The NCAA Tournament bracket has been set and the Madness gets underway Tuesday. That’s when the first wave of First Four games will hit as we determine who will round out the final field of 64. On Thursday and Friday is when the full onslaught of games begins in what’s known as the Round of 64 and the drama should be epic.
Villanova (+600) enters the tournament as the favorite, which puts the oddsmakers at odds with the selection committee. The committee actually tabbed Virginia (+650) as the No. 1 overall seed but the oddsmakers don’t view the Cavaliers as having the best chances to win the tournament. They are second in line, which likely has to do with the fact that they don’t have a rich pedigree of making long tournament runs.
There are more surprises as we head further down the list as Duke (+800) and Michigan State (+1100) are third and fourth in line even though neither is a No. 1 seed. The Blue Devils are just 2-2 in their last four games and they have had some issues at the defensive end this season, but they are still as talented as anyone in the country. With Marvin Bagley III, Grayson Allen and Wendell Carter Jr., they might have the best trio of anyone. As for the Spartans, they were the Big Ten’s top team. Even though the conference had a down year, that still holds plenty of weight.
Kansas (+1200) and Xavier (+1500) are the remaining two No. 1 seeds but they are fifth and 10th on the odds list. The Musketeers get little respect even though they finished above Villanova in the Big East standings.
Purdue (+1200), Cincinnati (+1200) and Arizona (+1200) all enter with similar odds and potential to make a Final Four run.
There will be a lot of intrigue surrounding Arizona and how the Wildcats perform in the tournament. As you might recall, ESPN dropped a bombshell of an allegation midseason that nearly forced head coach Sean Miller out of his job. It could have also led to the suspension of superstar Deandre Ayton. Instead, the Wildcats are intact and dangerous. Ayton is the projected No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, so we know what he’s capable of. The Wildcats have won seven straight since the drama, looking like a very tight-knit unit. Maybe this fires them up for a foray into the Final Four.
Michigan (+1400), North Carolina (+1400), Gonzaga (+1500) and Kentucky (+1600) are the only other teams inside of +2000. The Wolverines could be a popular bet as many experts view them as a dark horse. John Beilein’s teams are always known for their offense but this year’s team is strong at both ends, ranking first in the Big Ten in defense. The Wolverines are also one of the hottest teams entering the tournament, having won nine straight.
The first two games of the First Four will start on Tuesday when LIU Brooklyn faces off with Radford (-4.5) followed by St. Bonaventure taking on UCLA (-4.5). The remaining two will tip off Wednesday with North Carolina Central facing Texas Southern (-5) and Arizona State (-1.5) matching up with Syracuse.