At first glance, the South Region of the March Madness bracket looks like a murderers row. The top three seeds North Carolina (5), Kentucky (8) and UCLA (11) have a combined 24 NCAAB tournament championships and teams like Middle Tennessee and Wichita State were wildly miss-seeded by the interpretation of many bracket analysts and could offer better challenges than their seeding implies.
With those things in mind, let’s take a closer look at some possible bets to win the South Region and see if there’s one, or a few that stick out as wagers where we can make some serious dough re mi.
Favorites: North Carolina Tar Heels (+135)
Not only are the Tar Heels the favorites to come out of the South on Bovada, they’re the biggest favorite of any team in the tournament to come out of their bracket and the +600 favorites to win the whole thing for the sixth time in UNC history.
Yes, it’s true that UNC is coming off a horrendous showing in the second half of the ACC championship semifinal with Duke, in which the Tar Heels were outscored 51-34, but this is the deepest team in the nation. Head coach Roy Williams rolls nine players 13 or more minutes per game so the foul trouble they got in during that game with the Blue Devils was somewhat of an anomaly.
The Tar Heels have made it to the Sweet 16 six straight years and in 10 of the last 12 seasons so you can basically pencil them into the third round. From there, Williams has made the Final 4 four times and this could be the best team he’s had at his disposal since the one that cut down the nets in Detroit in 2009.
As for game-to-game betting, the Heels have been a bit of a mixed bag lately and have been very streaky against the spread. They’re 1-2-1 in their last four games but they had cashed four straight spread bets before that.
UNC opened as an enormous 25-point favorite over Texas Southern in the opening round of the tournament and with that being the second-biggest spread the Tar Heels have seen all season, it could be a few too many points.
Overrated: UCLA (+450)
This isn’t much more than a bad feeling, to be completely honest. There’s a bad vibe around the Ball family and I don’t want any part of it. I know they have the best offense in the nation, centered around Lonzo Ball’s 14.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 7.7 assists, and they’re offering a bit of value but I just don’t see that translating into success in this kind of tournament.
Their defensive unit leaves a lot to be desired, giving up 74 points per game, and I can see them easily losing in a shootout with Kentucky in the Sweet 16 – if the Shockers don’t upset the Wildcats in the second round.
John Calipari has himself one of the most electric backcourts in recent memory with De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk and I’ll take a flyer on their recent pedigree over this Bruins team that’s seemingly come out of nowhere on the back of a crazy family.
Dark Horse: Butler (+1000)
I had to decide between a few options for this one but settled on the Bulldogs of Butler at +1000 over the likes of Wichita State (+1000) and Minnesota (+2800). Butler is in the midst of its best season since the departure of Brad Stevens and finished as runner-up to Villanova for the Big East regular-season title.
Like the Tar Heels, the Bulldogs were dealt an early exit in their conference championship and will be coming into the NCAAB tournament with extended rest. Butler is a dangerous team in the South and should offer North Carolina its first real challenge, if they both make it to the Sweet 16.
Butler’s biggest accomplishment this season was handing Villanova two of its three season losses so this team led by Kelan Martin’s 16.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game could once again be the bracket-busting team we’ve grown to know and love.
I’m not saying that this team is the reincarnation of the 2011 squad that made it all the way to the NCAA tournament final for the second year in a row, but with UNC on its heels a little bit heading in, Butler could be primed for another Cinderella run.
2017 NCAA Tournament – South Region Betting Odds
Odds as of March 14 at Bovada
- North Carolina +135
- Kentucky +275
- UCLA +450
- Butler +1000
- Wichita State +1000
- Cincinnati +1400
- Dayton +2800
- Minnesota +2800
- Middle Tennessee State +4000
- Arkansas +5000
- Seton Hall +5000
- Wake Forest +7500
- Kansas State +10000
- Kent State +20000
- Northern Kentucky +20000
- Texas Southern +20000
- Winthrop +20000