NCAA Tournament West Region Odds, Picks: How to Bet Kansas, Arkansas & More

NCAA Tournament West Region Odds, Picks: How to Bet Kansas, Arkansas & More article feature image
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Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: Ricky Council IV (Arkansas)

If you want to talk about the group of death, look no further than the West region. Four teams rank inside the top 10 and another three inside the top 30.

Kansas enters as the No. 1 seed, but is joined by arguably the best 2-seed (UCLA), 3-seed (Gonzaga) and 4-seed (Connecticut).

Could upsets run rampant? Surely, this would be the perfect place for chaos.


NCAA Tournament West Region Odds

Team
Odds (Via bet365)
Kansas+300
UCLA+325
Gonzaga+450
UConn+450
TCU+1000
Saint Mary's+1100
Arkansas+2500
Illinois+3000
Northwestern+3500
VCU+6000
Arizona State+6500
Boise State+6500
Nevada+11000
Iona+12500
Grand Canyon+12500
UNC Asheville+15000
Howard+25000

The West Region Favorite

Kansas Jayhawks (+300)

The Big 12 conference regular-season winner — Kansas — enters as the favorite in the West. But the Jayhawks could very well be without head coach Bill Self, who missed the conference tournament with a medical issue.

He's expected to return, but ultimately, his status remains in question ahead of the Big Dance.

Jalen Wilson is the star of this team and takes 31% of the shots on the floor. He scored 20+ points in each game of the Big 12 Tournament and averages 8.4 rebounds per game on the season.

Kansas’ offense is predicated on the pick-and-roll and attacking the rim. The Jayhawks run the PnR on 21% of possessions, using a combination of Dajuan Harris Jr., Wilson and K.J. Adams Jr. to open up the inside.

It also leads to plenty of catch-and-shoot 3s on the perimeter, which is where Gradey Dick dominates. He’s shooting nearly 40% from 3.

But offense is not where this team thrives, rather it’s on the defensive end. The Jayhawks are the seventh-ranked defense from an efficiency perspective, per KenPom, including a top-40 3-point defense.

Much of that has to do with the addition of Kevin McCullar Jr., a Texas Tech transfer who has become the team’s best defender.

Kansas is relentless and physical, but it also has issues when it comes to depth. That’s its ultimate downfall, ranking 361st in bench minutes.

McCullar has battled back spasms and missed the conference championship against Texas (a 20-point loss). Both KU’s bigs Adams and Ernest Udeh Jr. can find themselves quickly in foul trouble.

The Jayhawks could very well struggle against frontcourt-heavy teams that live on the glass, and that’s a possible matchup in the Round of 32 against Arkansas.

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Ultimate West Region Winner

UConn Huskies (+450)

When push comes to shove, I ultimately think Connecticut comes out of this region. There’s so many question marks surrounding the top seeds and an underseeded Huskies squad could have a relatively easy path to the Elite Eight.

Kansas has depth issues and struggles on the offensive glass, which, if it were to make it to the Sweet 16 vs. UConn, would be heavily exposed by the duo of Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan.

TCU will be without energizer bunny big man Eddie Lampkin Jr. and can really struggle in the scoring department.

Saint Mary’s struggles against the press and relies on its defense and slow pace to keep close.

The Gaels' WCC partner Gonzaga is shooting lights out, but its defensive concerns remain imminent.

And of course, UCLA is without its best perimeter defender — Jaylen Clark — and enter with a banged up Adem Bona.

Ultimately, UConn is the only team that is fully healthy and was completely disrespected when it came to seeding.

UConn really found its stride late, finishing the regular season on a 8-1 run in Big East play. This is the sixth-best offense and 18th-ranked defense from an efficiency perspective, including the No. 1-ranked offensive rebounding unit in the country.

Sanogo has continued to star in the Huskies' frontcourt and ranks inside the top 50 in eFG%.

This is a physical team that, with 7-foot-2 Clingan, is incredibly difficult to stop around the rim.

