March Madness Predictions, Picks, and Betting Analysis

march madness predictions
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Selection Sunday is over, the brackets are set, and now it’s time to make the right picks and predictions for March Madness betting. We have compiled all of the March Madness predictions, picks betting analysis of the lines, spreads, upsets, and more.

Everybody will ask themselves the same set of questions between now and tip-off on Thursday afternoon. Will the one seeds roll? Which team will emerge as this year’s Cinderella squad? There’s going to be upsets, that much we know, but where will they occur? And, finally, can any team stop Zion Williamson and Duke? The answers to these questions will undoubtedly determine the fates of brackets everywhere, so let’s dive into each of the tournament’s four regions in an effort to get some answers and avoid what I call bracket carnage.

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East region

Overview: It’s impossible to talk about the East region and not begin with overall top seed Duke. Zion Williamson returned from a six-game absence and the Blue Devils promptly blazed their way through the ACC Tournament, earning the NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed in the process.

Duke is 26-2, excluding Williamson’s early absence against UNC and the five games he missed thereafter, and very much appears to be the nation’s best team heading into the tournament. Still, the Blue Devils have some concerns to overcome if they are to ultimately earn their tournament-best March Madness odds and cut down the nets in Minneapolis.

For starters, they are the nation’s 340th ranked team in three-point shooting percentage. Forward Cam Reddish has been wildly inconsistent, struggling from long-range and, in recent weeks, has had difficulty with turnovers . Moreover, no overall top seed has won the tournament since Louisville in 2013. In fact, only 3 of the last 14 tournament champions entered as the overall top seed.

The key question in the East is this: If not Duke, then whom?

Michigan State was impressive in the Big Ten tournament (as they usually are) particularly in the championship game where Tom Izzo’s squad overcame a 13-point second half deficit to defeat bitter rival Michigan. For their efforts, they get a brutal path to Minny that potentially includes the likes of Louisville and LSU. Other potential opponents such as Maryland, Belmont, or Temple aren’t cupcakes, either. If they survive, they then get Duke, so while the Spartans have the pedigree and Izzo is one the nation’s best coaches, they certainly have their work cut out for them.

LSU, meanwhile, is dealing with the absence of head coach Will Wade who will likely remain suspended throughout the duration of the Tigers’ tournament stay. Despite an upset loss to the Gators in the SEC Tournament, LSU is a dangerous No. 3 seed, one that has wins over elite teams such as Kentucky and Tennessee.

No. 4 seed Virginia Tech is one of only four teams to beat Duke this season, so they have to feel as if they have a puncher’s chance, and yet, if we’re being honest here, it’s difficult to see any of these teams outlasting Duke.

If you’re looking for a lower seed out of the East at longer odds that could get hot and make things weird, I just don’t see it. I fully expect Duke, LSU, and Michigan State to quickly block the paths of any upstart. Maybe No. 12 seed Liberty could, theoretically, sneak by No. 5 Mississippi State and the winner of Virginia Tech/Saint Louis before a doomsday date with Duke, but I don’t see it.

 

East regions picks and predictions

No. 1 Duke over No. 16 TBA

No. 1 seeds are 135-1 since the field first expanded to 64 teams. Also, Duke has Zion Williamson.

No. 8 VCU over No. 9 UCF

You see that UCF actually opened as a one-point favorite, and you probably feel sharp taking that lower seed, but you’re not. Since 2005, No 9. seeds that are favored in a No. 8/9 game are only 10-14 straight up.

No. 5 Mississippi State over No. 12 Liberty

Since 2005, No. 5 seeds are 35-19 against No. 12 seeds, so there have been a fair amount of upsets in this spot, but get this. When the No. 5 seed is favored by a 6 points or more, they are 19-4. When they’re favored by 7 or more points, that record becomes 11-2. Probably a good time to point out that the Bulldogs opened as a 7-point favorite.

