Now that the seeds have been released, there are questions and topics swirling in terms of what spreads are the most attractive, what futures have the best prices, and what teams look primed to make deep runs for when we all fill out our brackets. Here are some thoughts on a West region that seems unpredictable.
Value to win the region
Somehow it comes back to Xavier again, who is a somewhat-too-high +420 on 5Dimes. The Musketeers were generally acknowledged as the weakest 1 seed by far, and now they get put into a region with North Carolina, Michigan and Gonzaga, all of whom have a lower price. To me, this is a case of an overreaction. Xavier is still a very good team, and Missouri/Florida State present very little challenge in the 2nd round, compared to Ohio State potentially for Gonzaga, or Houston for Michigan. The path is a little easier than for those teams, and Xavier is 28-3 against non-Villanova teams this year (including a now-great-looking win over rival Cincinnati). Michigan and Gonzaga couldn’t be hotter as commodities in the market right now, which is generally NOT when I am looking to buy a team. I’ll take the contrarian 1 seed.
Value to win the tournament
Somehow, despite the fact that Gonzaga has lower odds than Xavier to win the region, their odds are actually better than Xavier, UNC and Michigan to win the title. The Zags at 27/1, with their resume and incredible frontcourt talent, seem to offer value here to me.
Bets everyone will talk themselves into
There are two in this region that bear mentioning. First, Michael Porter Jr.’s return is going to drive the public to bet the Tigers on gameday, in my opinion, especially against a Seminole team that has gotten very little public support for a lot of the year. But then you throw in the weird situation with Jordan Barnett (one of Missouri’s best players) being suspended for the game because of a DUI, and it definitely makes things more unclear. Florida State is a small favorite, and I have seen nothing from them down the stretch to make me a believer (they lost their last 4 games on a road/neutral court). This is setting up to motivate people to play Missouri. I am passing with every ounce of being because of all the uncertainty.
The second game is Houston-San Diego State, and this game is setting up as a huge trap to me. Houston is a team that a lot of America saw for the first time this past weekend. The Cougars looked very impressive making it to the AAC Championship Game before losing in heartbreaking fashion to Cincinnati, with a turnover on their final possession. San Diego State is a team that has come out of nowhere that very few people have watched (there are many who probably think Steve Fisher is still the coach…it’s actually Brian Dutcher). Houston was a trendy deep sleeper on the Selection Show, mentioned by several analysts (who don’t watch a lot of games), which I think pegs the Cougars to receive a lot of buzz from the general media. Generally in these cases, that means the value lies solely with the underdog. Give me San Diego State +4.
Best live underdog
Aside from San Diego State, who is a measly +4 (but incredibly live in my opinion), I’ll also take a shot with South Dakota State +8, and am fascinated by the emergence of freshman David Jenkins Jr. at guard for the Jackrabbits. Everyone knows about Mike Daum inside, but Jenkins was incredible in their last 2 games of the Summit League tournament, scoring 24 points and then 29 in the title game (while Daum got into foul trouble). That type of 1-2 punch, surrounded with guys who can shoot, is lethal in the tournament. Meanwhile, Ohio State is a team that overachieved to a certain extent this year, only has 1 truly impressive road win (at Purdue) on their entire schedule, and is coming off a very long layoff that will create a potentially flat start to the game. This could get very interesting quickly.
Match-ups that are so fun, so therefore definitely won’t happen
We can get a rematch of the title game from last year in the elite 8 with Gonzaga and UNC, which would be very enjoyable to watch, so that means no chance it’s coming together that way.