NCAA Tournament Picks: East Regional Top Seeds & Dark Horses

Ross Benjamin

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 12:45 PM GMT

The main focus of this article will be on future betting odds pertaining to the East Region of the NCAA Tournament, predictions for “The Final Four,” a dark horse & a second round upset.

Quick Takes on Top Four Seeds in the East

#1 Villanova (32-2
I really like this Wildcats team. They’re a veteran laden group, and NCAA Tournament history has proven that collective experience is conducive to making a deep run. Villanova is at college basketball odds of 7/5 to win the East region. That’s hardly a good value. However, it’s the highest payout of any of the four #1 seeds to win a regional.

 

#2 Virginia (29-3)
The Cavaliers cost themselves a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament by losing two of their last three games to Louisville and North Carolina. The latter of which was the most damaging in that regard. The good news is, they were placed in arguably the weakest of the four regions, and have to receive strong consideration at 7/4 betting odds to win the East. They’re a fundamentally sound team offensively, and Virginia is one of, if not the best defensive team in the country.

 

#3 Oklahoma (22-10)
The Sooners received a very favorable draw from the NCAA Tournament committee, and theoretically should be still playing in next week’s “Sweet Sixteen”. That in itself improves their already decent value of 6/1 odds to win the East region. Oklahoma enters “The Big Dance” having gone 10-3 in their previous thirteen games, and two of three losses came at the hands of eventual Big 12 champion Iowa State. The flip side of the equation, they were defeated twice by Kansas State this season, and it was a Wildcats team that finished with a losing record.

 

#4 Louisville (24-8)
The head coaching NCAA Tournament resume of Rick Pitino speaks volumes. He reached a “Final Four” with Providence, won a national championship with Kentucky, and captured the grand prize at his current position with Louisville. The Cardinals can be a very difficult team to play against at tournament time, due in large part to their full court pressure defense that can overwhelm unfamiliar opponents. However, I’m of the strong opinion, Louisville lacks the kind of quality depth which is needed in order to make a deep run. Even at the attractive college basketball betting odds of 10/1 to win the region, I’m going to pass on this potential NCAA Tournament pick.

 

Potential Dark Horses

#5 Northern Iowa (30-3)
The Panthers can be an extremely frustrating team to face. They’ve held opponents to an average of just 54.3 points per game, and held them to 39.1% shooting from the field this season. Two of their three losses this season came on the road against nationally ranked VCU and Wichita State. They’re far from a high octane offensive team, but are extremely efficient in that regard. The Panthers like to play at a slower pace, evidenced by their average of only 46 field goal attempts per game, but they’ve shot an outstanding 48.3% from the field this season. They’ve also shot 50% or better from the field in eight of their previous thirteen games on the way to winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title. Northern Iowa will also be out to prove a point after being seeded #5, despite possessing a #11 national rank in the AP poll. You can do a lot worse than betting on Northern Iowa at 8/1 odds to win the East Regional.

 

#7 Michigan State (23-11)
I’ve personally felt from watching Michigan State over the last four weeks, they’ve shown a steady improvement since the start of the year. One thing is for sure, head coach Tom Izzo is tournament tested, and will have his team well prepared to play. At NCAA Tournament Odds of 12/1 in the weakest of the four regions, Michigan State is definitely worth a conservative wager that can produce a handsome return.

 

Possible Second Round Upset

#11 Boise State or Dayton over #6 Providence
This may seem like a weird choice for an upset selection, but hear me out first. The Wednesday night first round game between Dayton and Boise State is an intriguing one. Neither of those teams was expected to be considered as one of the last four at-large-bids. After all, Boise State is ranked 25th in the country by the most recent AP Poll. Dayton finished second in the Atlantic 10 regular season standings, and advanced to the conference tournament final before losing by 6 to a very good VCU team who they had previously beaten.

Whichever team comes out on top in Wednesday’s game, will be more than a formidable opponent for Providence on Friday. By the way, the Friars went a very ordinary 6-6 in their last twelve games. Providence also sustained bad nonconference losses at home to Brown, and on the road versus Boston College. They also barely survived in a 4-point win over Albany, and a 6-point victory versus Yale. This is a #6 seed that’s ripe for the taking.