March Madness: Betting to Make the Final Four
Let’s Hear it for Underdogs.
Sure, we could just go on and on about the virtues of Gonzaga, Arizona and Kansas. We could reflect on the championship pedigree of Baylor or call on Tennessee to build on its run to the SEC title or wonder if Auburn or Kentucky have what it takes to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. There will be other breakdowns about Duke’s quest to send out retiring coach Mike Krzyzewski as a champion.
However, let’s take a different look at the March Madness predictions by throwing out the names of some schools that were not among the top 16 seeds but could certainly have extended postseason stays.
Hawkeyes Eyeing More March Madness Success
It isn’t just that Iowa is coming off a run to the Big Ten Tournament title in one of the better seasons in that conference’s history but also that Providence is hardly the most imposing No. 4 seed in the recent March Madness bracket history. Iowa as the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region is a team worth keeping an eye on.
Keegan Murray is something special and despite facing a variety of different defenses in a talent-rich Big Ten, the 6-foot-8 sophomore scored, scored and scored some more. Murray scored at least 20 points in 13 of his last 15 games and connected on more than 50% in seven of the last 10 games.
The supporting cast is better than people give them credit for. It remains to be seen if Iowa can take down top-seeded Kansas but the Hawkeyes are going to be a tough out. Take Iowa to string together four wins, and cash March Madness final four odds of +550.
USC Trojans Won’t Be Horsing Around
The bottom half of the Midwest bracket is headed by No. 2 seed Auburn which seemed strangly detached and almost indifferent during its loss to the SEC tournament.
The first-round game against Miami is going to be a tough one but if the Trojans get past the Hurricanes, they have the athletic ability in the frontcourt.
The NCAA track record of Auburn coach Bruce Pearl is somewhat mixed. He made it past the Sweet Sixteen just once during his time at Tennessee. Auburn did make it to the Final Four in 2019. But this Auburn team didn’t handle the pressure of being the top-ranked team in the country particularly well, so how will the Tigers handle the NCAA tournament pressure?
With the seventh-highest odds to advance to the Final Four out of the Midwest Region, USC is worth a longshot to make it there.
Gonzaga Isn’t the Only Talented WCC Squad
Playing in the shadow of Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference is not easy. The Gaels opened a few eyes with a 10-point win over the Zags in late February aided by one of the best home-court advantages in the country. The Gaels beat Oregon and had a tussle with Wisconsin earlier in the season, and this team can get after it on the defensive end.
Saint Mary’s four double-digit scorers are all juniors or seniors and experience counts at this time of the season. A potential second-round game with UCLA could be a little on the nasty side. If the Gaels can get by UCLA, top-seeded Baylor could be next and the defending national champions could be without their top scorer as well as their top rebounder in the tournament. Either Purdue or Kentucky would be a handful in the Elite Eight but Saint Mary’s is a very dangerous team.
Saint Mary’s isn’t getting the love of fellow No. 5 seeds Houston, Iowa and UConn. The Gaels carry the highest of odds among the No. 5 seeds, but keep an eye on this squad.
Is UConn Ready for Another March Madness Run?
The 2014 national title game was a dream for those who love teams that defy the March Madness odds. UConn, the No. 7 seed out of the East, topped Kentucky, the eighth-seeded team in the Midwest, in the title game. Are the Huskies ready to do it again?
When UConn has its entire team, the Huskies can be a problem. Big man Adama Sanogo should have a chip on his shoulder after a tough outing in the Big East title game. R.J. Cole seemingly has been playing and producing at the college level for a decade. Fellow seniors Tyrese Martin, Tyler Polley and Isaiah Whaley have played plenty of basketball as well. It looks like freshman Jordan Hawkins could also be returning.
The bracket is not an easy one. If Arkansas gets by Vermont — and many who make March Madness predictions are calling for an upset in that one — a UConn-Arkansas game just to get to the West regionals could feel like a regional final.
The Huskies have wins over Auburn and Villanova. Seven of the Huskies’ losses have been by four points or less, so this is a team worth floating a waiver at 12/1.
Double-digit Seeds Looking to Crash the Party
Is there a team ready to pull off what UCLA did a season ago?
The Bruins needed an overtime win over Michigan State in a First Four game just to be one of the final 64 teams. Aided by Abilene Christian’s upset of Texas, the 11th-seeded Bruins went on quite the run. Another overtime game resulted in a win over No. 2 seed Alabama in the East regional semifinal and then UCLA topped No. 1 Michigan 51-49 to reach the Final Four.
Ironically, Michigan is one of the double-digit seeds to watch. The Wolverines drew a tough opener against Colorado State, and SEC tournament champion Tennessee likely gets the winner of that game. Michigan has been an absolute nightmare to try to figure out, but there is more than enough talent to make a March Madness run. And certainly enough to consider 18/1 odds on them shipping the South Region.
Pick: Michigan +1800 to reach the Final Four.
In the same bracket, No. 10 seed Loyola-Chicago is always a popular pick this time of the year after the Ramblers reached the 2018 Final Four as a No. 11 seed and then as a No. 8 seed took out top-seeded Illinois in the 2021 tournament. Lucas Williamson and Braden Norris form a veteran backcourt and No. 7 seed Ohio State looks very beatable as does fellow Big Ten team Michigan State which draws Davidson in the West region.