NCAA Tournament Midwest Region Betting Preview
The NCAA Tournament has arrived with “First Four” games starting tonight in Dayton, Ohio. I’ve been handicapping the Big Dance for over a decade and one of my techniques has always been to jot down my initial thoughts and opinions — call it “stream of consciousness” — on teams and matchups. Here is my “first glance” breakdown of the West Region. You can read about the East Region here, South Region here, and West Region here.
Iona made the tournament for a fourth straight year but it was the sixth straight year the Gaels’ KenPom power rating declined. Back in 2014 they finished 76th. This year 197th. And the decline has shown up in their tournament scores: 2016, 13-point loss to Iowa State; 2017, 16-point loss to Oregon; and 2018, 22-point loss to Duke. North Carolina’s price tag of -24.5 appears right in line with that progression. I tried to convince myself Washington’s “success” was more than just being in an ultra-weak PAC-12. But with only one point spread cover in their last seven tries, the Huskies looked an awful lot like they were a product of playing in an ultra-weak PAC-12. Not surprised to see a very sound Utah State team favored. If you like the 3-point shot, be sure to tune into Auburn-New Mexico State. I watched Auburn pass up multiple wide open layups for threes in its SEC Championship win over Tennessee. New Mexico State went 17-of-39 in its WAC title win over Grand Canyon. Better hope the rims aren’t tight in Salt Lake City! Speaking of threes, Northeastern has four kids that attempted 135, 140, 142, and 238 shots from deep. Kansas had only two north of 140 and one of them (Vick) is no longer on the team. And those four dudes from Northeastern that love to fire, they combined to shoot 40.4%. Iowa State went from 18-5, 7-3 to 20-11, 9-9, to having alleged locker room issues, to winning the Big 12 tournament. It’s a team that when right can win with both defense and offense. It’s also a team that personnel wise should be -10 vs. a very young and offensively inept Ohio State squad. In three NCAA Tournament games under Ron Hunter, Georgia State had 56, 57, and 58 possessions. This year GSU ranked 67th nationally in pace which is super high for a team that plays a lot of zone. Houston always tough to figure from a totals perspective; efficient offense, inconsistent pace, stingy defense. Wonder if Hunter reverts back to bogging game down in order to stay close? Wofford is a really good team but KenPom No. 19 good? I’ve watched a lot of Murray State and Belmont and they too are really good but also 52nd and 54th, respectively, according to KenPom. Ironically, Wofford’s opponent, Seton Hall, is 55th. Market isn’t as strong on the Terriers with -2.5 the current price vs. a power rating that shows around -4.5 or -5. Abilene Christian played one power conference opponent, Texas Tech, and lost in Lubbock, 82-48. That was also with two starters, one of which was their leading scorer at the time, that have since been kicked off the team. This another market vs. power rating pointspread. KenPom has Kentucky -16 while Sagarin has -19. Wildcats currently -22.5 offshore. UK though generally juiced a point or two in early rounds because of crowd advantage.