The Midwest Region might be the most interesting one out there as the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks enter having come off an extremely early exit in the Big 12 tournament and the second-seeded Louisville Cardinals head into the Madness posting losses with regularity over the past couple of weeks.
This part of the March Madness bracket boasts star players, teams brimming with upset potential and good senior cores that could carry a team to the Final Four.
But who stands out?
Let’s take a closer look at the 2017 Midwest Region at where the value – and the potholes – lie.
Favorites: Kansas Jayhawks (+220)
The Jayhawks are the faves here but head into the tournament with a sour taste in their mouths after falling to the TCU Horned Frogs in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament as 8.5-point favorites.
Now, fantastic freshman Josh Jackson was suspended for the game after a hit-and-run incident, but still, the Jayhawks possess the talent and experience that a loss in that TCU game should have been avoided.
Could we see another slip from Kansas that could send them home early? Well, potentially. The West Region is filled with banana skins as a Sweet 16 matchup could pit them against the likes of Iowa State (whom they lost to at home in February) or Purdue, the No. 4 seed that boasts Big 10 Player of the Year and double-double machine Caleb Swanigan.
It won’t be the easiest path to the Final Four for a No. 1 seed, as evidenced by the longest odds to win a region of any of the top seeds, but Kansas features a dynamic freshman in Jackson and some serious upperclassman leadership and experience in Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham.
A bet on Kansas to win this region wouldn’t be a silly one, but if they didn’t make it out of the Midwest, it won’t be a total surprise.
Overrated: Louisville Cardinals (+350)
Personally, I’d avoid backing the Cards to escape the region altogether. Louisville has lost three of its last five games (at UNC, at Wake, vs Duke) and might be the coldest team entering the tournament of any of the schools inside the top 10 of the AP ranking.
True, they do play in the best basketball conference in the country and maybe the early ACC tournament exit gives them a little more rest, but a No. 2 seed seems high for them and their price to win the region doesn’t seem worth it.
Thinking of backing them on a game-in, game-out basis? Think again. The Cards have been ATS poison for over the past month as they’ve posted a 2-7 ATS (5-4 SU) record which began with a loss at Virginia on Feb. 6.
Granted, anything can happen in this tournament, but if the past month is any indication, the Cards will be out of this early.
Dark Horse: Iowa State Cyclones (+1000)
I could have easily put the Swanigan-led Purdue Boilermakers in here and gushed about the big man, but the +500 price to win the Midwest didn’t feel dark horse-ish enough for this article. Therefore, Iowa State feels like a solid candidate for this at +1000.
The Cyclones are coming off an impressive run en route to the 2017 Big 12 title which saw them knock off Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia as the No. 4 seed.
The Cyclones get balanced scoring from their senior backbone of Monte Morris (16.3 ppg), Nazareth Mitrou-Long (15.5), Deonte Burton (14.8) and Matt Thomas (12).
Iowa State made a trip to the Sweet 16 one year ago and while the team was led by Georges Niang, the experience should prove valuable for Morris, Burton and Thomas (Mitrou-Long was out with an injury for the bulk of the season).
This team proved it can win games with that Big 12 title and I expect a deep run in the big dance. This region has value all over the board with the aforementioned Boilermakers, Michigan (+1200), Creighton (+2800) and even Rhode Island (+3300) all good candidates to stir the pot, but it’s these Cyclones who look like the best out of the bunch to bust brackets.
2017 NCAA Tournament – MIDWest Region Betting Odds
Odds as of March 14 at Bovada
- Kansas +220
- Louisville +350
- Oregon +400
- Purdue +500
- Iowa State +1000
- Michigan +1200
- Oklahoma State +1600
- Creighton +2800
- Miami +2800
- Michigan State +2800
- Rhode Island +3300
- Nevada +10000
- Vermont +10000
- Iona +20000
- Jacksonville State +20000
- NC Central +20000
- UC Davis +20000