2023 March Madness: First thoughts on how to bet the bracket

This collegiate basketball season has provided enough parity that it’s safe to assume it’s likely to lead to a wild NCAA tournament. The Big Dance always brings excitement and big payouts, but this year it may be more open than we usually see. The AP’s No. 1 team has suffered nine losses this year, a record for a postseason.

In addition to offering value for betting, odds can regularly help fill out the grid. Here’s an early look at what stands out:

Destruction of the Midwest region

The Midwest region seems to provide the easiest route for the first seed, but I was hoping Houston (+600) would disappear. The Cougars’ defense slackened a bit once conference play began. Auburn seemingly has the size to create problems, but I doubt if the Tigers can score enough assuming they beat Iowa. The Hawkeyes definitely have some shooting, but they’re probably short on size.

Texas just won the Big 12 thanks to a second break from Kansas. The Longhorns had a strange season, but I love it when they win the region with +450. They are ranked seventh in Sportzshala BPI defensive stats and their offense is in the top 20. This is a dangerous combination.

If you’re looking for a long-term chance, Penn State’s No. 10 (26-1, regional win) caught my eye. Of all the major conference schools, the Nittany Lions make the most 3-pointers in a game, with only Alabama attempting more. In addition, they are sufficiently tested in the “Big Ten”. This is a fun high ceiling team.

In the first round, it’s worth noting that No. 4 Indiana is just four points favorite over Kent State, and No. 5 Miami is just 2.5 points behind Drake.

Destruction of the Western Region

The Western region can be the busiest, depending on how you look at it. No. 2 seeded UCLA is scary, but they lost their best defenseman in Jaylen Clark and big man Adem Bona missed out on the Pac-12 tournament final. Gonzaga isn’t as talented as recent lineups, but this could be their year, assuming the competition is also weaker.

No. 8 seed Arkansas (20-1 in the winning region) probably seems like a decent long-range hitter, but it’s hard to ignore how they’ve been losing double-digit lead in every game of the SEC tournament. Eric Musselman is an elite coach, but this division may just lack the brilliance it needs. The #8 TCU seed (+900 to win the region) is also my focus. The Horned Frogs may certainly have lulls in the score, but they were strong with Mike Miles in the lineup and performed well in the fat Big 12.

In terms of early action, the Northwestern has an unusual 7-seed position and picks against Boise State, who has a physical defense. I like under 128.5.

Destruction of the Eastern Region

The Eastern Region has a shaky vibe with an eternal blue-blooded duke who is underrated right now for some reason. The Blue Devils (+800 to winning region) just won the ACC Tournament, extending their winning streak to nine and having a record of 17-1 as a whole. But how much does all this resonate in a bad year for the conference?

The top seeded Purdue (10-1 chance of a title) will probably be a trendy fade, but I like the Boilermakers. The backcourt is young and could cool off at any moment, but 7ft 2in Zach Edey is a gigantic force that impacts every possession. Purdue is one of only 10 tournament teams with a combined KenPom-adjusted offensive and defensive effectiveness rating of less than 50. This search metric has identified every national champion in the last two decades, with the exception of UConn with a 100-1 long-range score in 2014.

My attention was drawn to Michigan (-2) over USC, and Memphis (-2.5) over Atlantic Florida. I am also looking Vermont (+10.5) vs. Marquette. Shaka Smart has lost five tournament games in a row.

Destruction of the Southern Region

The Southern Region ranks first overall in Alabama, but it’s hard to rate this locker room given the off-court turmoil. The Crimson Tide (+700 to win) could be in trouble with West Virginia, and who knows about San Diego State, given that the Mountain West Conference has lost eight games in the NCAA Tournament in a row.

I was most intrigued by the lower half of this region. Arizona and Baylor are two schools that can certainly prevail given the size of the Wildcats and the athleticism of the Bears. But don’t sleep on a 6-seed Creighton that meets the criteria I linked to. Blue Jays +750 to survive in the region.

As for the first round, Arizona (-14) should beat Princeton given that the Cats start two big players at least 6ft 11in and the Tigers’ tallest starter is 6ft 8in. Missouri will play Utah State with a total score of 155, which is second in the first round and I still think it’s too low.


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