March Madness 2019: NCAA Tournament Seeds, Sleepers, Upsets And Bracket Busters

Duke Basketball(USA TODAY Sports)`

The Field of 68 is set and March Madness is a few short days away. While the Super Bowl is the best single day of the year for sports betting, the NCAA Tournament is the best week. Sports betting and bracket pools have made March Madness a four-day event that ranges from pro gamblers to casual fans. As expected, Duke is the 2/1 favorite to win the tournament, followed by Gonzaga (5/1), North Carolina (6/1) and Virginia (8/1).

Now that the field is set and bubbles have burst, we break down each region, giving our initial reaction with sleepers, upsets and bracket busters. Make sure to check back all week as we’ll be covering the NCAA Tournament from a sports betting perspective, including information from multiple oddsmakers. Let’s dance!

East Region

Over-Seeded: Maryland (6)

The Terps stumbled down the stretch, losing seven of their final 13 games. Maryland split with Purdue and Wisconsin this year but lost to Virginia, Michigan State and Michigan (twice). The Terps will be lucky to escape the opening round where a potential meeting with Belmont awaits.

Under-Seeded: Yale (14)

Yale got a tough draw versus SEC regular season champions LSU. I thought the Bulldogs might grab a 13-seed after winning the regular season and tournament titles in the Ivy League. However, the Bulldogs didn’t play an overly-tough schedule with their best non-conference wins coming over Miami and Cal. You can also argue Louisville is too low as a seven seed. The ACC is the toughest conference in America and the Cardinals got a seven, while Maryland landed a six seed.

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Sleeper: Belmont

Belmont got the final bid into the tournament and they will be a popular pick to make noise. The Bruins play fast (31st in Pace of Play) and averages 87.4 points per game (2nd in the nation). There was some question if Belmont would make the tournament after losing in the finals of the Ohio Valley Tournament to Murray State but now that they are in the field, the Bruins are dangerous.

Most Likely First Round Upset: Yale over LSU

While Yale got a tough draw, they are a dangerous 14 seed with a legitimate shot to pull a first-round upset. Remember, LSU enters the tournament without suspended head coach Will Wade. KenPom ranks Yale 44th in offensive efficiency and the Bulldogs average over 80 points a game. If Yale can prevent LSU from dominating the boards, they can pull the shocker.

Potential Bracket Buster: Liberty

Liberty is a tough matchup for No. 5 seed Mississippi State. The Flames play slow, ranking 349th in adjusted tempo. The Bulldogs run hot and cold and tend to have lapses on defense. Liberty is the type of team that can frustrate them and bog the game down. A win over Mississippi State and Liberty will face wither Virginia Tech or St. Louis. Liberty is a dark horse Sweet 16 squad.

Midwest Region

Over-Seeded: Kansas (4)

It’s not surprising but the committee gave blue blood Kansas a favorable seed. Listen, the Jayhawks always play a tough schedule and that should be rewarded. However, Kansas didn’t win the Big 12 regular season or tournament championship this year. Injuries and poor play on the road make the typically-powerful Jayhawks an early upset candidate this season.

Under-Seeded: Utah State (8)

I really thought the Aggies were headed for a seven seed after winning the Mountain West tournament. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had Utah State playing in the 7-10 game but the committee disagreed. It’s a tough break for Utah State because a win over Washington means a date with North Carolina. It’s also bad news for UNC because if there is one team that can upset a No. 1 seed on the first weekend, it’s Utah State. The Aggies are well-coached, play great defense and can shoot the three. Utah State is a dangerous second round opponent for the Tar Heels.

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Sleeper: New Mexico State

Speaking of Aggies, don’t sleep on New Mexico State. They finished 30-4 and are one of the deepest teams in the country. A ridiculous 13 players average double-digit minutes for New Mexico State. I’ve never heard of that before. Auburn drew the short end of the stick by getting the Aggies in Round 1. The Tigers live and die by the three-point shot and New Mexico State allows teams to shoot just 33 percent from beyond the arch. I have the Aggies reaching the Sweet 16.

Most Likely First Round Upset: New Mexico State over Auburn

Read above. Auburn is extremely talented but New Mexico State matches up well with the Tigers. The Aggies are athletic and deep and if Auburn isn’t hot from long range, the Tigers’ stay in the tournament will be a short one.

