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November 19, 2017

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NCAA Tournament by the odds: How Vegas sports books see the East Region



Michigan State players, from left, Gary Harris, Keith Appling, Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson pose during the team’s NCAA college basketball media day, Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2013, in East Lansing, Mich.

LVH Superbook odds to win East Region

  • Michigan State: 8-to-5
  • Virginia: 3-to-1
  • Villanova: 3-to-1
  • Iowa State 7-to-1
  • North Carolina: 10-to-1
  • UConn: 10-to-1
  • Cincinnati: 20-to-1
  • Memphis: 30-to-1
  • Harvard: 30-to-1
  • George Washington: 50-to-1
  • Providence: 60-to-1
  • Saint Joseph's: 75-to-1
  • Delaware: 500-to-1
  • North Carolina Central: 1000-to-1
  • Milwaukee: 1000-to-1
  • Coastal Carolina: 5000-to-1

2014 NCAA Tournament East Region

Which of these bets would you place on which team wins the East Region?
Michigan State 8-to-5 — 48.4%
Virginia 3-to-1 — 24.7%
Iowa State 7-to-1 — 19.4%
Villanova 3-to-1 — 7.5%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

2014 NCAA Tournament West Region

Which of these bets would you make on who wins the West Region?
Arizona Even money — 32.5%
Wisconsin 7-to-2 — 28.6%
Creighton 9-to-2 — 18.2%
Oklahoma State 12-to-1 — 11.2%
San Diego State 10-to-1 — 7.3%
Oklahoma 20-to-1 — 2.2%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

2014 NCAA Tournament Midwest Region

Which of these teams would you bet to win the Midwest Region?
Louisville 5-to-4 — 41.9%
Wichita State 4-to-1 — 20.0%
Michigan 4-to-1 — 15.2%
Duke 3-to-1 — 14.4%
Kentucky 10-to-1 — 8.6%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

2014 NCAA Tournament South Region

Which of these teams would you bet to reach the Final Four?
Florida Even money — 49.9%
Kansas 3-to-1 — 18.5%
Syracuse 6-to-1 — 15.2%
UCLA 8-to-1 — 7.5%
Ohio State 8-to-1 — 5.7%
VCU 12-to-1 — 3.2%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Note: This is the final of four region betting previews from Talking Points. Make sure to check out the South, Midwest and West too.

Let’s desert the NCAA Tournament’s East Region to the sports wasteland where events like the first two months of the 2011-2012 NBA season and UFC 151 reside.

Call it off; cancel it. No reason to waste time with 15 games to determine which team gets to the Final Four in Dallas when everyone already knows the result.

Because everyone does already know the result, right? Feels that way. Feels like the lone people picking against No. 4 seed Michigan State in the East Region are those handicapping by mascot who inevitably come up with the No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina Chanticleers cock-a-doodle-dooing their way to Dallas.

ESPN’s famed panel of analysts harvested the sprouting love for the Spartans when all five of them picked the team to win the national championship on Selection Sunday. By Tuesday night, more than half of the brackets in the nation submitted to Yahoo! Sports had Michigan State at least in the national semifinals.

It seemed as safe of a bet as the national deficit that President Barack Obama would follow suit on his Wednesday ESPN special and, viola, the commander in chief declared Michigan State would leave its path of opponents barren en route to the crystal trophy.

Las Vegas sports book patrons are planting their seeds just as heavily on the Spartans. In less than a week, Michigan State has gone from 8-to-1 to win the national championship to 4-to-1.

Michigan State surpassed Florida, the South Region’s No. 1 seed, as the favorite to win the NCAA Tournament Tuesday at the LVH Superbook.

The public’s dependence on the Spartans is settled, but oddsmakers are a little more scattered. While some local sports book directors dote on Michigan State as a favorite against any team in the tournament, other odds-based evidence subsists that exercising temperance is shrewd.

The Don Best Advantage power ratings have Michigan State as the third best team — in the East Region. The Superbook still favors the Spartans to win the East, but only at a clip of 8-to-5.

That equates to a 28.5 percent chance when calculating out the house’s hold, or less than the favorite in any other region. The region futures will cease from betting boards when the tournament begins in a few hours, but the market could cause one last push in Michigan State’s direction to lower the 8-to-5.

Discounting any potential pro-Michigan State move in the lines at this point sounds imprudent. There’s too much support to quell.

