Thursday March 19th, 2015

The Kentucky Wildcats are the clear favorites on the odds to win the NCAA tournament at th  sportsbooks, and they opened as the biggest favorite since 2004 on the March Madness betting lines for their game against the Hampton Pirates on Thursday night in Louisville.

The Wildcats opened as a 32-point favorite for their Round of 64 matchup against the Pirates, and that number had increased to 34 points at some sportsbooks as of Wednesday afternoon. The last time there was a spread that big at the NCAA tournament was when Duke won and covered a 33-point spread against Alabama State at the 2004 Big Dance.

Kentucky, of course, has walked through this season untouched at 34-0 straight-up with the SEC tournament title in their pocket. The Wildcats have also been a profitable wager at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com at 19-13-2 against the spread on the season. Kentucky is 8-1-1 ATS in its past 10 games, and 8-1-2 ATS in its past 11 games at the NCAA tournament.

Hampton, meanwhile, went just 17-17 straight up this past season before getting on a run and winning the MEAC tournament as a No. 6 seed. The Pirates then defied expectations once again on Tuesday night with a 74-64 win over Manhattan in a First Four matchup in Dayton, which gave them the No. 16 seed in the Midwest region and a date in Louisville against the Wildcats on Thursday. Hampton went 8-0 ATS in its games that received odds this year.

So while Hampton is hot enough to have a shot at a cover on Thursday, there seems to be little chance that they'll pull off the biggest shocker in March Madness history and knock the undefeated Wildcats out of the NCAA tournament. Their Thursday game is set for 9:40 p.m. ET.

Assuming Kentucky dispatches Hampton, it would then face either No. 8 Cincinnati or No. 9 Purdue in the Round of 32. The other top seeds in the Midwest region of the bracket are No. 2 Kansas, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 4 Maryland, No. 5 West Virginia and No. 6 Butler, all of whom trail well behind the 4/11 Wildcats on the odds to win the Midwest at the sportsbooks.

Kentucky is the 11th team since 1971 to enter the NCAA tournament with an undefeated record, and just three of those schools managed to win the championship—the UCLA Bruins in both 1972 and '73, and the Indiana Hoosiers in 1976. Last year Wichita State was 34-0 entering the NCAA tournament, but it ended up losing to Kentucky in the Round of 32.

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