Tack on the fact that they have plenty of shooters to pair around Sanogo and Clingan, and the Huskies are one of the scariest and well-rounded of all. Alex Karaban and Joey Calcaterra shoot over 40% from 3, and both Tristen Newton and Jordan Hawkins are 36%+ shooters, too.

Look at their defense, and aside from their aggressiveness leading to a high FTA/FGA rate, Dan Hurley’s squad has the ability to blowout opponents consistently.

The Huskies are 26th in 2-point defense and 15th from the perimeter. They funnel opponents inside the arc and only give up 3s on 30.3% of field goal attempts — stemming from their length all over the floor.

Not one player in this UConn starting lineup is under 6-foot-6, and their smallest player is 6-foot-2 Hassan Diarra.

There’s a lot to love about this Huskies team, and they’re my favorite pick to come out of the region of death.


Potential West Region Bracket Buster

Arkansas Razorbacks (+2500)

I mentioned earlier that Kansas has some depth issues and struggles against taller frontcourts that relentlessly attack the glass.

That team? Arkansas.

I was extremely high on the Razorbacks entering the SEC Tournament. They dominated the first halves against both Auburn and Texas A&M, but flirted with danger following second-half collapses.

While they staved off the Tigers, A&M took over and knocked off Arkansas en route to what was a SEC Championship loss to Alabama.

A lot of that has to do with Eric Musselman, as he’s been consistently outcoached with halftime adjustments. It happened at Nevada with the Martin twins, and the same could ring true here.

But that’s why this is a bracket-busting team. Could the Razorbacks lose in the first round? Totally. Can they make an Elite Eight or even Final Four run? Definitely.

Nick Smith Jr. is back and fully healthy, and he's an NBA-level guard. He’s scored in double figures in each of his last seven games and pairs well with Wichita State transfer Ricky Council IV.

Overall, this is the 13th-tallest team in the country — with the Mitchell brothers, Makhi and Makhel — and their rotation normally never carries a player under 6-foot-4.

Their size can often swallow opponents up, especially on the defensive end, where they rank inside the top 50 in both 2-point and 3-point%.

Their issue all season has been on the offensive end. Aside from Smith and Council, Arkansas doesn’t have many capable scorers. The Razorbacks are around the 300 mark in both free-throw and 3-point shooting, preferring to run-and-gun and attack the rim.

This is an iso-heavy offense that can become stagnant. From an adjusted efficiency perspective, the Razorbacks are 51st, and they do get to the free-throw line at a top-30 rate despite their struggles converting.

The market couldn’t be any lower on Arkansas, but it has the potential to cause some issues in a stacked bracket. For what it’s worth, it's 20th in the KenPom rankings.

Don’t be surprised if Arkansas upsets Kansas in the Round of 32 and even gives Connecticut a run for its money in the Sweet 16. The Razorbacks' defense is disruptive and staying within striking distance is key.


Best West Region First-Round Matchup

Arkansas (-2.5) vs. Illinois

From a pure excitement perspective, this is the best matchup of the Round of 64. Both of these teams have Final Four talent, but could also put up a dud and lose to just about any team in this field.

From an efficiency perspective, both offenses rank in the 50s despite ranking outside the top 300 in 3-point shooting.

They struggle with free throws and thrive on interior offense and second-chance opportunities. Both rank inside the top 15 in average height, too.

The difference is Illinois shoots 3s on over 40% of field goal attempts. Arkansas knows its struggles and instead opts to attack the paint, whether it be at the rim or mid-range. The Razorbacks only take 28.2% of their shots from the perimeter.

Arkansas’ length, especially in the backcourt, often forces opponents off the line and into the paint. The Razorbacks allow the sixth-most finishes at the rim and just 30% of their field goals come from the perimeter.

And vice versa, Dain Dainja, Coleman Hawkins and Matthew Mayer in Illinois’ frontcourt makes the Fighting Illini a difficult defense to break down inside.

I have this game circled because whoever comes out victorious has a legitimate shot at upsetting No. 1 Kansas in the Round of 32.

In what is a true coin-flip game, I give the edge to Arkansas. But it’ll be interesting to see how each team fares on the offensive end.

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Sean Treppedi
Jul 17, 2024 UTC