Let’s look at the biggest potential Threats for the big boys in the coming days and offer up a couple of Round of 64 betting picks for your consumption.
East Region: Four Teams in AP Top 10 All Put in Region by Selection Committee
Biggest Threats to #1 Seed North Carolina Tar Heels
The East Region itself is a Threat and one of the strongest in years despite College Basketball in general being down and perceived parity being so prevalent this particular season with seemingly four schools who could win a National Championship from here in (AP nationally ranked) #3 North Carolina, #8 West Virginia, #9 and maybe even #10 Xavier this time around if the ball bounces right for the Musketeers.
So 40% of the current AP Top 10 dwells in the East Region. That’s thick. And maybe the biggest potential threat to this being a memorable NCAA Tournament for Head Coach Roy Williams and the #1-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels (7/1 to win National Championship, Ladbrokes) could be a future Sweet 16 meeting with upstart Kentucky, which just won the SEC Conference Tournament and the Wildcats are playing as good as the have all season after completely dropping out of the Top 25 rankings for quite some time back in January.
A minor threat to Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige and North Carolina will be having a letdown in the tenacious Defense it has been playing at the end of the Regular Season and in the ACC Tourney.
Biggest Threats to #2 Seed Xavier Musketeers
Having such a solid season when much of College Basketball dipped may hurt Xavier in the end as this #2 seed may be have Threats by nature of the clear target it puts on the Musketeers’ backs in their bottom half of the East Region Bracket. Their opener on Friday against #15-seed Weber State will be no picnic (TNT, Directv 245, 9:20 p.m./6:20 p.m. PT; XAV -13½, 141½, Pinnacle) and if Xavier (25/1 to win National Championship, Betfred) wins there, having to face the winner of the #7 Wisconsin/#10 Pittsburgh in the Round of 32 seems like a tossup and a ripe spot for the the Musketeers to be eliminated.
So, the Seed and being a clear-cut favorite is a Threat while obviously the biggest Threat would lie somewhere down that theoretical Bracket line in a Regional Final against deadly North Carolina. Having to face the Tar Heels at this point in the season the way they are playing is a Threat to all their opponents, especially in a single-elimination Tourney format that this month of March has become so famous for.
South Region: Miami Will Quietly Try to Meet Top-Seed Kansas in Regional Final
Biggest Threats to #1 Seed Kansas Jayhawks
The South Region appears to be as rugged as the East Region, but unlike the East Region where one could see a number of schools making a run at the national title, this Region is all about Perry Ellis (16.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Wayne Selden Jr. (13.3 ppg), Frank Mason III (13.1 ppg, 4.1 apg), Devonte‘ Graham (11.7 ppg, 3.8 apg), Landen Lucas (5.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Head Coach Bill Self and #1 seed Kansas (+600 to win NCAA Tournament, Ladbrokes), the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The Jayhawks biggest Threats lie in being the Big Dance’s overall #1 Seed, and having that big target on their back will add some unnecessary Pressure which could ultimately help a North Carolina or Michigan State in the long run. A threat for Kansas would be taking those (potential) Round of 32 and Sweet 16 games lightly as the winner of the Connecticut-Colorado game could be a nightmare for the Jayhawks while a potential matchup with the winner of a theoretical Maryland-California matchup in the next Round could be the top-seed’s undoing.
With Tyrone Wallace (15.3 ppg), Jalen Brown (15.0 ppg), Jordan Matthews (13.2 ppg) and Ivan Rabb (12.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and the #24-ranked California Bears (23-10 SU, 18-14-1 ATS) could test the Jayhawks in the South Region—where general crowd support may be to pull against the big chalks—while Maryland (25-8 SU, 15-16-1 ATS) and Melo Trimble (14.4 pg, 5.1 apg), Diamond Stone (12.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Robert Carter (12.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Jake Layman (11.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg) could also very well topple the Kansas apple cart in the Sweet 16 and the Terps (40/1 to win National Championship, PaddyPower) are suddenly a team everyone stopped talking about. They’re still really good.
Biggest Threats to #2 Seed Villanova Wildcats
Themselves. In the L2 trips to this prestigious NCAA Tournament, Villanova has lost in the Round of 32 to NC State last year as a #1 Seed and lost in Round of 32 to UConn in 2014 as a #2 Seed, so the Wildcats possible matchup in the Round of 32 this year with the winner of the #7 seed Temple/#10 seed Iowa should scare the #2 seed and Big East giants...that is if Villanova can get by #15-seed NC Asheville in the Round of 64 on Friday (TruTV, Directv 246, 12:40 p.m. ET/9:40 a.m. PT; VIL -17½, 140½, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook).
And another Threat would lie in wait in the Sweet 16 with maybe Wichita State, Arizona or #3-seed and AP #10 Miami-Florida on tap as all three could easily oust the Wildcats. Funsies. And of course should if Villanova (18/1 to win National Championship, William Hill) make it through this theoretical minefield of Hoops and Psychological Threats, then a potential date with the Region’s and Tournament’s top-seed, Kansas (#1 RPI, #1 Ken Pomeroy Ranking) may be on the Hardwood Horizon. Now that’s a Threat baby. But History shows us that Villanova (#4 RPI, #5 Ken Pomeroy Ranking) never gets that far, and, like clockwork, that we should be bitching about them come Monday morning.