Potential Bracket Buster: Northeastern

I mentioned above that Kansas is over-seeded. While that may be true, the committee didn’t do the Jayhawks any favors by matching them up with gritty Northeastern. I had a few teams written down that were bad opening round matchups for Kansas. Northeastern was one of the teams on the list. The Huskies enter the tournament winners of seven straight and 16 of their last 18 games. The Jayhawks have struggled away from home, which makes a Northeastern-New Mexico State matchup in the second round a possibility.

South Region

Over-Seeded: Ole Miss (8)

There aren’t many teams over-seeded in this region. I’ll go with Ole Miss. I thought the Rebels were barely on the right side of the bubble but the committee had Ole Miss safely in with an eight seed. The Rebels lost five of their last seven games and went 7-10 to close the season. Ole Miss is a 10 seed disguised as an eight seed.

Under-Seeded: Cincinnati (7)

Cincinnati got the seven seed in the South and in my opinion, the Bearcats are the most under-seeded team in the tournament. Cincinnati won the AAC Tournament and has a NET ranking of 25. Not sure what the committee’s thought process is with Cincinnati being a seven. I had them as a five after winning the tournament and at worst, a six seed. It’s bad news for No. 10 seed Iowa. Cincinnati is a terrible first round matchup for the inconsistent Hawkeyes.

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Sleeper: UC Irvine

Irvine is a dangerous 13 seed. The Anteaters are one of the top defensive teams in the country and can compete with bigger schools on the boards. Irvine is led by guards Max Howard (12.5 PPG) and Evan Leonard (11.1 PPG). When looking for a sleeper, teams that are experienced, play tough defense and possess strong guards are great candidates. The Anteaters have all those things and will be a tough out.

Most Likely First Round Upset: UC Irvine over Kansas State

You have to feel bad for Kansas State. Not only could the Wildcats be without Dean Wade (12.9 PPG and 6.2 RPG), who missed the Big 12 Tournament with a foot injury, now they must face one of the most dangerous mid-major teams in the tournament. UC Irvine is tied for the most true road wins in the country with 13. They can play and it won’t be a major upset if Kansas State goes home early.

Potential Bracket Buster: Colgate

Tennessee will be heavily favored to advance past Colgate but the three ball is the great equalizer in college basketball and the Red Raiders can shoot the three. Colgate ranks 23rd in the country, shooting 38.3 percent from long range. It seems like every year a 15 puts a scare into a two seed. It could be Colgate this year if they have a hot shooting night.

West Region

Over-Seeded: St. John’s (11)

St. John’s was the last team in the tournament and the Red Storm should thank their lucky stars they got a bid at all. The Red Storm lost four of their final five games, all by double-digits. Sometimes bubble teams limping into the tournament surprise but the more likely scenario is the Red Storm don’t make it out of Dayton.

Under-Seeded: Buffalo (6)

The West region is loaded and no one is really under-seeded. An argument can be made though that Buffalo should be on the five line. The Bulls not only dominated the MAC, they own road wins over power conference teams West Virginia and Syracuse. Two of Buffalo’s three losses came by a combined six points. The Bulls have been one of the most consistent teams in the country all year and probably should have been seeded higher.

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Sleeper: Florida

If Florida beats Nevada, it will be a tough opponent for a likely matchup against Michigan. Florida underachieved this season but the talent is there for the Gators to make a run in the tournament. A game versus Michigan could turn into an ugly, defensive slugfest. Get past the Wolverines and an Elite 8 run is within reach for the Gators.

Most Likely First Round Upset Murray State over Marquette

So many people will take Ja Morant and Murray State in their brackets, it really won’t be an upset. If you like fun, high-scoring games, tune into this matchup. Not only will Morant be on display but Marquette is led by Big East Player of the Year Markus Howard. If you can bet the most likely first round game to go down the final shot, this one would be the favorite.

Potential Bracket Buster: Montana

Michigan probably drew the toughest 15 seed in Montana. The Grizzlies are an experienced team that are returning to the NCAA Tournament for the second-straight year. Who did they play last season? Michigan. The Wolverines beat Montana 61-47. The Grizz should be in better position to pull an upset this time around. Montana shoots the three well and ranks sixth in effective FG% by KenPom. Michigan can get in offensive ruts where it has trouble scoring. If that happens against Montana, the Grizzlies will be in the game late with a chance to shock the world.

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