The overall #1 seed Virginia Cavaliers have the toughest draw to get to the Elite Eight, but they’ll have the best draw when it comes to trying to make the Final Four as a top seed in a region. The South Region has the weakest #2 and #3 seeds, but it will be a real bear for the Cavaliers to make it far enough for that to matter.
In this preview for the South Region, we’ll look at all 16 teams with the initial futures prices from 5Dimes Sportsbook, speculate on some Sweet Sixteen futures value, and look at some of the specific matchups and angles at play.
#1 Virginia – +600
#2 Cincinnati – +1550
#3 Tennessee – +4300
#4 Arizona – +2150
#5 Kentucky – +4400
#6 Miami (FL) – +27000
#7 Nevada – +55000
#8 Creighton – +47500
#9 Kansas State – +55000
#10 Texas – +25000
#11 Loyola-Chicago – +38000
#12 Davidson – +75000
#13 Buffalo – +300000
#14 Wright State – +999999
#15 Georgia State – +999999
#16 UMBC – +999999
I’m not exactly sure what the hell is going on with these numbers. The Nevada vs. Texas game opened a virtual pick ‘em, but Nevada is 550/1 and Texas is 250/1? Miami has a tough opening game, but Tennessee is the weakest #3 seed in the field (Michigan, Michigan State, Texas Tech) and the Hurricanes are 270/1?
There definitely looks to be some value here, especially for those that may be looking to protect Arizona or Kentucky futures by spreading some wealth around the board.
(1) Virginia (-22.5) vs. (16) UMBC
(8) Creighton (-1) vs. (9) Kansas State
Virginia should move nicely through this part of the bracket, but Creighton is a tough game if the Bluejays can shoot the rock well over that UVA pack line defense. Kansas State would be an easier matchup for the Cavaliers. If you have positions on the 8/9, you should figure out some sort of hedging option.
Virginia is only +115 to win the South Region, which seems a little light. Given their tournament history, something in the +150 range would have made a lot more sense, especially with a big game in the Sweet Sixteen. Arizona at +450 and Kentucky at +850 are not bad bets, since Cincinnati won’t have as much success playing physical defense against those two teams as the Bearcats have against most foes.
(5) Kentucky (-6) vs. (12) Davidson
(4) Arizona (-9) vs. (13) Buffalo
The Wildcats better be ready to defend, as Davidson enters as one of the hottest teams in the country and a big-time bubble buster. The Wildcats stole a bid slated for Notre Dame. Kentucky certainly appears to be on upset alert. It is interesting that of the 5/12 matchups, only New Mexico State vs. Clemson has a lower line. With public perception important at this time of year, the idea that Kentucky is just a two-possession favorite is telling.
Arizona has had a rough go of things, but won the Pac-12 Tournament over USC, which wound up keeping the Trojans out. MAC Madness ended with Buffalo cutting down the nets. The Bulls are a dangerous team, but this isn’t a real good draw for them.
This is what makes the road so hard for Virginia. While Creighton can win, but probably won’t, either Kentucky or Arizona can knock off Virginia. The other 4/5 teams for #1 seeds are West Virginia and Wichita State (Villanova), Clemson and Auburn (Kansas), and Ohio State and Gonzaga (Xavier). Virginia got royally screwed here.
(6) Miami (FL) (-2.5) vs. (11) Loyola-Chicago
(3) Tennessee (-13) vs. (14) Wright State
Loyola-Chicago will be a very popular pick in brackets as a double-digit seed with Sweet Sixteen aspirations. While I don’t hold anything against those that want the Ramblers to ramble on, don’t discount Jim Larranga, who is an excellent coach. Tennessee is a vulnerable #3 seed, maybe not against Wright State, but against either one of these teams. To be honest, a Miami futures play makes some sense here, as you’ll be able to hedge against a solid, but not great #2 seed in Cincinnati if the Hurricanes can make a run.
The Horizon League was pretty down this year without Valparaiso, but Wright State is a good defensive team. There’s always a chance that they could ugly this game up enough to hang around. Tennessee is a defense-first team as well. While the Raiders aren’t all that highly thought of, it would not be the least bit stunning to see them cover 13 in what should be a low-scoring affair.
Loyola-Chicago is +415 at 5Dimes to make the Sweet Sixteen, but you can likely do a money line rollover at something like +110 and +225, so $100 to win $110, $210 to win about $470, with the line against Tennessee possibly being even higher. A lot of times, the Sweet Sixteen lines aren’t as valuable as money line rollovers. Even Miami at +325 might be better on a money line rollover, with $130 to win $100 against the Ramblers and probably something around +150 against Tennessee that would yield $345 on a rollover.
(7) Nevada vs. (10) Texas (-1)
(2) Cincinnati (-14) vs. (15) Georgia State
Nevada’s injury problems are truly a lot to overlook per the betting populace and the oddsmakers. Texas has been the preferred side of a line that opened pick ‘em, so that is pretty telling in terms of what Eric Musselman’s team is dealing with. Texas plays a high-pressure style that could really hurt a team lacking depth. Nevada was thought of as a team that could win a game or two in March Madness, but perceptions have changed.
Cincinnati should roll Georgia State, but the next game, and each subsequent game, presents a number of challenges for a team that can have problems scoring. Cincinnati is the weakest #2 seed in the bracket, with Purdue, Duke, and UNC holding the others. I wouldn’t hold any Cincinnati investment, but they aren’t in a part of the bracket with a lot of dangerous teams either. I’m sure we’re all excited for the UVA vs. UC 38-36 slugfest in Atlanta in the Elite Eight.
Additional Betting Tips
The winner from the Boise part of the bracket will have a bit of a turnaround going from the altitude with a Thursday/Saturday schedule to Atlanta for the Sweet Sixteen. That could be a challenge for the winner of the area, but Kentucky coming back to the southeast would be good for them. It will be a long trip for Arizona, especially with the other three teams having short flights and minimal time changes.
There could be some low-scoring games here. This is the strongest defensive region, with Virginia, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Loyola-Chicago all top 25 in defensive efficiency. Add in neutral sites and the other fun stuff that goes along with March Madness and the importance of the games and we could see some very ugly basketball.
As we look ahead to the Sweet Sixteen and the Elite Eight, this region does look fairly wide open. Virginia’s struggles in the Month of Madness are well-documented. Cincinnati is outside the top 50 in offense. Arizona struggles to play defense. Kentucky struggles to be consistent. Tennessee is a weak #3. It basically feels like now or never for the Cavaliers with the overall weaknesses of these teams, but there are two highly-talented blue bloods lying in wait in the Sweet Sixteen.
From a value standpoint, Kentucky is the only team outside of Virginia in the top 25 in both defensive and offensive efficiency, so they get the nod at +4400. Creighton could very well shoot the lights out enough to knock off Virginia and make Kentucky’s path a lot easier. This is also a better price than we saw on the Wildcats most of the season, so they would be the best bet for the South Region.