The East region holds a lot of intrigue because there are some teams with a lot of helium. The upside potential is high for several of the teams in this portion of the bracket. Villanova wound up grabbing the top seed here, with Virginia falling to #2, largely because of how they played down the stretch without Justin Anderson and how they struggled with him back. Everybody’s favorite upset potential game is the 5 vs. 12 matchup, which could be a struggle to watch if you like offense. Wyoming and Northern Iowa could play a game in the upper 90s with the tempo that each team excels at.
If you’re looking for upsets, you may not be in the right place. This looks like a chalky bracket. It’s unfortunate to see a vulnerable team like Louisville luck into a 4 vs. 13 matchup against a UC-Irvine team that has dealt with injuries all season long. Michigan State is very under-seeded as a #7 here and that leaves little likelihood of a 10 over 7 upset. There is some modest upset potential in the 6 vs. 11 game, though Providence is a team that has the recipe for a deep March Madness run because they have two star players and experience. Dayton is an interesting team to watch because they play their play-in game in front of the home crowd right on campus and would only move to nearby Columbus with a win.
One of the themes of this conference is pace. Virginia, the #2 seed, plays at a slow pace and so do the #5, #12, and #14 seeds. Oklahoma will get up and down the floor as the #3 seed. Louisville and UC-Irvine are not particularly quick teams either. The most exciting game from a tempo standpoint will likely be the 8 vs. 9 matchup for the right to get trucked by Villanova. NC State has knocked off some quality competition this season, so be careful if you dismiss the Wolfpack too early.
East Region Futures Odds from 5Dimes:
Michigan State +1100
Northern Iowa +1200
NC State +4200
Boise State +17500
UC Irvine +40000
The plus money price is attractive on Villanova, though the Wildcats have not been tested much by out-of-conference competition this season. Their only non-conference win over a tournament team was a beatdown of VCU, so bettors should approach Villanova with caution. Their win over Syracuse means a lot less at this time of the season and Temple fell short of the tournament.
Because of that, a team to keep an eye on in the top half of this bracket is the Northern Iowa Panthers. They do what they do and they do it very well. As a rule of thumb, betting on teams that play good or great defense is a good way to approach March Madness. Defense is always consistent. Teams that rely on scoring lots of points or making jump shots are often playing in unfamiliar settings and one bad shooting night can be all it takes to get knocked out of the field. Northern Iowa is an efficient offensive team, but their defensive efficiency is very impressive. There’s good value on them at 12/1, even if they’re with the top seed in the bracket.
The Providence future at +3000 doesn’t represent their true odds, since they will be an underdog against both Oklahoma and one of Michigan State or Virginia, but this is a team that has a lot of upside. They should be able to advance against either Dayton or Boise State and move into the round of 32. You could do a lot worse than a future like this. Virginia would be favored against Providence by high single digits, so hedging may be a little bit tricky, but it is possible.
If you’re looking for a team to put a glass slipper on, this may not be the bracket for you. Chalk should hold up across the board. The one intriguing team as a Cinderella story is the LSU Tigers. There’s some good talent on this team and they are a little bit under-seeded because of how bad the SEC is outside of Kentucky, but this is a gritty, physical team that can wear opponents down. Health is an issue, but the Tigers are on the verge of being able to be mentioned in the same breath as Kentucky. There’s a good freshman class coming in next season and this team has upside.
In the Midwest region write-up, there was a discussion on rolling over the money line rather than betting the future and that’s something all bettors should check out. For a theme in this region, coaching is going to play a big role. Tom Izzo’s Spartans are a much different team than they were at the start of the season. Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers do what they do extremely well and they never deviate from their gameplan. Dayton has a tremendous head coach in Archie Miller. Louisville, of course, has Rick Pitino. Jay Wright is a good coach, but he could be vulnerable in the later rounds. Ben Jacobsen at Northern Iowa is extremely underrated and the Panthers are a force to be reckoned with because of him.
The East has some upset potential because this region likely has the weakest collection of #1 and #2 seeds in the field. If there’s going to be chaos, it could come from this bracket.
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Predictions from Other Regions