And it’s not as if it miraculously rose from beneath the soil. To an extent, the Spartans deserve their showering of praise.

It’s more than difficult for one of the most injury-ravaged teams in the nation to finish 26-8 straight-up and 20-11-2 against the spread in the conference Las Vegas pegs as the most superior. The Spartans pulled it off in part because they might have the country’s best coach in Tom Izzo, whose teams aren’t exactly known for wilting in the NCAA Tournament.

Izzo has participated in March Madness for 16 straight years, advancing to at least the Sweet 16 in all but five tries. He’s also reached six Final Fours and won a national championship while compiling a sterling 32-20-2 against-the-spread record in the tournament.

This is one of Izzo’s best teams with Adreian Payne, Gary Harris, Keith Appling and Branden Dawson all healthy. It just hasn’t happened much this season, as all four have missed an assorted amount of time — a total of 23 games — to injury.

The Spartans have played excellently with all four in the starting lineup, going 14-2 straight-up and 9-4-2 against the spread. The one-game difference in the records is because sports books didn’t line their opener, a 98-56 victory over McNeese State.

The Spartans’ next game traces back as the origin for college basketball fans’ obsession with them. A record television audience tuned in for the Champions Classic in Chicago, where Michigan State beat exhaustingly hyped Kentucky 78-74 with Payne, Harris, Appling and Dawson chipping in 83 percent of its scoring.

The victory may have looked like a special moment to the audience, but not the sports books. The Spartans did exactly as expected as a 4-point favorite over the Wildcats.

Even with its Big Four, for a lack of a better term, Michigan State hasn’t lambasted many opponents this year. The Spartans have only beaten the spread by double-digits with their electric quartet three times.

Their closest cousin in the tournament, fellow No. 4 seed Louisville, has pulled it off three times in the last four games by comparison. That’s an example why a Superbook proposition wager has Louisville as a minus-155 (risking $1.55 to win $1) favorite over Michigan State at plus-135 (risking $1 to win $1.35) to get more victories in the tournament.

The strength of this year’s No. 4 seeds is unprecedented because of the Spartans and the Cardinals. The chance of a No. 4 seed winning the tournament is 27 percent, based on Vegas odds calculated by A No. 1 seed is just barely higher at 31 percent.

The spectacle created by the No. 4 seeds has taken away from some of the tournament’s more compelling stories, like the Killer Vs at the top of the East Region.

No. 1 seed Virginia and No. 2 seed Villanova both spent time at above 100-to-1 odds to win the tournament on the Superbook’s betting board early in the season. They’re now 12- and 25-to-1, respectively, to remind everyone forecasting college basketball is an inexact science.

The Cavaliers and Wildcats each possess an 18.5 percent chance of making the Final Four, according to the Superbook’s region odds. That means the chances of either Michigan State, Virginia or Villanova coming out of the East are set at 65 percent — the highest share among three teams in any region other than the Midwest.

Villanova was one of the best teams to bet on in the nation this season at 21-9 against the spread. The Wildcats amazingly had four separate runs of at least four straight covers throughout the season.

Most of their games also went over the point total, and it’s not hard to figure out why as the Wildcats rate only behind Creighton and Eastern Kentucky in three-point percentage among teams to make the tournament. Three of their four leading scorers — James Bell, Darrun Hilliard III and Ryan Arcidiacono — can light it up from beyond the arc.

Bell, Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston all average 14 points per game.

Virginia might be the only other elite team in the country that can claim that kind of balance. Malcolm Brogdon and Joe Harris are the only Cavaliers who average double-digits, but three more players contribute at least seven points per game.

Virginia’s defense, which ranks third in the nation according to the Pomeroy Ratings, is what has mostly prompted its historic season. After winning the ACC regular-season championship, the Cavaliers earned the conference tournament title for the first time since coach Tony Bennett was 7 years old in 1976.

They started the season with a 9-4 straight-up and 3-6 against the spread record in nonconference, but then transformed torridly at the beginning of ACC play to cover nine in a row. Virginia finished 19-2 straight-up, 15-4-2 against the spread versus its conference.

Virginia and Villanova get the easiest round-of-64 tests, according to the point spreads, out of any teams with their seeds. No. 3 seed Iowa State fans are jealous.

