Michigan State isn’t even the No. 1 seed in their region, let alone overall in the NCAA Tournament. However, they’re still a +500 co-favorite to win it all and are the clear-cut favorite at +175 to win the Midwest Region. That’s because of who else is in their bracket.
Virginia is the No. 1 seed in the Midwest, leaving Sparty as the No. 2 seed. However, Michigan State has had Virginia’s number in recent tournaments. They showed them to the exit in the Sweet 16 in 2014 when the Cavaliers were a No. 1 seed, and last season they ushered out the Cavs again – this time in the second round – even though Virginia was a No. 2 seed. The Cavaliers are at +250 to win the Midwest and +1200 to win it all.
Aside from Michigan State and Virginia, there are only three teams inside of 12/1 to win the Midwest: Iowa State (+750), Purdue (+600) and Utah (+900). That’s the second-fewest teams in that range of the four regions, which might indicate that there is less parity here than some other places.
What’s interesting in the Midwest is that Utah is the No. 3 seed yet they’re fifth in line according to the odds. There was rampant chatter on Twitter following the selection committee’s unveiling of the field that Utah was overrated as a No. 3 seed and apparently the oddsmakers agree. Utah didn’t beat a single team that ended up better than a No. 4 seed in the tournament and they lost by double-digits to Oregon, Miami and California.
Iowa State is also deemed a bit of a vulnerable team as they’ve been susceptible to early exits in the last few years. That was with coach Fred Hoiberg, but now he’s off coaching the Chicago Bulls in the NBA and many feel they could be ripe for an early picking again.
As for Purdue, they could be a dark horse in the Midwest. They are 21st in adjusted offense and 18th in adjusted defense. Historically, most champions rank in the top 20 in both categories, so that’s a good sign for them.
And remember that they pushed Michigan State – a team that’s favored to win it all – to their limits in the Big Ten championship game last Sunday, so they have the pedigree. We’ll see if they can spoil what many expect to be a Virginia-Michigan State matchup in the Elite Eight.