SOUTH REGION PREVIEW:
The South is the most interesting region from a wagering perspective, as it is easily the most wide open, at least in terms of Vegas odds. For starters, the Vegas favorite is not #1 seed Kansas. It isn’t #2 seed Georgetown either. Rather, the favorite, at a steep price of 8:5, is #3 seed Florida.
The Gators are certainly a good team and capable of cutting down the nets (they have the third lowest odds to win the National Championship), but I think this might be an example of a Moneyball generation falling a bit to in love with their own statistics. Yes, the KenPom numbers and the defensive efficiency metrics for the Gators are off the charts. In fact, on a per-possession basis, this team is the best team in the country and compares much more favorably than the 2006-2007 Gators that won the title.
However, what these statistics ignore is the plain eye test. Did anyone WATCH the SEC Championship game while the Gators took lousy shots and bricked free throws down the stretch? Did anyone see them go scoreless in final four minutes to yack up the game against Kentucky? How about the complete collapse in the desert of Arizona to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in spectacular fashion against the Wildcats? My point is simply this: the NCAA Tournament is a six-game pressure cooker. It requires poise and execution (and good free throw shooting Memphis!) to survive and advance. At some point, I think the Gators tragic flaw surfaces.
That’s my two cents. I’d avoid the Gators at 8:5, it simply isn’t a good value in a bracket this balanced. In other words, Florida is good, but they get no coffee. Coffee is for CLOSERS!
My favorite in this bracket is the chalk; as in Rock Chalk Jayhawk. For some reason Kansas has gotten completely lost in the shuffle. They have an NBA big man, a senior point guard, and arguably the best player in the country in freshman ben McLemore (I’ll also listen to arguments for Victor Oladipo and Kelly Olynik and a sleeper claim for Anthony Bennett of UNLV). The reason KU has scared people away is the draw; they have a possible second round matchup looming against North Carolina that scares people. DO NOT BE AFRAID. Carolina has beaten NO ONE this season – Duke hammered them twice, Miami dispatched them twice. Carolina looks good on the jersey, but they really, trult are not that good.
Florida’s the “favorite” but my favorite on the bottom is the Georgetown Hoyas. They defend every bit as tough as Florida, and they have a difference maker and CLOSER in Otto Porter. I like Georgetown to advance, and as far as Florida is concerned, I’d be VERY wary of a potential second round matchup against talented sleeper UCLA.
So who wins the South? Here’s my picks as well as a few value wagers for winning the region.
I like Kansas to cruise through the first two rounds, even if their second round opponent is North Carolina (who I have just edging Villanova). Kansas tore through the Big 12, beating good tourney teams like Kansas State and Iowa State by double digits. I’m not sure why more people aren’t on board with KU. This team is REALLY good.
Their Sweet 16 opponent will be VCU. I like their pressure to disrupt Michigan, an oft-sloppy team, and get to the Sweet 16, but their run does NOT include knocking off top seed Kansas as it did during their Cinderella run to the Final Four in 2011. On the bottom, give me Georgetown advancing to the Sweet 16 after knocking off a valiant San Diego State team, and UCLA knocking off the Gators. I’ll take Georgetown to end Shabazz Muhammad’s brief college career to advance to the Regional Final.
Cutting down the nets in the South? I’ll take Kansas. As a matter of fact, at 12/1 they are a nice value to win the whole thing.
My Pick: Kansas Jayhawks
Value Picks: Kansas 3/1 & Georgetown 9/2
Long Shot Value Pick: UCLA 50/1