It’s that time of year again and while you’re likely going crazy figuring out just which 12-seed will upset the five and which Cinderella will bust through the Sweet 16.
Here at USABetting, we have a March Madness preview with betting predictions. It is a region by region breakdown to help you make the best picks when it comes to placing your wagers with the sportsbooks.
The East – #1 Villanova (+800), #2 Duke (+600), #3 Baylor (+3300), #4 Florida (+3300)
Leading the East region are the Villanova Wildcats, last year’s defending champion and this year’s top overall seed in the tournament. Villanova sits as fourth favorite (+800) to complete the rare repeat performance but given their tournament draw, it won’t be easy. Villanova has the toughest road to the Final Four of any of the #1 seeds.
Villanova should breeze through its first round match-up, as should the rest of the top seeds, as not once in the history of the NCAA tournament has a 16-seed ever upset a one. Looking at this year’s field, don’t expect that to change. Following that first round, Villanova also should have a relatively easy game against eighth seeded Wisconsin or ninth seeded Virginia Tech. It’s after this however that the East shows its depth as the Wildcats could be matched against either fourth seeded Florida or fifth seeded Virginia, two teams that despite their ranking, are considered to have a real shot at possibly busting some brackets this year.
If Villanova can get past that tough Sweet 16 match-up, they’ll likely meet their toughest challenge not just of the tournament but perhaps all season, as likely to advance from that bottom half of the draw are the Duke Blue Devils. Duke won the ACC tournament and ending the year finally playing like the dominant pre-season #1 they had been expected to be. According to Bovada, Duke is also the favorites of the sportsbooks, at odds of +600 to win it all.
The Villanova/Duke match-up projects to be one of the most exciting of the entire tournament. And it’s likely that this will be the game that costs Villanova its chance at a repeat.
Take #2 Duke out of the East to advance to the Final Four.
The West – #1 Gonzaga (+900), #2 Arizona (+800), #3 Florida State (+3300), #4 West Virginia (+2500)
The best in the West are the Gonzaga Bulldogs, who enter the tournament as one of the four #1 seeds. While Gonzaga was likely the team that got that final seed over Duke, their path to the Final Four is the least treacherous.
That doesn’t mean their road is easy by any means however. The West boasts five of the top 25 teams in the country according to power rankings. Two of these teams, West Virginia and fifth seeded Notre Dame are right in Gonzaga’s half of the bracket and waiting and ready to pull the upset. West Virginia is another team, like Florida in the East, that is a victim of underseeding. This means Gonzaga’s road to the Final Four basically has them potentially facing two #2 seeds and not one.
The Virginia and Notre Dame match-up is one that is sure to attract a lot of eyes as one of the best of the second round. Both teams are playing well and both know each other well as the two teams are ACC rivals. Gonzaga still has a 60 percent chance to advance to the Elite Eight, where they would meet one of several other top teams placed in their region.
Gonzaga will likely meet either Arizona or Florida State in the Elite Eight, both of which provide tough potential match-ups. If the Zags can get past either of these teams though, their shot to win the tournament should be as good as anybody’s. Take Gonzaga to reach their first final four.
The Midwest – #1 Kansas (+800), #2 Louisville (+1600), #3 Oregon (+2200), #4 Purdue (+2200)
If you’ve heard people talking about how much parity exists in the tournament this year and just how deep and competitive the field is, especially among the top seeds, look no further than the Midwest to see all of this in action.
The Midwest is loaded with talent as seven of the country’s top offenses sit in the top and bottom halves of the region, all with the ability to cause trouble for Kansas on their road to the Final Four. Among these teams are Oklahoma State, which has one of the most efficient offenses in the nation, Michigan, an incredibly hot team as of late, and Iowa State, which is the lone blemish on the Jayhawks’ record.
This region expects to be one of heavy scoring too, which doesn’t exactly fit into Kansas’ wheelhouse. That being said, the Jayhawks are third favorite to win the entire tournament and there is good reason for that. They could meet Louisville in the Elite Eight and overall that’s a pretty favorable match-up for Kansas considering what their fellow top seeds will have to play through.
Take Kansas to make its way through the Midwest and into yet another Final Four.
The South – #1 North Carolina (+700), #2 Kentucky (+1000), #3 UCLA (+1000), #4 Butler (+6600)
North Carolina might be the luckiest team in the tournament draw, mainly because they managed to hold on to their top seed despite losing to Duke in the semifinals of the ACC tournament. Their region isn’t going to be a cakewalk either.
Arkansas and Seton Hall should be easy in the first two rounds and even a match-up with Butler points to one North Carolina should be able to get through. In fact, in this region, it’s not so much the top seeds that present as much of a problem as the double-digits, several of which have Cinderella potential written all over them. Especially Middle Tennessee State at #12, which is no rookie when it comes to busting open brackets as last year they took down Michigan State, despite being ranked a 15th seed.
The thing with Cinderella stories is that they don’t really reach the Elite Eight so if North Carolina runs into Middle Tennessee State, it’s likely the Tar Heels will advance. Where it gets difficult for UNC however is up next as their Final Four meeting is not going to be easy if it holds to chalk and their opponents are the Kentucky Wildcats.
Always a threat this time of year, Kentucky has been playing great basketball, winning yet another SEC tournament in the run-up to March Madness. They’ll pose a real threat to the Tar Heels and if anyone takes down UNC, it’s likely to be them.Take Kentucky to join Duke as #2 seeds in the Final Four.
- Our Preview’s Final Four March Madness Predictions – #2 Duke, #1 Gonzaga, #1 Kansas, #2 Kentucky.