NCAA Tournament Midwest Region Odds, Picks: How to Bet Houston, Drake & Penn State
Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Houston’s Marcus Sasser.
There’s plenty to dive into with the Midwest Region, which ended up being a fairly loaded side of the bracket.
Houston is the favorite to win the tournament atop the region, while Texas claimed the second seed. However, Texas has a tough draw with ever-dangerous Colgate in the first round and then, potentially, criminally under-seeded Texas A&M in the second round.
The rest of the bracket includes No. 3 seed Xavier, No. 4 seed Indiana, No. 5 seed Miami and recent Big Ten Tournament runners-up No. 10 seed Penn State.
There’s a lot of noise to be made in the Midwest Region. Let’s break it down from top to bottom.
And a big thank you to bet365 for providing the betting numbers for this analysis.
NCAA Tournament Midwest Region Odds
The Midwest Region Favorite
Houston Cougars (+125)
So, the Cougars came out flat in the AAC Tournament title game and let Memphis steal the conference championship sweep away.
I don’t think that’s a big deal.
Houston pulled off a half-decent comeback in the second half to show the Cougars’ true potential, but the first-half deficit was simply too much to overcome.
The absence of Marcus Sasser was also too much to overcome, as the lead guard got hurt in the AAC Tournament semifinals and sat out the championship game. That was probably precautionary, making Houston’s championship loss an even smaller ordeal.
Houston's Marcus Sasser is probable for the Cougars first-round game against Northern Kentucky on Thursday, source told @stadium.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) March 12, 2023
With Houston, you’re getting the same team as always. The Cougars are a dominant defense. They excel at forcing opposing shot selection, they’re athletic superhumans in transition and on the offensive glass, Kelvin Sampson is a hall-of-fame caliber coach, and they have the guards to play deep in this tournament.
There’s a reason Houston is the favorite to win the whole thing, and it’s because the Cougars are the best team. They’re still tops in KenPom, after all.
Ultimate Midwest Region Winner
Houston Cougars (+125)
Additionally, it’s a pretty solid draw for Houston. Given that they sneak past the tricky Northern Kentucky zone, the Cougars have solid matchups all the way through.
Image via CBB Analytics
They would play the winner of Iowa/Auburn in the second round before facing off against Miami/Indiana/Drake/Kent State in the Sweet 16.
The bottom half of the bracket is dominated by a shorthanded Xavier team without Zach Freemantle and Texas. If the Musketeers or Longhorns go down, the most likely teams to emerge into the Elite Eight are Texas A&M, Penn State or Iowa State.
That’s a pretty great draw for the Cougars. There’s no value in betting the favorite in such an absurd event, but unfortunately, I think the chalk holds in the Midwest.
Potential Midwest Region Bracket Buster
Drake Bulldogs (+5000)
I was so in on Drake to begin the season. The Bulldogs returned everyone, forming the 29th-most experienced roster in the nation and the undisputed best team in the Valley.
Then, Drake looked horrendous for half the season, with rock bottom coming in back-to-back New Year losses in which the Bulldogs combined for 98 points.
Finally, head coach Darian DeVries woke up and let Roman Penn loose in ball screens. Drake has always been an elite pick-and-roll offense (98th percentile in pick-and-roll PPP with .974), and once Penn was running those sets, it was over for the Valley.
Drake won 16-of-18 from that point on, scoring over 1.2 PPP overall. The Bulldogs improved game after game, culminating in a Missouri Valley Tournament title.
Drake isn’t just playing its best basketball of the season, but it’s playing some of the best basketball in the country.
A question that will get asked a lot tonight…
"Who is playing its best basketball right now?"
This is the top 15 at @totally_t_bomb since Feb 11
Good luck to the 5 seed that gets Drake in the 1st round pic.twitter.com/v2eCfM1mzv
— Tim Murray (@1TimMurray) March 12, 2023
A highly-experienced, under-seeded team playing its best basketball in March is a beautiful site for bettors like us.
Even better, the Bulldogs have a dream first-round matchup
Miami has a below-average ball-screen defense and is one of the worst nationally at defending cutters. Penn will eat in the pick-and-roll while Garrett Sturtz will be back-cutting to the basket all night.
Norchad Omier is also likely out for Miami, so the shorthanded Canes will have to defend 6-foot-10, 275-pound Darnell Brodie without their big man.
I’m willing to pencil Drake into the second round. And with how well the Bulldogs are playing, who knows how far this No. 12 seed can get, even if they draw Indiana and Houston.
Best Midwest Region Matchup
Texas A&M (-3) vs. Penn State (134.5)
I love this matchup.
Texas A&M was criminally under-seeded following an excellent SEC regular season and tournament run, and they’re catching the red-hot Nittany Lions fresh off a Big Ten Tournament title appearance.
Penn State is another great sleeper in this region, with its momentum and the high-variance, pick-and-roll spread offense that relies on a post-up guard and 3-point shooting. Essentially, the Nittany Lions can create mismatches with anyone, especially with how good Jalen Pickett is.
Jalen Pickett has mastered self-creation & playmaking at the collegiate level.
At 6’4 210 lbs, 81% of his field goals are unassisted, and he’s yielding an impressive 60 TS%.. 42 AST% to only a 12 TOV%
Thrives off punishing weaker guards. Arguably the most NBA Ready PG prospect pic.twitter.com/LkhUXJv2Eg
— KeeseeHoopScouting (@HoopKeesee) March 7, 2023
However, how can Penn State compensate for its lack of interior defense? The Nittany Lions play such a small-ball style that they get shredded by any interior defense, regardless of style.
In this game, you should see Texas A&M hunt ball-screen switches and drive downhill toward the rim. Again, that should play against Penn State’s lack of interior presence.
We should get a fascinating matchup here, with Micah Shrewsberry and Buzz Williams fighting for the upper hand on motivation and schematics.
However, I did play Penn State +3.
Texas A&M is extremely inefficient with its rim-pressuring opportunities and will get little on the offensive glass or in transition against Shrewsberry’s defense. Plus, the Aggies will likely allow a ton of open looks from 3 against a deadly shooting team.
It’s a tougher matchup for the Aggies, and I expect one of the hottest teams in the nation to take advantage.
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