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March Madness Betting: 2014 Midwest Region Preview & Picks

MIDWEST REGION PREDICTIONS – 2014

Many have been quick to say that the Midwest is one of the weaker regions in the nation, but those people are simply flat out wrong.

The region features three of the Final Four participants from a year ago, starting at the top with the undefeated Wichita State Shockers. Michigan is slotted in at No. 2 after losing the Big Ten title game, and Louisville is in at No. 3 after running roughshod over an AAC that just got no respect from the selection committee.

Those teams will be joined by a pair of teams whose March resumes stack up against anyone, in third-seeded Duke and ninth-seeded Kentucky. Each of those teams will bring one of the nation’s top freshman to town, as the Blue Devils’ Jabari Parker and the Wildcats’ Julius Randle look to make some noise in their first tournament.

The region also features three First Four games, with Cal Poly and Texas Southern set to play for a shot at Wichita State, N.C. State and Xavier battling for a date with Saint Louis, and Iowa and Tennessee locking horns for the right to play UMass.

Odds to win WEST Region from Bovada:

Favorites

No. 4 Louisville Cardinals
Odds to win Midwest Region: +160
Odds to win Tournament: +650

The Cardinals’ receiving a fourth-seed was the biggest surprise offered up on Selection Sunday. The team went into the AAC tournament ranked as the No. 5 team in the country in the Week 19 AP poll and went on to demolish all comers in the tournament en route to the inaugural American crown, but that didn’t seem to score them any points with the selection committee, which didn’t take kindly to the new AAC. Still, Louisville is the defending champion and brings a laser-focused and highly competitive Russ Smith, along with the emerging Montrezl Harrell to the competition with them, and head coach Rick Pitino knows his way around this tournament.

No. 3 Duke Blue Devils
Odds to win Midwest Region: +350
Odds to win Tournament: +1200

Duke has a lot more talent than people think, and it goes beyond just Jabari Parker. The team can make some noise because of their ability to hit the three-ball, though that also makes them vulnerable when that shot isn’t falling. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski has been able to smooth out bigger issues than that in the past.

No. 1 Wichita State Shockers
Odds to win Midwest Region: +400
Odds to win Tournament: +1000

Wichita State is the first team to advance to the tournament with an undefeated record since UNLV accomplished the feat in 1991. The problem is they compiled that record on the backs of far inferior opponents – their best win may have been over Tennessee.

No. 2 Michigan Wolverines
Odds to win Midwest Region: +550
Odds to win Tournament: +2000

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride. The Wolverines made it to the title game a year ago but couldn’t close the deal. This year, the team lost in the Big Ten title game, costing itself a shot at a No. 1 seed. Head coach John Beilein is one of the more underappreciated bench bosses in the country.
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Contenders

No. 8 Kentucky Wildcats
Odds to win Midwest Region: +1200
Odds to win Tournament: +3300

The Wildcats have all the talent in the world, but turning that into success on the court has proven troublesome in the past. The trouble they’ve had with Florida, the best team on their schedule, makes their chances of making a run seem unlikely.

No. 5 Saint Louis Billikens
Odds to win Midwest Region: +2000
Odds to win Tournament: +10000

Saint Louis enters the tournament as a relative unknown despite spending much of the season inside the AP poll. The team faltered down the stretch which doesn’t bode well for its Tournament hopes.

Sleeper

No. 11 Iowa Hawkeyes
Odds to win Midwest Region: +2500
Odds to win Tournament: +7500

The Hawkeyes will have to play their way in to the tournament, but don’t be surprised if they make some noise once they get there. The team can score points and gets strong point guard play.

No. 6 Massachusetts Minutemen
Odds to win Midwest Region: +4000
Odds to win Tournament: +10000

UMass was a favorite in the AP poll for much of the early part of the year, but they’ve largely gone unnoticed. The selection committee surely noticed them, slotting the Minutemen in as a six-seed.

Predictions:

1. Louisville wins three of their four regional games by double-digits
2. Kentucky is the betting favorite in their round of 32 matchup with Wichita State
3. Arizona State beats Texas and gives Michigan a run for their money
4. Duke will not make the Sweet 16
5. Selection committee members regret making Wichita State a top seed

The play: Louisville +160

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