No. 4 Virginia Tech over No. 13 Saint Louis

The Hokies will have senior point guard Justin Robinson back after missing 12 games with an injured foot. The team captain is also the school’s all-time assist leader. Robinson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker form one of the tournament’s best backcourts, and that will be more than enough here.

No. 11 Belmont over No. 6 Maryland

This feels like the most likely spot for a first round upset in the East, and nobody that thinks they know something about the tournament will pick all chalk in a region’s first round. Belmont is a 3-point favorite over Temple, and I think there’s a reason for that. Belmont (26-5) received its first ever at-large bid and they’ll make the committee look wise here.

No. 3 LSU over No. 14 Yale

Yale was an upset winner over Harvard in the Ivy League Tournament final, but it’s hard to see them pulling the upset against the Tigers, a talented team coming off a bad loss to Florida last Friday. When No. 3 seeds are favored by at least 7 points over a No. 14 seed, those teams are 40-7 straight up.

No. 10 Minnesota over No. 7 Louisville 

When a No. 7 seed is favored between four and six points over a No. 10 seed, that team is 8-2 straight up since 2005. I’ll need a shower to rinse the Pitino off of me after this one.

No. 2 Michigan State over No. 15 Bradley

No. 15 seeds are 4-52 since 2005. When they’re an underdog of at least 18 points, they are 1-18. That’s brutal.

 

East region winner

Duke. The Blue Devils have some shortcomings, particularly long-range shooting, but I don’t foresee them being truly tested until they run into either LSU or Michigan State. I like the question Jay Bilas asked during ESPN’s tournament special on Sunday night when he was picking the region’s deeper games, rhetorically asking “Does the other team have Zion Williamson?” before then taking Duke. Sometimes it really is that simple.

 

West region

Overview: Ah, the West region. A tournament anomaly in that it’s the region that houses the tournament’s lone non-ACC No. 1 seed in Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are an extremely talented team, which we saw in their November win over a Duke squad with Zion Williamson on the court. Gonzaga is a powerful squad that can overwhelm opponents in a variety of ways. They also feature the second-best odds at +600 to win the whole tournament and are getting 10% of the money at DraftKings Sportsbook.

The Bulldogs look primed for a Final Four run with senior point guard Josh Perkins running the show and two efficient and skilled forwards, Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura. That trio helps pace an offense that leads the NCAA in points per game, field goals made, two-point field goal percentage, and total field goal percentage. Both explosive and efficient on offense, Gonzaga is also 10th in the country in defensive rebounds and plays excellent defense at the rim. Although they may not be loaded with household or heavily publicized names at the moment, that may change before the end of the month.

Although Gonzaga is the clear-cut No. 1 seed in the West entering the tournament, it does face an arduous road to Minnesota. There are a number of intriguing team’s in this region, starting with No. 2 seed Michigan. As long as the Wolverines aren’t playing Michigan State, which they’ve lost to three times this season, they’re in good shape. After all, Michigan is 28-3 against the rest of the country and hasn’t lost a game to a team other than the Spartans since Feb. 12. If the Wolverines get deep into the bracket, it will most certainly be on the strength of their defense, which possesses one of the top efficiency ratings in the country and has held opponents to 28.4% shooting from behind the arc.

Meanwhile, No. 3 Texas Tech shared the Big 12 regular season title with Kansas State, and ripped off a nine-game win-streak before losing to West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament. Even with that setback, the Red Raiders will look to replicate last season’s postseason run when they were knocked off in the Elite 8 by Villanova. No. 4 Florida State doesn’t have a dominant scorer, but it possesses excellent length, and is deep. A remarkable 11 players averaged at least 10 minutes per game this season and eight players averaged at least 14.9 minutes per game.

Perhaps the first round’s most intriguing matchup is between No. 5 Marquette, which has lost five of its last six games, and No. 12 Murray State, which earned a bid thanks to beating Belmont in the OVC final. The Racers are led by potential Top 3 NBA Draft pick Ja Morant. The sophomore is averaging 24.6 points per game and leads the country with 10 assists per game. I smell a No. 12 upset.

