The East Region of the NCAA tournament is perennially one of the most intriguing of the bunch, and the 2017 edition is no different. The region features the past two national champions in Villanova and Duke, as well as a number of other contenders who are likely better than their seeding looks on paper.
Here’s an in-depth look at the March Madness East Region and how it could play out for bettors.
Favorite: Villanova Wildcats (+160)
The Wildcats are playing fantastic basketball right now and have been labeled as the tournament’s top seed as a result. No team has repeated as national champion since the Florida Gators accomplished the feat a decade ago, but the ’Cats could very likely break that streak this time around.
While other blue-blood schools often feature a large number of one-and-done players, Villanova returned largely the same group from a year ago. Led by Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Jalen Brunson, the Wildcats have a deep and experienced roster that can go toe to toe with anyone in the nation right now.
Overrated: South Carolina Gamecocks (+2500)
The Gamecocks went 22-10 SU but did not win a game away from home against an NCAA tournament team, yet they somehow garnered the seventh seed. They’ll get to play in their home state of South Carolina, but I’m not sure if playing in Greenville is going to be enough for this team to make a run.
South Carolina faces Marquette in the first round, which isn’t going to be a walk in the park, before likely meeting Duke in the Round of 32 (unless Troy can pull off a major upset). The Gamecocks were a downright brutal bet this season, finishing the campaign with an 11-16-2 ATS record. They also ended the year on a 1-8 ATS run.
Dark horse: UNC-Wilmington Seahawks (+10000)
The 12th-seeded Seahawks look like the best Cinderella candidate in the East Region, and it isn’t close. UNC-Wilmington nearly knocked out Duke from last year’s tournament, so the Seahawks are no stranger to the spotlight. The club’s high-flying offense makes them a threat every time they step on the floor, as they’re averaging 85.2 points per game and have reached 100 seven times this season.
UNC-Wilmington has a tough test in the first round against fifth-seeded Virginia, which boasts the nation’s best defense (55.6 points allowed per game). The Cavaliers stumbled down the stretch, however, and aren’t exactly hitting their stride entering the tournament. After all, the Cavs have lost to a team seeded three or more slots lower in each of their last three March Madness trips.