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Breaking down the bracket: East Region betting preview

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Why has Purdue been saddled with the dishonor of being widely considered the most vulnerable 1-seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament?

Maybe it was the 2-4 stretch in February, its recent poor handling of the full-court press, its reputation as a one-man team, or Matt Painter's history of poor Tournament results. Are those reasons enough?

It doesn't help that there's an armada of big-brand challengers in the East Region:

Odds to win the East Region

Along with the odds to make the Final Four, we've included my point spread rating for each team. Take the difference in teams' ratings to project a fair point spread for a potential matchup later in the tournament.

TEAM (Seed) ODDS RATING
Purdue (1) +225 40.5
Marquette (2) +370 38.5
Tennessee (4) +600 37.5
Duke (5) +750 39.5
Kentucky (6) +900 36
Kansas State (3) +1100 36.5
Michigan State (7) +1500 35.5
Memphis (8) +1700 37
Florida Atlantic (9) +2800 36.5
USC (10) +2800 34.5
Providence (11) +3000 34
Oral Roberts (12) +8000 33.5
Louisiana (13) +10000 30
Vermont (15) +10000 28.5
Montana State (14) +20000 28.5
Texas Southern (16) +25000 19
Fairleigh Dickinson (16) +25000 17.5

First-round bets to make

(13) Louisiana vs. (4) Tennessee (-10.5, )

This line opened way off at -13; within the hour, it was down to -10.5. That reflects only a minor downgrade for Tennessee without Zakai Zeigler. In three games away from Thompson-Boling Arena since they lost their point guard for the season, the Vols lost comfortably to mid-level NCAA Tournament teams in Auburn and Missouri.

The Ragin' Cajuns won the increasingly competitive Sun Belt and have rare size with their leading scorer, 6-11 Jordan Brown, and 6-7 senior forward Terence Lewis, along with 6-3 guard Greg Williams. This trio won't look out of place against the Vols, and this line should be lower than 10.5 in Ziegler's absence.

Pick: Louisiana (+10.5)

(14) Montana State vs. (3) Kansas State (-8.5, 139.5)

Although Kansas State was overseeded as the No. 3, the team's opponent is quietly dangerous. While you'll hear about Keyontae Johnson's comeback story, this team is in for a great battle with Montana State. Raequan Battle (17 points per game) and Great Osobor - one of two British forwards averaging double figures - lead the Bobcats, who lost just three close games since the calendar turned to 2023. While the Big Sky isn't the Big 12, this may be the upset that hasn't been predicted by everyone at the water cooler.

Pick: Montana State (+8.5)

(10) USC vs. (7) Michigan State (-2, 137.5)

Tom Izzo gets a lot of reverence because of his eight Final Fours trips, but Michigan State has just one Sweet 16 appearance since 2015. However, the Spartans get Andy Enfield and USC. Outside of a regional final appearance when they had Evan and Isaiah Mobley, the Trojans have done nothing in postseason play since Enfield joined them in 2013.

Call it one last bit of blind faith thanks to a roster loaded with seniors, but we'll ride with Izzo's group to get at least one win and be live for an upset in Round 2.

Pick: Michigan State (-2)

Second-round bet to target

(8) Memphis / 9) Florida Atlantic vs. (1) Purdue

Only 31% of brackets have Florida Atlantic advancing in what should be lined as a coin flip against Memphis in the first round, but the Owls are just as likely as the Tigers to knock off Purdue in the second.

Both teams can press the Boilermakers, but they may not have to. The Tigers' Kendric Davis and DeAndre Williams are arguably the most dangerous duo in the country. Meanwhile, the 31-3 Owls can bring in 7-foot-1 center Vladislav Goldin to match up with Player of the Year shoo-in Zach Edey while rotating seven guards for more than 20 minutes per game.

Pick: Memphis / Florida Atlantic (+3.5 or better)

Best value bet to win the East Region

Nine teams are within 4.5 points of each other in the ratings, which means there'll be some real toss-ups after the first round. Marquette has already made its move up the oddsboard, so we're going to take the team with the highest ceiling: Duke.

The usual arguments against the Blue Devils revolve around their defense and lack of in-game adjustments. This season, they're 24th in adjusted defensive efficiency on KenPom.com. Jon Scheyer has now become acclimated as head coach after realizing Kyle Filipowski is one of the country's best players and Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively should be in supporting roles. He also received a blessing in disguise when Jeremy Roach's absence forced him to give Tyrese Proctor a more prominent role at the point.

With three of its top five freshmen in a position for success, Duke would be riding a 10-game win streak had officials not botched the final seconds at Virginia. There are opportunities for the Blue Devils to pull off some upsets, and the market is reacting quickly to upgrade them, making this the rare instance where securing a price now is the play.

Pick: Duke (+750)

Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

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