No. 6 seed Buffalo is dangerous and spent much of the regular season as one of the country’s Top 25 programs. Lookout for sharpshooter C.J. Massinburg, a senior guard who is averaging 18 points per contest. No. 7 seed Nevada is a very experienced squad, one that reached the Sweet 16 last year, and was ranked as high as No. 6 in the country earlier this season.

 

West region picks and predictions

No. 1 Gonzaga over No. 16 TBA

No. 16 TBA is a nice story, whoever it is, but they’re not being the Zags.

No. 8 Syracuse over No. 9 Baylor

Syracuse doesn’t do much for me, but I have concerns about the Bears’ 34% three-point shooting against that zone. The Orange are 13-2 straight up this season when favored against teams that shoot 34% or less from three-point range.

No. 12 Murray State over No. 5 Marquette

AMAZING that Marquette is a higher seed than Villanova. I have big concerns about Marquette losing five of its last six games to close out the season, and that No. 5 seeds favored by 5 points or less over No. 12 seeds are only 12-12 straight up since 2005 is extremely troubling.

No. 4 Florida State over No. 13 Vermont

No. 4 seeds that are favored between 10 and 12 points over a No. 13 seed are 8-1 straight up since 2005.

No. 6 Buffalo over No. 11 Arizona State

My guess here is that Arizona State, a talented team that lacks consistency, outlasts St. Johns, also a talented team that lacks consistency. That lack of consistency will then show up against a better Buffalo squad.

No. 3 Texas Tech over No. 14 Northern Kentucky

No. 3 seeds favored by at least 14 points over a No. 14 seed are 9-2 straight up since 2005.

No. 10 Florida over No. 7 Nevada 

No. 7 seeds that are favored by two points or less are only 9-7 straight up over No. 10 seeds since 2005. I think Nevada is still rattled from losing at Utah State earlier this month.

No. 2 Michigan over No. 15 Montana

Is Montana Michigan State? No. Then I’ll take Michigan here.

 

West region winner

Gonzaga. Wow, look at me going out on a limb and taking Gonzaga to reach the Final Four. I suppose they’ll beat Michigan, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wolverines offense trips them up earlier. Meanwhile, I don’t think Marquette or Murray State can match Gonzaga’s scoring depth, and I although I could see Florida State’s athleticism being problematic, I don’t trust its offense, either.

 

Midwest region

If chalk rolls in the Midwest region, much like it’s expected to it’s expect to in the East, we could be on our way to getting round four of UNC-Duke, and despite rivalry games sometimes losing their luster when we get them in high doses, I don’t think America would mind this time around. The story in the ACC Tournament semifinal was Duke’s revenge, but lost in that game was that UNC was one shot away from a three-game clean sweep of the Blue Devils. North Carolina has had made deep runs in more recent seasons, losing to Villanova at the buzzer in 2016 before cutting down the nets in 2017. Also an efficient defensive team, Roy Williams’ squad was third in the nation in points per game this season, the country’s top rebounding team, and sixth in two-point field goal percentage. Fifth-year senior Cameron Johnston leads the Tar Heels in scoring with 16.9 points per game and is shooting an outrageous 46.5% from three-point range, while freshman guard Coby White, who’s averaging 16.3 points per game, looks like a star in the making. Just how good has UNC been lately? The last time they lost to an NCAA Tournament non-No. 1 seed was Jan. 12 to Louisville. Since that game, UNC is 15-2 overall, with both its losses coming to Duke and Virginia.

