Selection Sunday is in the rearview mirror, which means we can now focus on the field of 68 and the specific regions. The South is headlined by the Kansas Jayhawks, who are the No. 1 seed in that section of the bracket and are favored at +500 to win the NCAA Tournament.
Not only are the Jayhawks the No. 1 seed in the South, they’re the No. 1 seed overall. It’s easy to see why, as they have won 14 straight games and haven’t lost since January 25. This is a team that’s loaded with talent, has experience and pedigree, and has had an impressive run through a challenging Big 12 conference this year.
However, they do have to fight the perception that they’ve failed to make good on top seedings in recent years, as they’ve made it no further than the third round in each of their last three NCAA Tournament appearances.
Beyond the Jayhawks, there is a lot of quality in the South Region, which includes teams like Villanova (+1800 odds to win the NCAA Tournament), Miami (+3300), California (+4000), Maryland (+3300) and Iowa (+6600), each of whom enters the tournament in ESPN’s Top 25 rankings.
Like Kansas, Villanova will not be a team that’s trusted to win it all because they’ve also disappointed as a high seed recently. They are just 3-5 in their last eight tournament games (since 2010).
As for Miami, they’ve been an impressive team out of the ACC all season long but they have to be concerned with their away record. They were 15-1 at home this year but just 6-5 on the road. Cal and Maryland will both be tantalizing sleeper picks as both are loaded with quality NBA talent, but both teams have had some serious hiccups this year. Both could make it to the Elite Eight, and both could lose in the first or second round.
As for Iowa, some people will view them as a value play based on the fact that they were once a Top 5 team this year. Remember, they started 19-4 before losing six of their last eight games. If they can find the stroke that had them looking so good early in the year, they could make a run.
If you’re looking for a Cinderella keep an eye on Wichita State, who is at +6600 to win the NCAA Tournament – assuming they get past Vanderbilt in the play-in game to make it into the field of 64.
Names like Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, coach Gregg Marshall, and some pedigree from recent tournaments will encourage bettors to wager on them as a sleeper. They have one of the nation’s most efficient defenses too, so that will come into play once the Big Dance begins.