injury. The Cougars might not need Sasser for the NCAAB Tournament’s Round 1 game vs. Northern Kentucky, but they will for the Round 2 game against either No. 8 Iowa or No. 9 Auburn, much less to reach the Final Four. Sounds like he should be ready.  

This also is working against Houston winning it all: No school from a league that had fewer than four bids has done so since UNLV in 1990. UH’s AAC got just two bids.  

Tide Would Break Drought 

I’ll be fading Alabama to win it all as well with the Tide as the (+500) favorites after landing the No. 1 overall seed following the completion of the double of SEC regular-season and tournament championship. During non-conference play, the Tide became one of just three teams in the last three seasons to beat Houston on its home floor. Alabama is the first SEC team to earn the No. 1 overall seed since Kentucky in 2015. 

First of all, Alabama is a football school. Second, the top overall seed hasn’t won it all since Louisville in 2013. The Tide like to play fast and will probably face either No. 4 Virginia or No. 5 San Diego State in the Sweet 16, two of the slowest-paced top defensive teams in the country.

Seven of the 18 previous overall No. 1s lost in the Sweet 16 or earlier. Bama does get the advantage of playing in nearby Birmingham, Ala., for the first two rounds.  

What about KU?

Defending national champion Kansas got dinged a bit by the top-rated sportsbooks after getting dominated in the Big 12 title game by Texas – the second impressive win in a row by the Longhorns over the Jayhawks – and are now (+1200) to win it all as the No. 1 seed in the West.

That’s the toughest region. Florida is the last school to repeat as champion (2007). Since then, no defending champ has advanced past the Sweet 16. 

How About the Bruins?

No. 2 seed UCLA is also in the West and is (+1100) according to the NCAAB futures odds to win it all. My concern for the Bruins was the loss of Jaylen Clark to a season-ending injury ahead of the Pac-12 Tournament. He was averaging 13.0 points and 6.0 rebounds this season and was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

No Pac-12 school has won it all since Arizona in 1997. The conference was called the Pac-10 back then, and it hasn’t had a team reach the championship game since 2006. 

We have to pick at least one No. 1 seed to reach the Final Four because only twice have zero top seeds made it, so Houston it is. The 2008 tournament is the only one where all four top seeds did.  

Final Four picks with odds to win the region from Bovada 

  • South: No. 2 Arizona (+400) 
  • East: No. 5 Duke (+850) 
  • Midwest: No. 1 Houston (+120) 
  • West: No. 3 Gonzaga (+400) 

*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.