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College Basketball Bracketology: Predicting NCAA Tournament Regions & Tracking Betting Value

College Basketball Bracketology: Predicting NCAA Tournament Regions & Tracking Betting Value article feature image
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Welcome to the first edition of Bracketology at the Action Network. Now that conference play is starting to heat up, it’s time to start turning our attention to what the NCAA Tournament could look like.

This will be the first edition of what will be an ongoing updated file as we get closer and closer to March Madness.

I want to go over a few ground rules that will hold true throughout the rest of the year:

  • First and foremost, the bracket will always be based off of the games that have been played. I am not projecting out how I think the year will finish, but rather seeding teams off of their current body of work. Each team will be seeded off of their total resume to this point in the year, the same process the Selection Committee ultimately uses when they give us the finalized bracket in mid-March. As a result, there will be a lot of change in the bracket as we get more data and conference play unfolds.
  • I will be using the current conference leader for the 32 auto-bids until we get into the conference tournaments. A good example of this is Miami (FL) currently leads the ACC at 5-0, so in the first bracket, the Hurricanes hold the auto-bid spot for the ACC. All current auto-bids will appear in italics within the bracket.
  • Lastly, if you think I have under-seeded your favorite team, no that does not mean I hate them. My job is to compare resumes and rank them from most complete down the line.

Without further ado, let’s get into it. Here are some quick facts on this week’s projection. The bracket is below.

  • Last Four Byes: Wake Forest, Marquette, Saint Mary’s, Florida
  • Last Four In: Minnesota, Memphis, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech
  • First Four Out: VCU, UCF, Mississippi State, TCU

Bids by Conference:

  1. Big Ten: 8
  2. SEC: 7
  3. Big East: 7
  4. Big 12: 7
  5. ACC: 5
  6. WCC: 4
  7. Pac-12: 3
  8. AAC: 2
  9. MWC: 2


Where Does the Value Lie in South

In true Action Network fashion, we have to take a look at where the value would lie from a gambling perspective in this hypothetical bracket.

In the South, obviously, Baylor would be the odds on favorite, as it continues to be dominant and remains undefeated.

Kansas would be the heavy favorite in the bottom portion of this region, and a Big 12 matchup in the Elite 8 would likely be the chalky pick.

If I were to make a bet on this region, I would look at Kansas at +250 or better to win the South, and I would also look at an Iona to Make the Sweet 16 wager.

Rick Pitino’s Gaels are very talented and that would be a favorable first round matchup against Iowa State.


Where Does the Value Lie in West

When I look at this region, the first thing that jumps out to me is how awesome an 8/9 matchup between Indiana and North Carolina would be. I project Indiana to be a short favorite in that game, and this would likely be one of the most popular first-round games for gamblers to bet on.

In addition to those two blue bloods, this region also features the likes of Gonzaga, Kentucky and Duke. Talk about the region of death.

Then you still have two veteran teams in Ohio State and USC, who are both playing really good basketball right now.

You could get really strong value taking a couple of teams and long odds to win this region — given how strong and deep it is. The group I would target right off the bat would be Kentucky.

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Where Does the Value Lie in Midwest

The first wager I would make in the Midwest would absolutely be on Purdue to win the region. I love this Purdue roster, led by Jaden Ivey and the big man combo of Trevion Williams and Zach Edey.

I would make Purdue a favorite over No. 1 seed Auburn on a neutral floor, and I like the Boilers chances of handling either UCLA or Tennessee in the Sweet 16.

In the top half of the bracket, how awesome would a Sweet 16 matchup between Auburn and Alabama be? I like both SEC teams to potentially square off at the United Center — given their paths in the bracket.

Belmont would be the double-digit seed I would be intrigued by here, as the Bruins can score it with the best of them. Also, Rick Barnes is notorious for early exits in the NCAA Tournament.


Where Does the Value Lie in East

Two teams I like to make a run in this region are the 5 and 6 seed in the East. Both Illinois and Texas have tons of talent on their rosters, and I believe they would have favorable draws here.

I would target both at +400 or better to win the East, if this is how the bracket looked come March.

Despite the impressive start from Arizona, I am still not completely sold on the Wildcats. As Pac-12 play heats up, it will be very interesting to see how Arizona fares against USC and UCLA.

Lastly, I think Loyola Chicago would once again have value here to make another tournament run. The Ramblers match up very well with Marquette, and if they squared off with LSU in the Round of 32, that would be an awesome defensive battle.

I’d be looking to back Loyola to Make the Sweet 16 at +250 or better.

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