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March Madness South Region: Houston Final Four Favorite

There are more questions than answers among the top contenders to reach the Final Four out of the South Region with top-seeded Houston being run off the court in the Big 12 tournament final and Marquette’s star point guard Tyler Kolek missing the Big East tournament. Houston is favored by the Las Vegas odds to win this region.

Things get underway with the First Four game between Colorado and Boise State, with the Buffaloes listed by the college basketball betting lines as the slight favorite. The first round in the South Region begins when the freshmen-laden Kentucky Wildcats face Oakland on Thursday as a double-digit favorite.

March Madness South Region: Houston Final Four Favorite
Jamal Shead #1 of the Houston Cougars | Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images/AFP

Each of the top 10 seeds in this bracket earned at-large bids with Kentucky and Duke among the contenders looking to bounce back after early exits in their conference tournaments.

When looking at our odds of winning March Madness, Houston (+600) is the favorite in the odds of winning the national title among teams in the South Region. Kentucky is next at +2000 followed by Marquette at +2500 and Duke at +3500.

Are the Cougars Ready to Pounce?

Houston appeared to be in a position to earn the No. 1 overall seed in the March Madness bracket before a humbling showing in the Big 12 title game. Those who bet online aren’t ready to write off the Cougars just yet.

The Cougars will likely need to play either Duke or Big Ten tournament finalist Wisconsin just to reach the regional final and both of those could be challenging matchups.

Houston won the regular-season title by two games in its first season in the Big 12 and went 6-2 against ranked teams. The Cougars are second nationally in defensive efficiency according to the Pomeroy college basketball ratings and their ability to shut teams down will give them a chance to return to the Final Four.

If there is a concern, it is that Houston’s top three scorers are all under 6-foot-4 so this is a team that is a little reliant on its perimeter players.

Former Champions Ready for the Madness

Kentucky and Duke have combined to win 14 national titles. However, the last championship for Kentucky came in 2012 and Duke’s most recent title was in 2015.

A potential regional semifinal between Marquette and Kentucky could feature a Marquette team with either juniors or seniors as the top five scorers on the team. Four of Kentucky’s top six point producers are freshmen. North Carolina State is coming off a stunning run to the ACC tournament title and is lurking as a No. 11 seed.

Duke may need to contend with Wisconsin and a frontcourt led by 7-footer Steven Crowl and 6-foot-9 Tyler Wahl around to make life difficult for Duke star Kyle Filipowski.

Injuries to Monitor

Marquette has been without Tyler Kolek, who leads the nation in assists per game, since late in the regular season. He is expected to play but there are concerns about forward Oso Ighodaro.

Nebraska’s C.J. Wilcher is questionable for the matchup with Texas A&M.

Colorado’s Julian Hammond hasn’t played since mid-February.

North Carolina State won the ACC tournament even with guard Dennis Parker sidelined.

Vermont’s fourth-leading scorer, Matt Veretto, has been out of action since late February while Caleb Foster, one of six Duke players to average more than 25 minutes per game, is out.

Who is on Upset Alert?

Wisconsin had lost three of four before showing some signs of life in the regular-season finale against Maryland. That set the stage for a strong Big Ten tournament showing but this is a team that is hard to have much confidence in.

The injuries that Marquette is dealing with are a little concerning as well.

Five Players to Watch

  • Rob Dillingham, Kentucky: Dillingham is one of the talented freshmen for Kentucky and had 27 points in a losing cause in the SEC tournament against Texas A&M.
  • Terrence Edwards, James Madison: Edwards is a triple-double threat each time he steps onto the court.
  • Kyle Filipowski, Duke: The Blue Devils’ leading scorer and rebounder has topped 20 points in three of his last four games.
  • Tyler Kolek, Marquette: Kolek is set to return and that makes Marquette a very dangerous team. He may need to shake off the rust in the March Madness opener.
  • Jamal Shead, Houston: Shead was just 10-of-36 from the field in the Big 12 tournament. If that continues, it will be hard for Houston to reach the Final Four.

A Look at the Schedule

Colorado is a slight favorite against Boise State in the First Four game on Wednesday and that is a game that could come down to the last possession or two.

The first round begins with No. 3 Kentucky as a double-digit favorite according to the Las Vegas odds against Oakland on Thursday night in Pittsburgh. Can North Carolina State continue to defy the odds as a 5½-point underdog against Texas Tech?

Things heat up on Friday with the other six matchups. Marquette is favored by 13½ points and Duke is also a double-digit favorite in its game with Vermont. Nebraska is a slight favorite in an 8-9 game against Texas A&M that is drawing attention since the Aggies just hired away athletic director Trev Alberts from Nebraska.

Houston is not expected to have any issues with No. 16 seed Longwood while Florida awaits the Colorado-Boise State winner.



Questions Of The Day

Which team had the best odds to win the South Region title?

Houston is priced at +150 to win the South Region with Marquette and Kentucky at +450.

Are any lower-seeded teams favored in the first round in the East Regional?

All the higher-seeded teams in the South Regional bracket are currently listed by the Las Vegas odds as the favorite.

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