No. 2 seed Kentucky has the pedigree and is a balanced squad, but it has a tricky path to the Elite Eight. The Wildcats should roll over No. 15 Abilene Christian in the opening round, but then has to deal with a Jekyll and Hide Seton Hall team that came close to knocking off Villanova to win the Big East Tournament, or maybe they don’t. No. 10 seed Wofford is a kenpom darling, and is the nation’s second-best team from three (41.6%), which could spur a Cinderella run. No. 3 Houston can also rip the three, is excellent on the glass, and is holding opponents to only 61.2 points per game this season. They have a tough potential matchup awaiting them in the second round where they could face Big 12 Tournament winner Iowa State, which as knocked off six Top 25 ranked opponents this season, including No. 4 seed Kansas twice.

Speaking of Kansas, it can rebound and is an efficient two-point shooting team, but it was rolled in the Big 12 Championship Game by the No. 6 seed Cyclones and simply didn’t look like the traditional Jayhawks teams we’ve come to expect. Plus, Kansas is only 10-7 since Jan. 19, so it’s hard to imagine this team suddenly sustaining quality play in a tough region and getting on a run.

No. 8 Utah State was rocked by Nevada earlier this season, but vanquished the Wolfpack in the rematch on its way to earning a share of the Mountain West regular season title. The Aggies then went on to win the conference tournament. They’ll face No. 9 Washington which spent much of the season as the best team in the Pac 12 before Oregon flipped the switch and blasted the Huskies in the Pac 12 Conference Tournament Championship Game.

I see three strong upset possibilities in this region. New Mexico State has lost one game this calendar year, and it was back on Jan. 3. The Aggies can wipe the glass, defend, and shoot threes, as can No. 7 seed Wofford which I mentioned above. And then there’s Ohio State, which I’ll get to in a minute.

 

Midwest region picks and predictions

No. 1 North Carolina over No. 16 Iona

The MAAC champion for the fourth-straight year, Iona is a consistently solid program, but they have no shot here.

No. 8 Utah State over No. 9 Washington

A true toss-up game, I’ll take the Aggies, simply because they’ve played better basketball over the last the month. Plus, they’re laying a few points as a seemingly equal but lesser-known squad. That smells fishy.

No. 5 Auburn over No. 12 New Mexico State

I know, I just said above that New Mexico State is an upset possibility, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. There’s a lot of buzz about the Aggies in this game, but they remain a 7-point underdog. That’s strong.

No. 4 Kansas over No. 13 Northeastern

No. 4 seeds favored over No. 13 seeds between 6 and 8 points have won 80% of the time since 2005.

No. 11 Ohio State over No. 6 Iowa State

I think this has a chance to be a “WTF?” game. Ohio State is underwhelming, while Iowa State looks like one of the most dangerous teams in this bracket. BUT. No. 6 seeds are only 7-6 straight up against No. 11 seeds when favored between 5 and 7 points since 2005.

No. 3 Houston over No. 14 Georgia State

No. 3 seeds that are favored between 11 and 13 points are 14-1 straight up over No. 14 seeds since 2005.  The lone loss came in 2014 when Mercer knocked off Duke.

No. 2 Kentucky over No. 15 Abilene Christian

Come on.

 

Midwest region winner

North Carolina. Cameron Johnston leads his team back to the title game and the country gets UNC-DUKE IV, whether it wants it or not.

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South region

The bad news for Virginia is that they became the first tournament one seed to lose in the opening round last season. The good news is that they can become the first team to lose to a No. 16 seed and follow it with a title run. Glass half-full, Cavaliers fans. Virginia may feel some pressure in its opening round game with Gardner-Webb, simply because another loss here would be catastrophic, but it is one of the country’s best teams and a 23.5-point favorite for a reason. No. 1 seeds are 135-1 since 1985, and it’s simply unfathomable this could happen to the same team in consecutive seasons. Virginia can rip the three-pointer as its shooting 40.9% from deep, good for the nation’s fourth-best mark, and it can play stifling defense. The 55.1 points per game its allowing this season is best in the country.

