NCAA Tournament Off & Runnin’
THE NCAA TOURNAMENT REPORT - WE ZOOM 'ROUND THE COUNTRY WITH OUR REGIONAL SKETCHES PLUS GET Y'ALL STARTED WITH THE FIRST FOUR
Okay, so who's your favorite, your sleeper team, your long shot to win it all in this here-and-now NCAA Tournament?
Betcha all your b-ball buddies have been asking you these questions the past 24-to-48 hours and so we'll weigh in on such vital matters shortly while doing region-by-region sketches of the South, East, West and Midwest. First, however, this key reminder …
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Now, here's your up-to-the-minute Odds to Win it All for a whole bunch of teams (based on $100 per play wagers):
|TEAM||ODDS TO WIN NCAA|
|Michigan State||+ 275|
|North Carolina||+ 1400|
|Wichita State||+ 1600|
|West Virginia||+ 2000|
|Texas Tech||+ 4000|
|Ohio State||+ 5000|
Hey, we happen to agree with ESPN analyst Jay Bilas who says the NCAA Tournament Committee folks "mis-seeded" a whole bunch of teams and no doubt that #4 Arizona and #5 Kentucky were given short shrifts by the committee folks ('Zona should be a #2 after winning the Pac-12 Tournament Championship and Kentucky should be no lower than a #3 seed after copping a fourth consecutive SEC Tournament Championship). In any event, the "world" is awaiting a second-round showdown between Arizona vs. Kentucky … now let's see if it even happens!
Virginia is sitting there with the tourney's #1 overall seed but most "experts" believe the Wahoos will get picked off well before Final Four time while #2 Cincinnati - fresh of winning an exciting American Athletic Conference - wants to see if it has the chops to win it all for the first time since 1962 (the second of back-to-back titles for those UC Bearcats!).
THE TOP FAVORITES (among the #1-thru-#4 seeds): Virginia, Cincinnati, Arizona
THE SLEEPER (among the #5-thru-10 seeds): Miami
THE LONG SHOT (the #11-thru-#16 seeds): Davidson
If you ask us, #1 Villanova has - potentially - the smoothest ride to a Final Four as #2 Purdue, #3 Texas Tech and #4 Wichita State all are flawed teams on one end of the floor or the other and so maybe Jay Wright's gang merely has to avoid foul woes for star guard Jalen Brunson and mega-star frosh Mikal Bridges and yet another trip to the Final Four will be theirs. Still, there are some seasoned teams that litter the East bracket with #5 West Virginia never a pushover and even #7 Arkansas a possible handful if the Hogs can turn up the volume in a full-court style game. There are a bevy of high-quality coaches who've never won it all here including WVU's Bob Huggins, Wichita State's Gregg Marshall and Purdue's Matt Painter … is it "the year" for one of these coaching giants? Heck, we'd love to see if past tourney stars Florida (lost in the Elite 8 to South Carolina last year) and/or Butler (see 2010 and '11 runs to the title games).
THE FAVORITES: Villanova, Purdue, Wichita State
THE SLEEPER: Florida
THE LONG SHOT: Butler
The Big East's "other" #1 seed resides here as the Xavier Musketeers blew their conference tourney semifinal bout in overtime against Providence but "body of work" counted for plenty and so Chris Mack's team is the top seed here but - as you'll note from out "Odds to Win it All" chart up above, it's the #3 seed Michigan Wolverines who enter this tourney with the shortest odds among West Region clubs at 8-to-1. The maize-and-blue have not played a game since March 4th when John Beilein's crew beat 4-point favorite Purdue 75-66 and so everyone's wondering if "rust" is gonna be a factor here but we'll take the contrarian viewpoint and say the rest will do Michigan (and Purdue) some good while the likes of #6 seed Houston and #10 seed Providence could be gassed from their respective mini tournies last weekend.
THE FAVORITES: Michigan, Xavier, North Carolina
THE SLEEPER: Florida State
THE LONG SHOT: South Dakota State
As we all heard during/following the Selection Show this past Sunday night, every hoops expert believes this Midwest Region is "loaded" - sure, having Duke as a #2 seed and Michigan State as a #3 seed has everyone juiced - but we could make the case that anyone/everyone below the #4 -seeded Auburn Tigers are merely run-of-the-mill teams and most years the likes of #7 Rhode Island, #9 N.C. State and #10 Oklahoma wouldn't even make the normal 68-team field! In short, the Midwest Region is solid - not loaded and not impossible to navigate considering both Sparty and the Blue Devils get beat prior to Elite 8 time. Top seed Kansas has major mojo going in its favor these days and - you could tell by the interviews conducted by Jayhawks' head coach Bill Self that this particular team brought him incredible joy starring Big 12 Player of the Year Devonte Graham - but don't be at all surprised if someone down the seed line wins this region and silences the so-called know-it-alls.
THE FAVORITES: Michigan State, Duke, Kansas
THE SLEEPER: Seton Hall
THE LONG SHOT: The Arizona State vs. Syracuse winner
And speaking of the "First Four," it jump-starts this NCAA Tournament on Tuesday night with #16 seeds LIU-Brooklyn battling Radford followed by #11 seeds St. Bonaventure versus UCLA - hey, the Uclans are 3.5-point betting favorites for this prime-timer but did you know Steve Alford's club ranks 276th nationally in total defense while yielding 76.3 points per game?
On Wednesday night, the twin-bill from Dayton includes N.C. Central versus 5-point fav Texas Southern followed by a #11 seeds Arizona State vs. Syracuse - and note the ASU Sun Devils enter this tilt having failed to cover five of their last six games.
NOTE: Plenty more NCAA Tournament previews/goodies in the next edition of Jim Sez.