NCAA Tournament Predictions: Regional & Championship Picks

Kevin Stott

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 12:11 PM GMT

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee seemed to have a little trouble with Seeding & Regional balance. Could these perceived discrepancies allow for a decent pick or two?

The Expected Bracket Outrage has quelled some today (Monday), and those College Basketball fans losing their minds over Colorado State or Temple or Murray State or whomever not making this this year’s Big Dance have probably had to actually do some laundry or go to the grocery store, or maybe—God forbid—even maybe take an actual shower. March Madness truly brings out The Beast in The Man and if one isn’t careful, the NCAA Men’s Division I College Basketball Tournament can suck you in like some perverted Hardwood Whirlpool, making you start using strange words like ‘Bubble’ and ‘Brackets’ and ‘Madness’ more in a week than you would if being an actual bubble bath and bracket salesman hawking your wares to mental institutions was your daily 9-to-5 job. Before long, you have 11 Brackets, 11 Futures Bets and have gained 11 pounds and missed the most beautiful weather of the year as the first days of Spring come in oblivious to you, the baby sparrows have all been born and The Girl of Your Dreams floated right by, but you were too busy yelling at the Northern Iowa-Wyoming game on you monster 54-inch TV to even notice, brother. Aaaaah, March Madness indeed. And truly Mad for those watching us Madmen talking about Shockers and parlays and seeds and Overs and other strange things. To them, we are like a very strange breed of Hyena—perpetually yapping about sports and betting and lines—certainly not to be messed with. And they might be right. We are an odd lot. But to us Hyenas, things like shopping for sensible spring slacks, coloring Easter eggs or getting a jump on that annual Spring Cleaning really does seem like Madness, whereas dangerously low levels of select beverages, cheese, an array of snacks and gambling action are considered real madness. A Hyena without his sacred coffee and his little straight bet on the Purdue Boilermakers on the first Thursday morning of the Tournament is not a pretty sight, my man. Weaker men have died from less.

Anyway, let’s rank the four Regions in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, but not like all the other cats who have probably already been influenced by each other, and not in terms of overall depth and perceived strength or RPI numbers from their respective 1-16 seeds, but from the concept of how many teams in each Region realistically have a chance to win the NCAA Men’s Division I College Basketball Tournament—aka The 2015 University of Kentucky Invitational—in this extremely strange and watered-down season where for the first time in like a billion years, the Tournament’s favorite—Kentucky—is priced at Even odds (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) or less to win the National Championship (-150 from YouWager). So, maybe not so fun or mysterious or balanced or talented as in previous years, but we all know with Sports Betting, we can somehow, almost magically, turn a seemingly meaningless basketball game between Utah and Stephen F. Austin into something important with a wager. It’s sort of like using A-1 sauce on an average cut of chewy, tasteless steak. And ain’t nobody got Time for grammar or tasteless meat these days. We’ve all come too far.

 

#1—West Region
Jim Morrison of The Doors proclaimed a long time ago in the group’s classic song ‘The End’ that “The West Is The Best, and, if you look closely at the album’s liner notes you can see that the American rock n’ roll group was specifically talking about the West Region of this 2015 Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. And if you hadn’t figured out that the lyric, “The Blue Bus is callin’ us” was referring to this Big Blue UK Men’s basketball team, then I’m afraid you may be on a different Wave Length. But why is the West (Region) the best? Because in this Regional Ratings, The Powers That Be (me) have doth determined Bubba that an individual region’s strength This Weird Season should only be determined by the number of teams that can potentially beat the tournament’s top-seed Kentucky and possibly send Ashley Judd crying back home to her mommy Naomi, who, is proof at age 69 one can still looks as tight as a frog’s ass, as the late Notorious B.I.G. would say. Keep it up Mama Judd. Anyway, the West Region is the (just barely) best of the four this year in my mind as the region’s #1-seed Wisconsin (6/1 to win NCAA Tournament, 6/5 to win West Region, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook) and #2-seed Arizona (15/1 to win NCAA Tournament, 6/5 to win West Region) could both topple and match up well against the the mighty Wildcats, while the West’s #3-seed Baylor (40/1), #4-seed North Carolina (40/1) and #5-seed Arkansas (200/1) may all be able to hang with Kentucky (34-0), although the Wildcats eventually made SEC Pudding out of the Razorbacks on Sunday in their conference championship game in Nashville, 78-63. But the really big shame here is that Arizona and Wisconsin ended up being placed in the same bracket as both of these schools could have made the Final Four this year with the rosters they have. And if I had to pick one team to win the West Region, it would be Arizona with 7-0 C Kaleb Tarczewski (9.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg), F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (10.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg), F Brandon Ashley (12.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and freshman G Stanley Johnson (14.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg).

Free Pick: These Wildcats from Tucson shouldn’t be scared of anybody and have extremely nice value at 15/1 and are definitely worth backing at that price, with this talented group and could definitely win this tournament.

