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Mon 12/03/2018 - 18:53 EDT

March Madness First Four Vegas Picks

Villanova Favored To Win National Title

The men’s NCAA basketball tournament starts on Tuesday, but the madness really got underway with the selection committee’s picks on Sunday night.

Virginia (31-2) may be ranked No. 1 in the country, but they are not the favorites (+500) to win the national title (odds provided by Bovada). Their South Region is stacked with three other conference tournament champions in Cincinnati, Kentucky and Arizona.

Villanova (+450) drew the easiest path to the Final Four in the East Region. The two toughest opponents for the Wildcats (30-4) could be Purdue or Texas Tech, but these two teams are hardly playing their best basketball of the season. Villanova has won it all twice — in 1985 and 2016.

Duke (+650) and Michigan State (+750) are the only other teams listed at less than 10-1 to capture the national crown. The Blue Devils (26-7) and Spartans (29-4) are both seeded in the Midwest, where Kansas (27-7) is slotted in at No. 1. The Jayhawks (+1200) won their 14th consecutive Big 12 championship this season.

Xavier (+2200) drew its first top seed in school history. The Musketeers (28-5), who could face such teams as North Carolina and Michigan in the West Region, won the Big East regular season title this season, but lost in the semifinals of the conference tournament.

So, what are the odds one of the four regional No. 1 seeds wins it all? Pretty good, actually.

Since 1985, when the tournament expanded to 64 teams, one of the top seeds has won 20 of 33 titles (60.6 per cent). North Carolina won the championship in 2017 as a No. 1. So did Duke in 2015.

Before the Big Dance gets underway on Thursday, there’s still eight teams fighting for the final four spots in the tournament. Let’s take a look at the First Four and try to pick a winner in each game (money lines odds provided by Bovada). All of the First Four are played in Dayton, Ohio — two games on Tuesday and two on Wednesday.

Highlanders Have Won Seven Straight


LIU Brooklyn vs. Radford — The prize for winning this game on Tuesday? A date with the top seed in the East in Villanova. A No. 16 seed has never won a game in tournament history, but thanks for playing.

Long Island-Brooklyn (18-16) won nine of their last 12 and thumped Wagner in their conference tournament to get here.

Radford (22-12) won at the buzzer in the Big South tournament, sending the Highlanders to this elite event for the first time since 2009. The team from Radford, Va., has won seven straight.

VGB’s pick — Radford

UCLA Made It To Sweet Sixteen Last Year


St. Bonaventure vs. UCLA — St. Bonaventure had won 13 straight before it lost to Davidson in the Atlantic 10 final. The Bonnies (25-7) have an experienced backcourt which could dictate this game.

UCLA has wins over Kentucky and Arizona on its resume this year. But the Bruins (21-11), who finished third in the Pac-12 this season, have lost three of their last five. They were ousted from the tournament last March in the Sweet Sixteen.

VGB’s pick — UCLA

Tigers 8-19 Before Winning Streak

Texas Southern (-220) vs. North Carolina Central (+190) — Texas Southern may have a losing record, but the Tigers (15-19) have been on a roll lately. The team from Houston has won seven straight, including the SWAC title. They started the season 0-13.

North Carolina Central makes it third trip to the NCAA tournament in the last five years after winning the MEAC championship. The Eagles (19-15) have won five straight and seven of their last nine.

VGB’s pick — Texas Southern


ASU Beat Xavier Earlier This Year

Syracuse (+105) vs. Arizona State (-125) — Syracuse was given an at-large bid from the committee, but will the Orangemen (20-13) use it to their advantage? They knocked off Clemson last week, but finished 8-10 in conference play.

Arizona State enters this matchup with just one win in the last six games, including losses to Arizona and Oregon. The Sun Devils (20-11), who beat Xavier and Kansas this year, also finished 8-10 in conference play.

VGB’s pick — Syracuse

VGB’s Top 10 NCAA Basketball Teams

(Current odds to win the Men’s NCAA Basketball Championship listed after team record. Odds provided by Bovada.)

  • Virginia (31-2) +500 — Fourth consecutive week ranked No. 1 in nation.
  • Michigan (28-7) +1000 — Big Ten tourney champs for second straight year.
  • Villanova (30-4) +450 — Big East tourney champs for second straight year.
  • Kansas (27-7) +1200 — Big 12 champs beat West Virginia three times.
  • Gonzaga (30-4) +2500 — Won 30 games in three of past four seasons.
  • Xavier (28-5) +1500 — Musketeers top seed for first time in school history.
  • Michigan State (29-4) +750 — All four losses this season to Top 25 teams.
  • Duke (26-7) +650 — Blue Devils in region with Kansas and Michigan State.
  • Cincinnati (30-4) +2200 — AAC regular season and tournament champs.
  • Purdue (28-6) +1500 — Boilermakers shut down by top Michigan defense.
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