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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Breaking Down the Bracket

Wild on Sports
Breaking Down the Bracket
By Wild on Sports Analyst Jason Gillson

It's here! March Madness is finally here! Tuesday night kicked off the 2014 NCAA Tournament with Albany and NC State winning play in games and the rights to get their socks knocked off by the big dogs in the opening round. With that in play lets take a look at each region and the favorites to cut down the nets in Texas.

South Region
Memphis, Tennessee
Favorite: Florida
Contenders: Kansas, Syracuse
Dark Horse: UCLA
Florida is the top team in the land going into the tournament and will open things up as the the odds on favorite and #1 seed in the South. Their first victim is likely to be last night's play in winner Albany. While they are unlikely to lose too much sweat in that one, there are a few teams that could give them a run for their money in the later rounds. Their chief competition will come from #2 Kansas - a projected #1 for much of the season but faded a bit down the stretch. Kansas will be without Joel Embiid for the first weekend. If they can survive that and get him back somewhat healthy, they have a chance. Also in the mix will be #3 Syracuse. Cuse was the #1 country in the land for a few weeks back in January but have run into some tough times over the last few weeks. Their sharp shooters that were leading the way have gone cold. If Tyler Ennis and company can get things going again they can be dangerous. One team to keep an eye on is #4 seed UCLA. The Bruins won the Pac-12 beating fellow tournament teams Oregon, Stanford and then #1 Arizona along the way. They have the momentum to catch some teams off guard.
Odds of Winning Title:
Florida 5:1
Kansas 10:1
Syracuse 18:1
UCLA 45:1

East Region
New York, NY
Favorites: Virginia, Michigan St.
Contender: Iowa St.
Dark Horse: North Carolina
Michigan St a #4 seed? Wow, tough break for top seed Virginia. Realistically, there are three teams in this Region that could  have a shot at the final four - #1 Virginia, #3 Iowa St and #4 Michigan St. Virgina comes in as ACC Champion, really surprising those who had them pegged for the middle of the pack in that conference pre-season. They have shown that they can tango with the big boys -- knocking off Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina and Pittsburgh twice. The name of the game is defense and in a division known for scoring they gave up a league low 55.3 points per game. If they can find ways to shut down more talented offensive teams, they have a good chance. Their primary competition will come from Michigan St. The Spartans were a pre-season #1 but were bitten pretty hard early on by the injury bug. They are finally healthy and a team many experts think will be playing in New York in a few Weeks. One of the most intriguing teams in this region in Iowa St. Iowa St is one of those teams that if you don't show up to play, they will just run you out of the gym. They are a high flying, dynamic team that knocked off the likes of Kansas, Kansas St. and Baylor to take home the Big-12 title. Don't sleep on #6 North Carolina. Roy Williams team has had its ups and downs this season but are very talented and have shown they can win big games (Duke, Louisville). They aren't the same team they were a few years ago, but hey, its UNC!
Odds of Winning Title:
Michigan St. 11:2
Virginia 18:1
Villanova 35:1
Iowa St. 40:1
North Carolina: 50:1

West Region
Anaheim, CA
Favorite: Arizona
Contender: Wisconsin
Dark Horses: Oklahoma St., Nebraska
Perhaps the weakest of the four regions this year, is led by season long front runner Arizona. The Wildcats rattled of 21 straight to start the season and held the #1 ranking in the land for a considerable time early on. A couple of bad losses knocked that from that perch but this is still a team that has as good a chance as any to be in New York for the final four. They are stingy on defense and have enough weapons offensively to spread opponents very thin. The region holds two teams that are completely dependent on their star player to get the job done to have a chance in Doug McDermott at Creighton and Marcus Smart at Oklahoma St. Both will be first round NBA picks and both can single-handedly change a game. Unfortunately, they don;t have the supporting cast needed against the big dogs. That said, in a region that really just has one elite team in Arizona, a lucky break here or two could produce the Cinderella story of this year's tournament. Keep an eye on #11 Nebraska. The Cornhuskers have knocked off both Michigan State and Wisconsin over the last month of the season.
Odds of Winning the Title:
Arizona 8:1
Wisconsin 20:1
Creighton 35:1
Oklahoma St 60:1

Mid-West Region
Indianapolis, IN
Favorite: None
Contenders: Duke, Michigan, Louisville
Dark Horses: Witicha St., Kentucky
Hard to call a #1 seed a dark horse, but in reality that is what they are. In all due respect to Wichita St, they are undefeated and all, but who have they beat? We will find out early if team is for real as a likely second round match-up with Kentucky looms. For the sake of NCAA Basketball and the small conferences, I hope they make a deep run. The reality is that I just don't see it. The depth of this region will make it fun. Any one of Duke, Michigan, Louisville or even Kentucky could come out of this bracket. Michigan is probably the most complete team, Duke has the best player in Jabari Parker and Louisville has the experience and the depth. Anyone have a four sided coin to flip?
Odds of Winning the Title:
Louisville 8:1
Wichita St 15:1
Duke: 18:1
Michigan 30:1


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