One of the beauties of sports is the blind faith of many fans that this is “our year.”
Take, for example, the story of Leicester City fan Leigh Herbert, who put a “fiver” down on his beloved team before the season and cashed in at season’s end, winning nearly $30,000 USD.
While we can’t make any promises, we took a look at some mid-major teams that could be worth the investment if things break right.
Here are five potential teams that could be somebody’s lottery ticket, according to Las Vegas odds makers:
1. Saint Mary’s Gaels: 200/1
The Gaels return the majority of their core players from a team that was an impressive 29-6 last season, including two wins over conference rival Gonzaga. ESPN has the Gaels ranked No. 16 overall, which would be the rough equivalent of a 4 or 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That doesn’t sound too crazy, does it?
2. Weber State Wildcats - 1000/1
The Wildcats have made it to the tournament in two of the past three years, including last year, when they went 26-9 overall. They have a veteran roster, led by 6’2 senior guard Jeremy Senglin, who averaged 17.9 points per game last year. Weber State could be one of those teams that catches fire at the right time, making them one you do not want to face in March.
3. Valparaiso Crusaders - 500/1
Doesn’t it seem like Valpo is always in the Cinderella conversation? The Crusaders were a 30-win team last year and return 6’9 senior forward Alec Peters, who was the last player to remove his name from the NBA draft. Peters averaged 18.4 points with 8.5 rebounds per game and should be a dominant force along with three of the team’s top four scorers from last year. They have plenty of talent to ensure they get back to the tournament.
4. Belmont Bruins - 1000/1
The Bruins have a talented and deep roster on the heels of a 20-win season. They are led by All-American candidate and Ohio Valley Conference player of the year Evan Bradds, who has led the nation in field goal percentage two years in a row. In order for a long-shot team to make a run in the tournament, it has to be able to shoot the three, and Belmont was fourth in the nation in three-pointers per game in 2016 with 10.6. The Bruins have appeared in seven of the past 11 NCAA tournaments and have become a permanent fixture on our brackets come March.
5. Fresno State Bulldogs - 250/1
Rodney Terry got his Bulldogs to the tournament last season for the first time in 15 years after a solid 25-10 campaign. The Bulldogs are a long, lean and athletic team that could cause problems for just about anybody. Things could get really interesting for Fresno State if five-star recruit William McDowell-White can gain his eligibility for the second semester and is able to join the team in January. The young Australian has NBA potential and will be a difference maker for the Bulldogs, along with incoming transfer Jaron Hopkins, who played in 67 games for Colorado before sitting out last year.
Other Mid-Major schools worth putting five bucks on include: Middle Tennessee State (500/1), Dayton (150/1), San Diego State (200/1), Tennessee State (no Vegas line available yet)