The South Region appears to be fairly top-heavy, as there doesn’t appear to be a lot that the teams behind the top four can do in this bracket. One might pull an upset of a favored team here and there, but winning four games and getting to New Orleans seems like it’s a little out of reach for the lower seeds.
Still, there’s value to be had if you’re willing to look in the right spot. With every team offering plus money in this region, there’s a good chance to make a few dollars here.
The Wildcats have dominated the Pac-12, but there’s a real question about whether or not the Pac-12 was any good this year. UCLA was a Final Four team last year, but the Bruins haven’t quite put it together this year, and USC staggered into the tournament and might be easy prey in the first round. Other than that, the Pac-12 didn’t produce any other tournament teams.
The last team to beat the Wildcats was Colorado, and that was more because the Wildcats went to a nosedive and couldn’t hit anything in the second half in Boulder. However, Arizona’s turnovers could be a real problem, and the Wildcats haven’t really played a close game in a while and might not know how to handle getting pushed by a good team in a pressure spot.
The Value Play: Tennessee, +400
It’s hard to find a team that’s playing better basketball than Tennessee, as the Volunteers dominated the SEC tournament and really should have had a higher seed than what they got. Plus, the Vols have already beaten Arizona before, as the Wildcats came to Knoxville and left with a four-point loss.
That said, Tennessee has a history of earning a high seed and flaming out early in recent years. In three straight tournaments, the Volunteers have been eliminated by a lower seed, and two of those losses have come to a double-digit seed. The Vols will also have to play great defense to get the job done, as they shoot just 42.9 percent from the field, nowhere near good enough to win a game with offense alone.
The Sleeper: Illinois, +800
There really isn’t much in the way of a sleeper in this region, so the best option here is the team with possibly the most feared center in the region. Kofi Cockburn can turn a game around by himself if he’s having a good day, as he’s the most dominant rebounder in the South Region and played a large role in Illinois winning the Big Ten’s regular-season title. However, this is a bit of a risk because Illinois’ guards have been suspect at times and all it would take is one instance of foul trouble from Cockburn to take the Illini out of their rhythm.
Team to Avoid: Villanova, +300
When the shots aren’t dropping, the Wildcats are in big trouble. Villanova is just too streaky for me, and I’m not sold on the Big East as a whole this season. The fact that Providence won the league says that it’s likely in for a fall when we get to NCAA tournament play. I think the Wildcats could lose to Loyola, and I just do not trust them at all.
Tennessee has beaten Arizona once and can do it again. The Volunteers’ history of coming up short scares me, but they seem to be playing their best basketball right now and came through a rugged SEC this year. This seems to be Rick Barnes’ time with the Vols; I’ll take Tennessee at +400.
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