The Cyclones have the toughest No. 3 seed vs. No. 14 seed game of the tournament by a rather large four points as they are minus-8 against North Carolina Central Friday in San Antonio.

Perhaps Cyclone Nation is simply on edge by this year’s team getting called the best Iowa State group since 2001. That was the No. 2 seed group, led by Jamaal Tinsley, that lost 58-57 to No. 15 seed Hampton as a 17.5-point favorite in the first round.

The stunner held as Vegas’ biggest point-spread upset in the tournament for more than a decade until No. 15 seed Norfolk State bumped No. 2 seed Missouri 86-84 as 21.5-point underdogs in 2012.

North Carolina Central is the second-most experienced team in the tournament, according to Pomeroy, but it would take a shimmering showing to knock off Iowa State. Although sports books aren’t particularly enthralled with the Cyclones — their 9 percent chance to reach the Final Four at the Superbook is the lowest among No. 3 seeds — their offense can paralyze opponents.

They lead the nation in assists with DeAndre Kane dishing six per game. Kane adds 17 points per game, but trails Big 12 Player of the Year Melvin Ejim with an average of 18 as Iowa State’s leading scorer.

Iowa State joins Michigan State and Virginia in coming off a conference tournament championship, making the East the only region with three of its top four teams entering the tournament a few days after hoisting a trophy.

The Cyclones’ fan base could ask No. 5 seed Cincinnati’s followers for information on where to find the complaint box. The Bearcats can’t celebrate their draw, which played into the Superbook’s odds giving them just a 3 percent chance to win the East.

Not only is Michigan State possibly on deck, but Cincinnati must first get through No. 12 seed Harvard. Las Vegas rates the Crimson as closer to a No. 9 seed, according to Don Best, than a No. 12.

Four of the top six players from last year’s No. 14 seed Harvard team that eliminated New Mexico 68-62 as a 10.5-point underdog are back. The Crimson get just three points from the Bearcats, which cause matchup problems for any team with seniors Sean Kilpatrick and Justin Johnson forming the best duo in the country according to at least one statistical measure.

Odds figure both No. 6 seed North Carolina and No. 7 seed Connecticut as more than twice as likely to get to the Final Four over Cincinnati. The Tarheels and Huskies have a 6.6 percent chance.

They have nearly identical challenges in their first games, too. North Carolina and UConn take on red-hot conference-tournament champions Big East and Atlantic 10, respectively.

Saint Joseph’s, which is plus-4.5 against UConn, and Providence, plus-4 versus North Carolina, each won outright as underdogs in two of three games during their conference tournament runs last weekend.

The Tarheels are a riot to watch this season, what with their breakneck pace and bizarre results. North Carolina plays with the sixth fastest tempo in the tournament, according to Pomeroy, but extra possessions haven’t cut down on its volatility.

North Carolina is 9-10 against the spread since the New Year. Sounds pretty normal, right? Not at all. The Tarheels covered nine in a row in the middle of the stretch, with five against the spread losses to bookend the streak. It’s a mini-mystery every time they’re on the court.

On second thought, dismiss the earlier motion to parch the East of all its games. There’s enough sustenance from top to bottom to allow the bracket to play out.

Pick: Virginia at 3-to-1 The way I see it, three teams have about an equal chance to reach the Final Four from this bracket — Michigan State, Villanova and Virginia. The price on the Spartans is too chalky, so it’s between the Cavaliers and the Wildcats for the bet. I’ll lean to the one that can take any opponent out of their element with smothering defense.

East Region Picks Against The Spread (in order of confidence)

Note: It’s unprofitable to bet every game, but I’ll pick all of them throughout the tournament here and track the record. Can’t do much worse than last year’s 32-34-1 record. I did wind up 4.5 units ahead on last week’s conference tournament preview.

No. 14 seed North Carolina Central plus-9 over No. 3 seed Iowa State

No. 5 seed Cincinnati minus-3 over No. 12 seed Harvard

No. 9 seed George Washington plus-3 over No. 8 seed Memphis

No. 10 seed Saint Joseph’s plus-4.5 over No. 7 seed UConn

No. 2 seed Villanova minus-16 over No. 15 seed Milwaukee

No. 16 seed Coastal Carolina plus-21 over No. 1 seed Virginia

No. 6 seed North Carolina minus-4 over No. 11 seed Providence

No. 13 seed Delaware plus-14.5 over No. 4 seed Michigan State

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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