Villanova and Virginia have been the pick of oddsmakers to win the NCAA Championship. There are several lower seeds, however, that could grab the title.

Cincinnati basketball
Cincinnati is seeded No. 2 in the NCAA Tournament but is still a longshot to win the championship. (Image: AP)

Both the Wildcats and Cavaliers have been atop the Associated Press Top 25 Poll during the year and are No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Villanova is a 5/1 pick to win its second title in three years. The Cavaliers are a 6/1 selection. The other two No. 1 seeds are Kansas at 14/1 and Xavier at 18/1.

Last year, two No. 1 seeds, Gonzaga and North Carolina, met in the title game, but a No. 7 seed (South Carolina) and a No. 3 (Oregon) made the Final Four. Could a lower seed sneak in this year and take the title?

Lower Seeds Worth a Look

Duke and Michigan State are the two teams that could easily capture the NCAA Tournament. They were the favorites at the beginning of the college basketball season. The Spartans were listed at 9/2 and Duke was next at 8/1. MSU is now at 9/1 and the Blue Devils are at 7/1.

If the two get past their first two games in the Midwest, they will meet in the Sweet Sixteen. The winner of that game could face No. 1 seed Kansas, which has been tabbed as the weakest of the top seeds, to get to the Final Four.

Two other teams to watch are Arizona and Cincinnati. The Wildcats, who have 16/1 odds, have the tougher road. They have to get past a pesky Buffalo team in the first round, but should be able to accomplish that. If they do they would probably face Kentucky, who is 20/1 to win the title.

Cincinnati is at 16/1 and a definite dark horse to cut down the nets. The Bearcats have Georgia State in the first round, then would face the winner of Nevada-Texas. If they reach the Sweet 16 they would face either Tennessee or Loyola. They wouldn’t be really tested until the reached the Arizona section of the South bracket.

Historical Precedent

History is absolutely on the No. 1 seed’s side. In the last 10 years, seven NCAA championships have been won by a top seed, including 2017 when North Carolina overtook fellow high seed, Gonzaga.

But there is a reason these four teams were ranked where they are, and betting against them might not be a smart play. Villanova would appear to have the easiest bracket in the East. The Wildcats, who won in 2016, wouldn’t even face a team in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll in their bracket. They could cruise to the Final Four.

Virginia is the No. 1 overall seed and has challenges in the South, but nothing they shouldn’t be able to manage. The Cavaliers could either face Kentucky, Arizona or Cincinnati and though formidable are beatable.

Xavier has defending champion North Carolina that if they both win would meet in the Elite Eight. The Tar Heels lost to Virginia in the ACC Conference Championship game.

The weakest of the four is Kansas. They might not get out of the Midwest, having to possibly face Michigan State or Duke in the Elite Eight.