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NCAA Tournament Analysis: Alabama, Houston Top Choices

Charleston a Favorite Among No. 12 Seeds

If previous NCAA Tournaments have proven nothing else, it has shown that we don’t know what we don’t know. There is certain to be a team from the Power-5 conferences that, although thought to be a title contender, won’t even make it to the regionals while double-digit seeds are sure to make many people rip up their brackets in frustration.

There was some movement in the championship odds once the field of 68 was announced. Alabama is not only the No. 1 overall seed but, according to the March Madness predictions, the Crimson Tide is tied with Houston for the best odds to be cutting down the nets next month.

Brandon Miller #24 of the Alabama Crimson
Brandon Miller #24 of the Alabama Crimson - Andy Lyons/Getty Images/afp

Alabama moved up from fourth to first in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and received 48 of the 61 first-place votes. Houston, Purdue, Kansas and Texas round out the top five.

The West Region features four of the top 10 ranked teams with No. 4 Kansas joined by No. 7 UCLA, No. 9 Gonzaga and No. 10 UConn and that will make for some tough decisions for those making March Madness expert picks.

Get ready because after an unpredictable regular season and more upsets in conference tournament play, things could get rather chaotic.

Here’s a look at some of the numbers as the tournament is set to get underway with play-in games on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Looking at the Contenders

Heading into their respective conference championship games, Houston was priced at +600 with Alabama tied for second at +800 in the national championship odds according to the odds to win March Madness.

Alabama and Houston are now tied at +650 followed by Kansas and Purdue at +1200. Alabama and Purdue won conference titles while Houston and Kansas were not as fortunate.

Purdue has Big East tournament champion Marquette (+2000), ACC tourney winner Duke (+2500) and American Athletic Conference tournament champion Memphis (+7000) in this bracket.

It is interesting that Marquette is viewed as having the longest odds among the No. 2 seeds, even though Purdue holds the same distinction among the No. 1 seeds.

Houston’s odds could fluctuate a bit once more is known about the availability of leading scorer Marcus Sasser and that will leave those making March Madness picks with some decision to make.

Planting the Seeds

There’s not much to separate the No. 2 seeds in the Midwest, Southeast, and West regions with Texas, Arizona, and UCLA all priced at +1400.

It is a different story as we move down the bracket.

The best odds for a No. 3 seed is Gonzaga (+1400) in the West. UConn (+2000) leads the way among the No. 4 seeds while Duke (+2500) has the top odds for No. 5 seeds. Sixth seeds Kentucky, TCU and Creighton are all at +4000.

When it comes to double-digit seeds, all four No. 10 seeds are priced at +20000 with Penn State (Midwest), Southern California (East), Utah State (Southeast) and Boise State (West) joined by North Carolina State (No. 11 seed in the Southeast Region) and Providence (No. 11 seed in the East) as teams viewed as having the potential to be bracket busters.

The 5-12 games always draw plenty of action from lovers of early-round upsets. Charleston, which will play San Diego in the first round in the Southeast, leads the way for No. 12 seeds at +30000.

Breaking Down the Regions

Houston would seem to have the clearest path to the Final Four with the Cougars coming at +150 to win the Midwest Region and Texas priced at +500.

Penn State, coming off a run to the Big Ten title game, is the top choice among the double-digit seeds at +1800 with 12th-seeded Drake at +6600.

Alabama (+170) leads Arizona (+450) and Baylor (+650) in the South. Ninth-seeded West Virginia (+1600), No. 11 North Carolina State (+4000) and No. 10 Utah State (+4000) are teams to watch when it comes to bracket wrecking.

Things are pretty tight in the other two regions when it comes to the Las Vegas March Madness odds.

Purdue (+325) leads Marquette (+400), Tennessee (+500) Duke (+550), Kentucky (+850) and Kansas State (+900) in the East. Keep an eye on No. 11 seed Providence (+4000).

In the West, Kansas (+300) is being pursued by UCLA (+350), Gonzaga (+400) and UConn (+500). No. 9 seed Illinois (+2500) could be waiting for Kansas in the second round.

Getting Ready to Rumble

Before any of the contenders hit the court, there will be play-in games in all four regions. It starts at 6:40 p.m ET on Tuesday when Southeast Missouri State plays Texas A&M Corpus Christi, with the winner drawing No. 1 overall seed Alabama. That is followed by Pittsburgh and Mississippi State meeting at 9:10 p.m. The winner of that game meets Iowa State.

Texas A&M Corpus Christi (-4) and Mississippi State (-1½) are the favorites according to the sportsbook. On Wednesday, Texas Southern is favored by two points against Fairleigh Dickinson with the winner drawing Purdue. Arizona State (-2) is favored versus Nevada with the winner advancing to meet Texas Christian.

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