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March is a wonderful time when college basketball owns the sports world with buzzer- beaters and stunning results during the NCAA basketball tournament. Who holds Cinderella’s slipper this time? Both Alabama and Houston are listed at 6-1 (+600) to win the championship, according to NCAA title odds.

Finding the perfect team to make a run during March Madness is as difficult as dating in a pandemic, selecting the perfect wedding dress or cooking the perfect meal. Of course, millions of brackets look to do just that, hoping to win big in various pools with family, friends, coworkers and those on-line sites as well.

There’s no exact science to find the perfect team in the tourney, but there is plenty of data. As an example, every NCAA champ since 2002 has been in the top 40 in adjusted offensive efficiency and top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy’s rankings.

Teams who meet those standards now include UCLA, Alabama, Houston, Kansas, Saint Mary’s, Texas, Creighton and Connecticut. Meanwhile, a handful of teams are just outside of those requirements, both as higher seeds and in those tough-to-figure eight-versus-nine games. Those teams include Auburn, Maryland, Memphis and Florida Atlantic.

Here are a few surprises to both target and avoid in the first round and beyond.

NCAA College Basketball First-Round Surprises

We will include teams seeded ninth or lower that may take down a higher-seeded team (eight to one). In the 18 tournaments including 2002 to 2019, it was a 12-seed over a five-seed 30 times (41.6%). All but three of those tourneys included at least one 12-over-5.

Take a look at the Drake Bulldogs, with a starting lineup older than a half-dozen NBA teams. Drake finished 26-7, winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament as well. The Bulldogs were 4-4 in Quad 1 and Quad 2 games, 44th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency and 98th in adjusted offensive efficiency.

They also feature probable NBA draft choice (and conference player of the year) Tucker DeVries. Meanwhile, Miami (Fla.) may have an injured (ankle) Norchad Omier, a 6-foot-7, 246-pound forward who averaged a double-double.

Saint Mary’s and Virginia Commonwealth may as well be a flip of the coin. Since the Gaels are skilled and VCU plays great defense, it will come down to shot-making. This is the only other 12-over-5 game we’d consider.

There are three games involving 10-versus-seven seeds that are intriguing, including (10) Southern Cal against (7) Michigan State, (10) Utah St. against (7) Missouri and (10) Penn St. against (7) Texas A&M.

Southern Cal and Michigan St. seem a year away, if they can keep their squad together. Utah St. and Missouri can both score, so the team that makes the odds stop figures to win.

Penn St. made a great run to the Big Ten Tournament title game as a double-digit seed, but what’s left in the tank against the Aggies, who finished second in the SEC?

The other two 12-verus-five games feature Charleston (31-3), 70th and 75th in the KenPom metrics, against San Diego St. (27-6), 64th and 10th and playing a much tougher schedule.

Duke (26-8) includes several likely NBA draft picks, against Oral Roberts (30-4), a few seasons after a Sweet Sixteen run with now-senior Max Abmas. Logic is leading to the Blue Devils and Aztecs, but if you have faith in ORU’s Golden Eagles, they are 10-1 (+1000) to make it that far once again. That’s per NCAA Sweet Sixteen odds.

College Basketball: Some Low-Seeds-in-Waiting

Houston and Purdue are a pair of No. 1 seeds that need to beware in the second round. The Boilermakers get either a stacked Memphis team or Florida Atlantic, 32nd and 36th in offensive and defensive KenPom metrics.

Meanwhile, the Cougars could see an Iowa team who lives and dies by the three-pointer, or an Auburn team built on defense.

Also, two-seeded Marquette could have a toughie against either USC or Michigan St., while Arizona, another two-seed, could lose a track meet against the winner of Missouri/Utah St. Other ‘low’ seeds that can make tourney runs include (6) Creighton, (4) Connecticut, (4) Indiana, (5) Saint Mary’s and (5) San Diego St.

NCAA Tournament Odds to win Region

Men’s East Region Odds

Team Odds
Purdue +225
Marquette +425
Tennessee +425
Duke +800
Kansas State +1000
Kentucky +1000
Memphis +1600
Michigan State +1800
USC +2000
Florida Atlantic +2200
Providence +3300
Oral Roberts +6600
Louisiana-Lafayette +10000
Vermont +10000
Montana State +20000
Fairleigh Dickinson +30000
Texas Southern +30000

Men’s Midwest Region Odds

Team Odds
Houston +140
Texas +300
Xavier +800
Iowa State +1100
Indiana +1400
Auburn +1600
Miami FL +1600
Texas A&M +1600
Iowa +2200
Penn State +4000
Drake +5000
Kent State +5000
Mississippi State +5500
Pittsburgh +8000
Colgate +20000
Kennesaw State +20000
Northern Kentucky +30000

Men’s South Region Odds

Team Odds
Alabama +185
Arizona +375
Baylor +550
Creighton +650
San Diego State +850
Virginia +1400
West Virginia +1400
Maryland +2500
Utah State +2500
Missouri +4000
Charleston +5000
North Carolina State +5000
Furman +8000
UC Santa Barbara +10000
Princeton +30000
A&M Corpus Christi +50000
Southeast Missouri State +50000

Men’s West Region Odds

Team Odds
UCLA +275
Gonzaga +385
Kansas +385
Connecticut +400
Saint Mary’s +1100
TCU +1200
Arkansas +1800
Boise State +2500
Illinois +2800
Northwestern +4000
VCU +5000
Arizona State +8000
Nevada +8000
Grand Canyon +10000
Iona +10000
Howard +30000
UNC Asheville +30000
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