No. 2 seed Tennessee is a dangerous team that spent much of the season as the country’s top-ranked team, but is coming off a disappointing blowout loss in the SEC Tournament Championship Game that cost the Vols a shot at a No. 1 seed. It’s hard to look at this region and figure a scenario in which these two teams play each other, simply because other teams have a blood bath road ahead.

No. 3 Purdue had won 13 of 14 games before losing two of its final three contests to close the season. “Solid” is the word I’ll use to describe the Boilermakers, but they don’t do any one thing extraordinarily well.

No. 4 seed Kansas State is good enough to reach the Sweet 16, but could trip up in either one of its first two games.

No. 13 seed UC Irvine, No. 12 Oregon, and No. 5 Wisconsin are each quality teams that could spring a Sweet 16 run.

Then, of course, there’s defending champion Villanova. The Wildcats have a difficult test in their opening game with St. Mary’s. After winning the Big East regular season title, Jay Wright’s team gutted its way through the conference tournament and can’t be counted out. I’m just not sure they have enough firepower this time around to grind their way deep into the bracket.

Want the “upset” pick here? Oregon blazed through the Pac 12 Tournament to save its season and find a way into the dance, and I expect them to keep that momentum going against No. 5 Wisconsin. In fact, the Ducks wouldn’t be technically even pulling off an upset here, given they’re FAVORED. The only two other times the No. 12 seed was favored in the opening rounds came in 2017 when MTSU was favored over Minnesota and in 2006 when Texas A&M was favored over Syracuse– both won.

South region picks and predictions

No. 1 Virginia over No. 16 Gardner-Webb

There’s no way, NO WAY, the Cavaliers fall to a No. 16 seed in consecutive seasons.

No. 8 Mississippi over No. 9 Oklahoma

Oklahoma is a classic case of an overrated Big 12 team. The Sooners’ opening round loss in the Big 12 tournament that came in a game which would have solidified their tournament standing was downright concerning. They lost five-straight games beginning in late January into early February and haven’t won three consecutive games this calendar year. In fact, they finished the season 4-8 over their last 12 games. No thanks.

No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Wisconsin

Quack, quack, baby. As noted above, only two No. 12 seeds have been favored over No. 5 seeds since 2005. Those teams each won. Oregon stays hot.

No. 13 Cal Irvine over No. 4 Kansas State

The No. 13 seed has won two of the last three times it was an underdog of 5 or 5.5 points. Small sample, so let’s stretch it a bit. The No. 4 seed is still only 7-5 straight up when favored between 5 and 7 points.

No. 6 Villanova over No. 11 St. Mary’s

Same deal as the Iowa State-Ohio State game. No. 6 seeds are only 7-6 straight up against No. 11 seeds when favored between 5 and 7 points since 2005, but I’m going to nervously take the Wildcats here. They have big-game experience and one of the nation’s top coaches in Jay Wright, but I don’t expect a deep tournament run this time around.

No. 3 Purdue Over No. 14 Old Dominion

I’m not overly big on Purdue and think Old Dominion covers the 12-point spread, but I could see the Boilermakers unconvincingly “meh-ing” their way to the Sweet 16.

No. 7 Cincinnati over No. 10 Iowa 

If you’re looking for a buzzer-beater, check out this game, since it feels like Iowa was consistently involved in circus finishes this season.

I think the Hawkeyes’ luck runs out against a hot Cincy squad that’s coming off an impressive win over Houston to win the American Athletic Conference Tournament.

No. 2 Tennessee over No. 15 Colgate

Here’s how many times Tennessee has lost consecutive games this season: 0. That’s not about to change here.

 

South region winner

Tennessee. They are the tournament’s fifth overall team, just missing out on a No. 1 spot. Virginia will acquit itself nicely and reach the regional final, but will nonetheless feel disappointment in the end.

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2 Comments

  • Kate Devlin March 19, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    This is so helpful! Thanks so much. I’m going to fill out my pool now.

    – Kate

    Reply
  • Dom Deluca March 19, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    Good info Wankel. Appreciate the effort my man.

    Reply
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