The bracket is out and the betting lines are up.
The East Region has Baylor as the #1 seed even though the Bears lost in the Big 12 Tournament. As the “last” top seed they are in a tough bracket with some of the biggest brands in the sport – Kentucky, UCLA, North Carolina are all in this quadrant. Not to mention Purdue, a program I really like this season.
The East is home to a battle of #12 seeds in the First Four with Wyoming taking on Indiana for the right to play a St. Mary’s squad that is tough to play against. We have the rest of the lines though so here are a few games that have caught my eye.
East Region Best Bets
#8 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. #9 Marquette Golden Eagles
Tar Heels -3
Both of these teams have had dramatic highs and lows this season. If you had a chance to make this bet before the start of the season you probably would have gotten North Carolina -10. Now we are in a winner takes all format tournament and I think we are getting the Tar Heels at a bargain. Not because North Carolina is ready to go on a run and win it all but because they got a very favorable matchup in the first round. They should be able to dominate inside against the Golden Eagles and that will be the difference. These teams have gone in different directions over the last month. The last time Marquette beat a team in the top 60 was more than a month ago. I don’t see them doing that this week.
#6 Texas Longhorns vs. #11 Virginia Tech Hokies
Chris Beard’s first season at Texas has been more disappointment than excellence. This is a chance to try and change that narrative and they get an opponent that they can handle in Virginia Tech, a team that probably would have missed the big dance had they not run the table in the ACC. This is a very good strategic match between a strong defensive team and a good offensive one. The Hokies finished the season 3rd in the nation in three-point shooting, but Texas is going to make them work for every shot on the court. At this time of year backing elite defensive teams makes even more sense as there tends to be fewer possessions and more adjustments to unfamiliar venues. This one is a tight number but I expect Texas to win against a team that might have peaked too early. The Longhorns best might be in front of them.
#3 Purdue Boilermakers vs. #14 Yale Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are representing the Ivy this season. They were the best in the league defensively, but they did not have to face the size that Purdue has and that is going to be a very big problem. Most of the time the Bulldogs are using a lineup with no player over 6’7″ and they rarely play anyone over 6’8″. They are taking on a team that is among the best in the nation in offensive efficiency and does it with an inside duo of Trevion Williams and Zach Edey who can pound any team into oblivion. Not to mention the presence of lottery pick Jaden Ivey, the best guard in America. Yale played three high-level opponents during the season and in each instance, they allowed more than 80 points and lost by at least 22 points. I am looking for the same thing to happen in the first round this week.