Sportsbooks tab Houston as men's NCAA tournament favorite

Alabama received the No. 1 overall seed, but sportsbooks have Houston as the consensus favorite to win the national championship ahead of what oddsmakers believe is a wide-open men's NCAA basketball tournament.

Houston, the top seed in the Midwest Region, is listed at 6-1 at Caesars Sportsbook, followed by Alabama at 7-1 and fellow No. 1 seeds Kansas (8-1) and Purdue (10-1) at the top of the oddsboard.

On Sunday, before the bracket was released, eight teams had national title odds of 15-1 or shorter at Caesars Sportsbook. Four of those teams -- Kansas, UCLA, Gonzaga and UConn -- landed in the West Region.

Houston is coming off a loss to Memphis on Sunday in the AAC tournament championship. Cougars guard Marcus Sasser, the team's leading scorer, was held out of Sunday's championship game after suffering a groin injury against Cincinnati on Saturday.

Houston opens the NCAA tournament on Thursday against Northern Kentucky. The Cougars are 19.5-point favorites.

Kansas also lost in its conference tournament championship, falling to Texas on Saturday. The defending national champion Jayhawks were without coach Bill Self, who was hospitalized with an undisclosed medical issue but was discharged Sunday and is expected back this week.

Kansas, which is attempting to become the first back-to-back national champion since 2007, opens its title defense against Howard on Thursday. The Jayhawks opened as 21.5-point favorites.

More bets have been placed -- and more money wagered -- on Kansas to win the national championship than any other team at BetMGM sportsbooks.

"This year's NCAA tournament is wide open," Seamus Magee, a sports trader for BetMGM, said in a company release. "We are expecting more action than ever, with a large number of contenders in the field."

Sportsbooks posted point spreads on the First Four and first-round games Sunday, shortly after the bracket was released. Three lower seeds -- No. 9 West Virginia, No. 9 Auburn, No. 10 Utah State -- opened as favorites over higher seeds. The line on No. 10 seed Boise State versus No. 7 seed Northwestern opened at pick 'em at Caesars Sportsbook.

The Final Four will start April 1 in Houston, with the national championship game slated for April 3.