The West region looks to be the toughest and Wisconsin could face some landmines in this bracket as they look to return to the Final Four. Arizona is a very strong #2 seed and the second favorite to win the tournament behind the Kentucky Wildcats. That’s all the evidence a handicapper needs to know that Arizona is legit. Interestingly, Wisconsin is the third-favorite. Keep in mind that both of these teams would have to face Kentucky in the Final Four assuming things stay true in the Midwest region.
This is probably the best bracket from a viewing standpoint. The top #4 seed in the field is North Carolina and they may run into Wisconsin in the Sweet 16 in what would be an excellent matchup. VCU and Ohio State is an awesome first round matchup. Xavier faces the winner of BYU and Ole Miss, an interesting matchup that could light up the scoreboard in Dayton on Tuesday night. Baylor seems to turn it on at the right time of the season, but they could easily lose one of their first two games if they’re not careful.
Pace battles are the theme of this part of the bracket. Oregon and Oklahoma State play very different styles in the 8 vs. 9 matchup. Arkansas and Wofford could not be more different in the 5 vs. 12 matchup. Xavier won’t want to run with BYU or Ole Miss in the 6 vs. 11 game. Georgia State’s way to beat Baylor will be to push the tempo and force Baylor’s bigs, namely Rico Gathers, to run the floor. VCU’s “Havoc” full-court press defense will speed up their game against Ohio State, which is no problem for the Buckeyes. It will be interesting to see which of those teams draws Arizona because the Wildcats play a very controlled style.
Here’s a look at the futures odds for the West region courtesy of 5Dimes:
North Carolina +800
Ohio State +2200
Ole Miss +6500
Oklahoma State +9000
Georgia State +50000
Texas Southern +400000
Coastal Carolina +400000
The West region is the only one in which the top seed is not the favorite. Arizona is a slight favorite over Wisconsin, which is certainly interesting for bettors to note. Also worthy of note is that nobody else has odds better than 8/1 and after that, the next highest is 13/1. It appears that Arizona and Wisconsin will be able to walk to the Elite Eight and play for the right to go to Indianapolis.
Not so fast, my friend! (I miss college football) North Carolina is a team with a ton of upside in the top half of this bracket. Wisconsin is a good team, but they’ve done the majority of their damage in a very weak Big Ten Conference. North Carolina just won the ACC Title and knocked off two very different teams, Virginia and Notre Dame, to do so. At 8/1, they’re worth a look here. Again, however, refer to the Midwest region about rolling over the money line. Because North Carolina could be in the +250 range against Wisconsin and an underdog against Arizona, rolling over the money line is going to yield a better return than the straight +800 would.
If you’re looking for a darkhorse to come out of this bracket, the BYU Cougars have some value. They draw a relatively easy 6 vs. 11 matchup against Xavier if they get there and then would probably need to upset Baylor. The Bears are not a well-coached team and they may get into an up-and-down game with BYU. That would not benefit them one bit. BYU would have an impossibly hard time with Arizona, but the Cougars are a high upside team because they can score. If their shots are falling, they’re intriguing. One issue for BYU will be travel. They play in Dayton in the play-in game and then fly to Jacksonville. If they win both games in Jacksonville, the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups are in Los Angeles. At 50/1, you could do a lot worse.
In the Midwest region, the rollover ML was covered. In the East region, the coaching differences were the topic of conversation. In this region, there’s a decent way to bet the futures market. Bettors can take both Wisconsin and Arizona in the 9/1 range because one of those two has a high likelihood of getting to the Final Four. Depending on how the teams look en route to Indianapolis, either team could face the smallest number that Kentucky has laid this season. The upset in the Final Four would be golden, but a hedge could be a possibility. It would also be wise to go a little bit heavier on the team that you like more to come out of this region.
It doesn’t look like anybody outside of Wisconsin and Arizona has a shot, but the Tar Heels are an attractive, albeit very public, pick to pull an upset and make their way to the Elite Eight.
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Predictions from Other Regions