 

#2—Midwest Region
Many immediately deemed the Midwest Region as The Depths of Despair on Sunday when the Brackets came raining down from The Good Folks Over At CBS, and it looked that way until pondering this “Who Can Really Beat Kentucky?” concept and the Midwest Region’s #2-seed Notre Dame (60/1 to win NCAA Tournament, 8/1 to win Midwest Regional) popped quickly into mind. This team is my tourney Dark Horse and the Fighting Irish are playing really well right now, coming off a 90-82 win on Sunday over No. 19 North Carolina in the ACC Conference Championship game in Greensboro. Notre Dame actually being in the ACC is sort of like having P!nk join Courtney Love in her group Hole, but when you’re good you’re good and Notre Dame is really good, although it ranks a Go-To-Your-Room 250th in Rebounding (32.8 rpg) but 5th in Field Goal Percentage (.518). What can we read from this? That Notre Dame prefers to just hit its shots and not have to rebound them. Supreme Catholic efficiency, homeslice. And it’s only rightfully so—with St. Patrick’s Day upon us, corned beef breath—that the Little Hoosier Leprechauns are the ones to probably get the first (real) crack (in the Regional Finals) at ousting the undefeated Wildcats who are bent on going 40-0 and making some history. And, of course, #1 Kentucky (Even to win NCAA Championship, 1/3 to win Midwest Region), can beat Kentucky, but more importantly in the exercise of ranking the regions, shouldn’t the team with the best (lowest) odds to win it all in years carry some massive weight in that region? Yes. Yes, the Wildcats should carry the weight of like two teams. So, with Notre Dame and Kentucky, this region is strong and is the actually the favorite to provide us our final champion if you think about it. And, #2-seed Kansas (40/1 to win NCAA Championship, 8/1 to win Midwest Region), #4-seed Maryland (75/1 to win NCAA Championship, 20/1 to win Midwest Region), and even teams like #5 West Virginia (100/1), #7 Wichita State (75/1) and #13 Indiana (300/1) could all surprise and this region just isn’t as bad as everyone thinks upon closer scrutiny.

Free Pick: The value here seems to lie in a potential Notre Dame upset, and at 8/1 to win the Midwest Region the Fighting Irish have some emeraldy luster as Mike Brey has his best team in the last 15 years in South Bend and they are currently in a nice little winning groove. Watch Notre Dame.

 

#3—South Region
The three teams in this South Region worth consideration as NCAA Tournament picks to knock off Kentucky are its’ top three seeds: #1 Duke (6/1 to win NCAA Championship, 8/5 to win South Region), #2 Gonzaga (18/1 to win NCAA Championship, 11/5 to win Midwest Region), and, #3 Iowa State (40/1 to win NCAA Championship, 9/2 to win Midwest Region)—my second Dark Horse this March Madness behind aforementioned Notre Dame. Never underestimate teams from the (geographical) Midwest region in this tourney, as Hoops is pure religion in states like Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois and Iowa. Trust me. But all three of these schools would have some definite matchup problems with Kentucky, and the way that Notre Dame dissected the Blue Devils in the ACC Tourney revealed that if this Duke team’s shooting is off, they’re in a lot of trouble. Gonzaga is also as good as it has been in some time, but the Zags always seem to stumble in a Round of 32 or Sweet Sixteen game you’d think they’d win. And Iowa State looks like one to watch, although a regional semifinal showdown with Hawkeye State rivals Iowa (300/1) or Gonzaga may prove to be the Cyclones undoing.

Free Pick: Iowa State can hang with and beat any team in this somewhat weak South Region although schools like #5-seed Utah (60/1) and #8-seed San Diego State (300/1) could surprise, Still, up against Kentucky, only Duke, Gonzaga and Iowa State would stand a chance—and probably much less of one than the West Region’s Wisconsin, Arizona and Baylor.

 

#4—East Region
Tim Morrison of The Floors proclaimed not-so long ago in the group’s classic song ‘The Bend’ that “The East Is The Least, and if you look closely at the album’s liner notes....wake up, wake up, wake up my man...this is a regional NCAA Men’s Division I College basketball Tournament ranking and not one of Nostradamus’ quatrains. Have you gone off The Deep End? Snap out of it. [Smelling salts.] Yes, the East sort of stinks to me, with a very beatable #1 seed in Villanova (8/1 to win NCAA Championship, 7/5 to win East Region); a very good defensive team, but one that may have trouble producing points in Virginia (15/1 to win NCAA Championship, 7/4 to win South Region) at the #2 seed; and #3 (Oklahoma, 60/1), #4 (Louisville, 75/1) and #5 (Northern Iowa, 100/1) seeds who would likely have no shot against the Wildcats, although their Bluegrass State rivals Louisville have already played (and lost) to Big Blue this season. Despite the East Region’s lowest rankings of the four—because I can’t see anyone in this region upsetting Kentucky and Head Coach John Calipari—it would be important to point out here that only one NCAA champion since 1998 has come from west of the Mississippi River (Kansas in 2008), so this year’s winner will probably fall into that geographical reality, of being east of it, though not necessarily in this East Region. The Selection Committee might put England’s University of Oxford in the West Regional if given the chance.

Free Pick: For me, if anyone in the East Region is going to beat UK, it will be the Louisville Cardinals in a low-scoring slugfest.

 

Conclusion
Prepare to have both your Ego and your Bracket busted by Friday, Bubba. Then on Sunday, you’ll be reminding yourself to try to do it better in 2016, and that nobody will ever nail a Perfect Bracket with odds in the Quadrillions. There aren’t even a Quadrillion people in Schenectady for god’s sake. The key here is to think about the Brackets and your Futures Bets from a ‘Kentucky Backward’ POV—as trying to squeeze out any value of these Wildcats this NCAA Tournament through six potential games may leave you dizzy and craving Baby Dill pickles and Lemon granita. I really think Kentucky gets beat at some point with Notre Dame, Duke, Iowa State and Arizona being the most likely providers of that upset in my mind, although Wise Guys here in Las Vegas have said that Kentucky will be double-digit (point spread) favorites in any potential matchup from now all the way until the Final Four. And if the top-seeded Wildcats of Kentucky do get beat by someone in this glorious tournament, it will probably be a school from either the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or Pac-12 conferences, as it always seems to be, and will probably be for some time in the sad wake the recent Garage Sale of the once-mighty Big East. Things change.

REGIONAL PICK: Notre Dame 8/1, Midwest Regional (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP PICK: Arizona 15/1 NCAA Tournament Odds (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)