The North Carolina Tar Heels enter the NCAA Tournament with plenty of momentum. They won the ACC regular season title, they won the ACC tournament, and they are now the +200 favorite to emerge from the East Region.
While the Tar Heels are favored in the East, there are four other teams inside of 10/1, so don’t expect them to breeze to the Final Four. West Virginia (+400), Kentucky (+500), Xavier (+600) and Indiana (+800) are going to have plenty to say in the East.
Although Xavier is the No. 2 seed in the East, it’s pretty clear that there is some skepticism regarding their prospects considering No. 3 West Virginia and No. 4 Kentucky are ahead of them according to the odds.
The Musketeers finished the season 27-5 and have impressive wins against No. 1 Villanova and Providence twice (Providence was ranked No. 23 and No. 10 in those meetings), but Xavier’s last three losses were to Creighton and Seton Hall (twice). That’s not inspiring much confidence.
West Virginia is actually second in line according to the odds as many feel this team is quite underrated. They finished the year 26-8 but six of their losses came to teams that were ranked at the time and one more was to Texas, who ended the season in the USA Today Coaches Poll Top 25.
As for Kentucky, they entered the year as the preseason No. 1 and stumbled early, but they have won 10 of their last 12 games and are on fire right now. Some bettors feel like they’re playing like that preseason No. 1, which means the +500 odds could present good value.
Those looking for an even bigger risk-reward payoff should to take a closer look at the Providence Friars, who are at +2500 to win the East Region. They had a really rough time in the month of February (2-5) but remember that this is a team that started the year 17-3 and had notched wins over Arizona, Butler (twice) and Villanova.
Kris Dunn is one of the best players in the tournament and a projected Top 5 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. If he’s on, he’s the type of player that can put a team on his back in the NCAA Tournament.
Lastly, keep an eye on Stephen F. Austin as a longshot at +10000. Maybe it’s too much to ask of them to win the region but this is a team that’s ranked No. 33 in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings, which is better than 34 other teams in the NCAA Tournament. They could spring one of those early upsets that sends a few brackets to the shredder.