The region that will probably screw up everybody’s March Madness bracket is the South region. Duke is the favorite and will curbstomp either team in the Wednesday night play-in game in the first round, but what happens with the rest of the field is anybody’s guess. The strongest #5, the Utah Utes, drew the worst possible matchup among the 12 seeds against Stephen F. Austin. Georgetown is the most vulnerable #4 seed in the first round against Eastern Washington. Davidson over Iowa will be a very sexy pick for most people in their brackets, but the Hawkeyes are favored. UCLA shouldn’t be in the field, but they have a decent first round matchup.
All in all, the South region has the potential to be the most wide open up until the Elite Eight, where Duke and Gonzaga should meet. Some crazy things can happen in the meantime, but Gonzaga’s the deepest team in this region and Duke is by far the most talented top to bottom. One thing to notice about this conference is that it might have the top collection of coaches. Mike Krzyzewski, Larry Krystkowiak, Fred Hoiberg, Bob McKillop, and Mark Few would all be in my top 10 or 15 coaches in college basketball. That means something, especially with the quick turnaround format.
If we are going to see a 12 vs. 13 matchup, this would be able the only region to expect that. Utah is very vulnerable against a Stephen F. Austin team that pulled an upset last season and plays extremely good basketball. Eastern Washington and Georgetown are two very different teams and Eastern Washington will take the Hoyas out of their comfort zone. The double-digit seed matchups are always fun and hopefully we get at least one this tournament season.
Here’s a look at the futures odds for the South region from 5Dimes:
Iowa State +450
San Diego State +4000
St. John’s +7000
Stephen F. Austin +10000
Eastern Washington +200000
North Florida +200000
North Dakota State +300000
Robert Morris +400000
Do not bet Gonzaga here. Gonzaga certainly fits the rollover approach because they’re going to have a tough game against Iowa State and face Duke if they’re going to win the region. There’s not a lot of value on Gonzaga when they could be underdogs in both of those games. Gonzaga could possibly be in the +175-200 range against Duke alone, so why take the chance of losing that future before that game? Rather than taking Duke at +173, you’re better off taking them to win the entire tournament because the top half of the bracket lacks teams that have Duke’s athleticism or upside. It’s hard to see Duke losing before the Elite Eight, so they basically have to get one more win in order for you to start hedging at +1125.
The Selection Committee did a good job of protecting its big-name programs from upset bids. It’s hard to see a Cinderella emerging from this region. If one is going to come out of it, they will have to knock off Duke or Gonzaga to do it. Stephen F. Austin might be the only team with that ability and the Cinderella label. Eastern Washington doesn’t play defense and Duke will score 100 against them. If Stephen F. Austin beats Utah, they will get a good taste of the pace Duke wants to play if Eastern Washington beats Georgetown. Iowa State could beat Gonzaga, but that would hardly be a surprise.
In the Midwest region, the aforementioned money line rollover was a topic of discussion. In the East, coaching was under the spotlight. In the West, the discussion was about how to bet the futures market in a way that should be profitable. Looking at the South, it’s a good place to talk about how to handicap the differences between the conferences. Take a team like Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks are in the awful Southland Conference, but their average margin in conference games was a win by 16 points. They can’t help their placement in the conference, but they beat up on the teams in their league. That’s the sign of a good team.
Eastern Washington will be a popular pick over Georgetown, who has a knack for underachieving in the tournament, but the Eagles play in a conference that plays no defense. Maybe their 81 points per game and 48 percent shooting percentage is misleading? Gonzaga is from the West Coast Conference, where three teams have a pulse. The Bulldogs are great and have a ton of talent, but are they battle tested enough given that they haven’t really played anybody outside of BYU in months? UCLA got in because of the Pac-12’s reputation. SMU is a better team, but the American Athletic Conference is bad. Perhaps UCLA should get some more respect in that game?
The right side of the bracket seems to have the most potential for the shenanigans that we have come to expect from March Madness. Bet smart and good luck with all of your plays during the NCAA Tournament.
One final note…look at the other postseason tournaments and try to find value in those lines. The NCAA Tournament produces some of the best betting handles of the basketball season and the oddsmakers are going to have their tightest lines. Wagering angles like motivation are easier to spot in the NIT, CBI, and CIT. Enjoy the Madness and don’t be afraid to bet on it, but the value plays are more than likely in the other postseason tournaments.
Kyle Hunter is the #1 Ranked College Basketball Handicapper in the Past 5 years. Up a combined 92 units in that time! All plays documented. Kyle’s March Madness All Access Pass is only $250.
Predictions from other Regions