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These long shots could make March Madness money

The college basketball season is just over a month old and already hoops bettors are sizing up Cinderella’s slipper on a few promising programs. Before conference play commences following the holiday, basketball bettors making handicapping software may want to take a flyer on these long shots to win the NCAA tournament in the spring:

Texas Longhorns (+8,500)
The Longhorns stunned the No. 3 North Carolina Tar Heels this past weekend and their odds pretty much went unchanged. Texas’ stock will never be this high, at least until they go on a tear in Big 12 play. New head coach Shaka Smart, the mastermind behind those incredible tournament runs by Virginia Commonwealth, is one of the best coaches in the country and is working with a level of talent he never had at VCU. If he can lead Texas to a dance ticket – look out.

UCLA Bruins (+12,000)
Despite wins over marquee programs like No. 1 Kentucky and Gonzaga, UCLA still has sizable odds to win the NCAA tournament. Granted, the Bruins lost to Monmouth-NJ in the season opener. But those two wins are likely enough to punch UCLA’s dance card now. Bruins head coach Steve Alford is another tournament pro, having navigated March Madness himself as a player and pushing UCLA to the Sweet 16 as a No. 11 seed last March. This is Alford’s third season with the Bruins, so these are his recruits in his system.

Providence Friars (+20,000)

The Friars aren’t messing around during the non-conference schedule. Providence opened with a win over Illinois, then knocked of Arizona before losing a closer-than-appears game to Michigan State at the Wooden Legacy tournament. The Friars have a pro-ready talent in Kris Dunn and some solid complementary players around him, who have already stepped up for bigger roles than expected. Providence has an uphill climb in the Big East but could be tournament tough coming out of that conference with a favorable seed in the NCAA.

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