Midwest Region: Hey Guys, There’s One Too Many #1 Seeds Here
Biggest Threats to #1 Seed Virginia Cavaliers
The Selection Committee. It’s nice the Suits and Ties kept legendary Head Coach Tom Izzo and Michigan State at Home in the Midwest, but putting Virginia and Michigan State in the same Region was a travesty as one of these two elite teams probably lost a shot to make the Final Four because Oregon was deemed a #1 seed and conveniently put in the West Region, where Ducks fans could attend and Oregon games would draw the most fans and money. Stink, stank, stunk. And this probably won’t serve either #1 seed—Virginia or Oregon—very well.
Anyway, playing in a geographical region of the country foreign to them, the ACC’s Cavaliers and Malcolm Brogdon will have little edge and a potential Round of 32 matchup with Big 12 underdog Texas Tech could evolve into a nightmare for Virginia (12/1 to win National Championship, William Hill) if aren’t ready—but it should be.
And having gritty Cinderella teams like UALR and Iowa State in their top half of the Bracket, an upstart Gonzaga side in the bottom half of the Bracket along with that nasty Denzel Valentine and #2 Seed Michigan State, and the Washoos path to the Final Four could be perilous and a National title almost miraculous despite the wonderful year by Head Coach Tony Bennett and his crew.
Biggest Threats to #1 Seed Michigan State Spartans
Denzel Valentine and the Big Ten Conference Tournament champion and 2nd-ranked (AP) Spartans have one of the same problems (and perceived Threats) as #4-ranked Virginia does in that they’re both basically playing in a Region with two #1 Seeds in it. And the Spartans and Cavaliers may be on a collision course they’d both prefer to avoid. Michigan State (#11 RPI) may also have to play the Gonzaga-Seton Hall winner of the Sweet 16 and the Zags and the Pirates are two of the most dangerous underrated teams in this Tournament and it’s a shame they meet so early.
So whichever team advances will be a Threat. The Spartans (8/1 to win National Championship, Paddy Power) must also avoid the threat of Complacency as Round of 64 and 32 games against #15-seed Middle Tennessee State (CBS, 5:45 p.m. ET/2:45 p.m. PT; MSU -18, 143½, Pinnacle) on Friday and the winner of the #7-seed Syracuse/#10 seed Dayton game on Sunday (if MSU wins its opener) in the Round of 32 may seem like tune-ups when in reality playing at the same level they have been will be Sparty’s goal. Michigan State and Matt Costello must not play down to the level of its competition this weekend.
West Region: Weakest Region There For the Big 12's Oklahoma Sooners Taking
Biggest Threats For #1 Seed Oregon Ducks
Making AP #5-ranked Oregon (27-6 SU, 18-12 ATS) and Dillon Brooks (16.7 ppg) the #1 seed in this West Region was a Threat in itself as the obvious award to the Pac-12 champs on Geographical rationale could end up biting the Ducks in the ass. A potential Round of 32 meeting with potential Cinderella and A-10 Tournament Champions Saint Joseph’s could create big trouble for Oregon (#2 RPI) although this team is playing the its best basketball of year and gets scoring from a number of places besides Brooks including Elgin Cook (14.5 ppg), Tyler Dorsey (13.8 ppg), Chris Boucher (12.1 ppg) and Dwayne Benjamin (8.0 ppg).
Another threat for the Ducks—besides the reality teams from West of the Mississippi River have won like two championships in a million years—is a potential Sweet 16 matchup with Selection Committee darling Duke and legendary Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski. History would favor the Blue Devils while the Site would favor the Ducks. And a potential Regional Semifinal against basketball magician Buddy Hield and West Region #2-seed Oklahoma (#8 Ken Pomeroy Ranking) could also be awfully tough for Oregon (#8 Ken Pomeroy Ranking).
The Big 12 has been an absolute beast all year and teams facing schools from this Conference in the Tourney will see why which so much chirp. Because chirp is due, bruh. The Strength of Schedule from the Pac-12 could be a problem if some schools from the league end up disappointing (Oregon State, California, Utah, Arizona, USC, Colorado). And they could.
Biggest Threats For #2 Seed Oklahoma Sooners
Speaking of the rugged Big 12, #2 seed Oklahoma has a potential huge Threat on the immediate horizon if it has to meet #3 seed Texas A&M (50/1 to win National Championship, William Hill), maybe along with Wichita State, Gonzaga and Seton Hall, the most underrated team in the 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament.
The Aggies (26-7 SU, 15-11-2 ATS) and Jalen Jones (15.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg) are a team to watch and because Oklahoma and A&M (#18 RPI) used to bang head when the Aggies were a member of the Big 12 (before the SEC), there will be no Fear of Buddy Hield and the Sooners (#6 RPI). Oklahoma (#7 Ken Pomeroy Ranking) also has some large Threats dwelling in its bottom half of the West Region Bracket in aforementioned Texas A&M, VCU (#37 RPI) and Northern Iowa (22-12, #72 Ken Pomeroy Ranking), and, of course Oregon (18/1 on the NCAA basketball odds to win National Championship, William Hill) down the Yellow Brick Road should the top Seeds prevail through the Elite 8 round in this semi-soft Region in which these Sooners actually may have the best shot of making the Final Four and winning it all (18/1 to win NCAA Championship, William Hill). see my final NCAA Tournament picks below.
NCAA TOURNAMENT ROUND OF 64 THURSDAY PICK: Wichita State +2 over Arizona (Treasure Island)
NCAA TOURNAMENT ROUND OF 64 FRIDAY PICKS: Oklahoma -8½ 1st Half, Oklahoma -14 (5Dimes)
NCAA TOURNAMENT ROUND OF 64 5-TEAM MONEYLINE FAVORITES PARLAY: Iowa State -340/West Virginia -320/VCU -200/Maryland -550/California -300 (The Greek)