Alabama is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, but it’s got some significant competition in its own region.
Alabama is the favorite to emerge from the South region at +190, but it’s no sure thing that the Crimson Tide will get through the field and into the Final Four. With veteran teams like Arizona (+450), Baylor (+550) and Creighton also on Alabama’s side of the bracket, the path to the Final Four is going to be challenging. That doesn’t even include Virginia, a program accustomed to making runs deep into March.
Here’s a betting preview of the South region:
BetMGM odds to win South region
1. Alabama (+190 to make Final Four, +800 to win national title)
2. Arizona (+450, +1200)
3. Baylor (+550, +1800)
4. Virginia (+1200, +4000)
5. San Diego State (+875, +8000)
6. Creighton (+800, +4000)
7. Missouri (+5000, +20000)
8. Maryland (+2200, +8000)
9. West Virginia (+1800, +12500)
10. Utah State (+3000, +20000)
11. NC State (+5000, +15000)
12. College of Charleston (+8000, +25000)
13. Furman (+10000, +50000)
14. UC Santa Barbara (+10000, +100000)
15. Princeton (+10000, +100000)
16. Texas A&M Corpus Christi /Southeast Missouri State (+10000, +100000)
Alabama (+190): With all of the off-court controversy surrounding star freshman Brandon Miller, Alabama hit a bit of a lull toward the end of the regular season. The Crimson Tide found themselves facing first-half deficits in three consecutive games, including an overtime win over lowly South Carolina, before dropping the regular season finale at Texas A&M. But the Tide rebounded in a big way by cruising through the SEC tournament. Alabama won all three of its tournament games by double digits and seems to have re-established some momentum going into the NCAA tournament.
Arizona (+450): Arizona has had two tremendous seasons since the hire of Tommy Lloyd and is riding high off a Pac-12 tournament title victory on Saturday night. The Wildcats have some international flare on their roster led by the big man duo of Azuolas Tubelis (Lithuania) and Oumar Ballo (Mali). Both average nearly a double-double per game and are complemented by a group of five guards who all play major minutes. As a No. 2 seed, the Wildcats drew Princeton in the first round and will be significant favorites in the Round of 32 against either Missouri or Utah State. No. 3 seed Baylor (+550) is on the same side of the bracket, but Arizona has been playing better ball over the last month.
Creighton (+800): Creighton is a dangerous team. The Bluejays, a No. 6 seed, were viewed as one of the best teams in the country in the preseason but it took a while for that to come to fruition. After some early season struggles, they won 11 of their final 14 regular season games. Creighton has five players who average at least 11.9 points per game with 7-foot-1 center Ryan Kalkbrenner leading the way with 15.4. Kalkbrenner was the Big East’s defensive player of the year in addition to leading his team in scoring. If the Bluejays avoid a first-round upset, they should have the guard play (Baylor Scheierman, Ryan Nembhard, Trey Alexander) to match up well with No. 3 seed Baylor in the Round of 32.
Virginia (+1200): Getting a No. 4 seed at +1200 is worth a look, especially when it’s a program with so much NCAA tournament experience. Virginia plays at such a slow, deliberate pace that it has the ability to beat teams you wouldn’t expect. Losing starting forward Ben Vander Plas last week was a tough blow, but Tony Bennett’s team has good guard play and always defends.
Missouri (+1.5) over Utah State: Utah State is a good team with balanced scoring that is very efficient on offense, but I worry about USU’s ability to compete with a physical team like Missouri for 40 minutes. Mizzou’s Kobe Brown is one of the most underrated players in the country and he leads a hard-nosed group of guards for head coach Dennis Gates. You have to be able to win ugly in the NCAA tournament, and I think Missouri is more equipped to do so.
West Virginia (-2) over Maryland: Jahmir Young had an excellent year for Maryland but he has been struggling to shoot the ball late in the season. The Terps have some other scoring options, but they’re all so inconsistent. WVU has the guards who can make things difficult for Young and is more battle-tested coming out of the Big 12. I’ll ride with the Mountaineers.