After one of the most unpredictable regular seasons in NCAA hoops history wrapped up with a conference-tournament session that was just as wild, March Madness tips off on Thursday and in the South Region, you’ll have three teams looking to pull away from the field.
Odds to win the region are in parentheses but keep in mind that the betting lines can change.
Kansas (+300) grabbed the No. 1 seed and was one of the few teams to actually do what they were supposed to do, which was win their conference tournament in the Big 12 after taking the regular season as well. Then it gets interesting: No. 2 Georgetown (+450) fell in the Big East tournament after sharing the regular-season title with Louisville, while No. 4 Michigan (+500) stumbled in the Big Ten regular season, then lost to Wisconsin in the conference tourney. Who knows what to think about No. 3 Florida (no odds), who were upset by Ole Miss in the SEC tourney final.
It continues to get even better when it comes to the sleepers. No. 8 North Carolina (+1200) have been all over the place all season, but seemed to pull it together to make the ACC tourney final, where they lost to Miami. VCU picks up the dreaded No. 5 seed after losing to Saint Louis in the Atlantic-10 final, but they’ve shown enough in the Tournament recently to be considered a dangerous team. The matchup between No. 11 Minnesota (+2800) and No. 6 UCLA (+5000) could end up being the best of the bracket, although many will be waiting for a second-round tussle between Kansas and North Carolina (Tar Heels coach Roy Williams could face his former team in Kansas, of all places). Don’t forget about No. 7 San Diego State (+2800), either.
Picking a winner for the South Region could be the toughest of them all as the top four teams could all come out on top, then you have talented sleepers like UCLA and North Carolina, where we’ve seen glimpses of greatness, but also, infuriating stints of inconsistency.
However, in the end, you should get a final matchup between the Jayhawks and the Gators, two teams that are very well-rounded and have been the most consistent all season long and can both win games in high-scoring or grind-‘em-out fashions. Georgetown could make an appearance as they have the best individual talent in the region in Otto Porter, but the rest of the Hoyas will need to step up after a long campaign in the Big East.
Kansas guard Ben McLemore is being touted for the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft and he may have something to say about the “Porter is the best player in the South region” statement. But the Jayhawks also have the most disruptive defensive presence in Jeff Withey, who was third in the NCAA in blocks during the season and has improved his offensive game as well. It’s not a bold college basketball betting prediction, but take Kansas to the Final Four as the South Region representatives.
Prediction: Kansas +300