Las Vegas Sun

April 20, 2014

Currently: 89° — Complete forecast | Log in | Create an account

NCAA Tournament by the odds: How sports books see the East Region

Image

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett dunks on New Mexico during their Mountain West Conference Tournament championship game Saturday, March 16, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV 2013 NCAA Tournament Practice

The UNLV basketball team has their photo taken by UNLV photographer R. Marsh Starks before practice for their second round NCAA Tournament game against Cal Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. Launch slideshow »

Odds to win the East Region

  • No. 1 Indiana — 10-to-11
  • No. 2 Miami — 9-to-4
  • No. 3 Marquette — 15-to-1
  • No. 4 Syracuse — 5-to-1
  • No. 5 UNLV — 20-to-1
  • No. 6 Butler — 20-to-1
  • No. 7 Illinois — 25-to-1
  • No. 8 NC State — 20-to-1
  • No. 9 Temple — 75-to-1
  • No. 10 Colorado — 40-to-1
  • No. 11 Bucknell — 50-to-1
  • No. 12 California — 60-to-1
  • No. 13 Montana — 1000-to-1
  • No. 14 Davidson — 60-to-1
  • No. 15 Pacific — 500-to-1
  • No. 16 LIU-Brooklyn — 3000-to-1
  • No. 16 James Madison — 3000-to-1
  • Numbers from LVH Superbook

Note: This is the fourth and final LasVegasSun.com betting preview of the NCAA Tournament. Find the three previous regional breakdowns here. Scroll to the bottom of this page to find lines on all of the opening games in the East Region.

In the off chance that Las Vegas ever gets to host a portion of the NCAA Tournament, it would be most fitting to land a bracket like this year’s East Region.

The Entertainment Capital of the World should serve as home to the Entertainment Region of the Tournament. Make no mistake, the East Region will provide by far the most cheap fun of March Madness in 2013.

Holding the finals of this bracket in Washington, D.C., seems about as appropriate as moving the presidential inauguration to Reno.

It’s like a movie with more explosions and effects than dialogue and character development: The viewers aren’t going to get a lot out of it in the long run, but the journey will feel like one heck of a ride.

With the tightest opening lines of the tournament, the East is going to stimulate as much action as Bruce Willis trapped in a criminal-seized office building. But, in all likelihood, the squad that escapes this 17-team group isn’t going to become the national champion.

While no major Las Vegas sports book posted a proposition wager on which region will produce the last team standing, several offshore shops did. And, unanimously at around 3-to-1, the East was the longest shot.

It’s an entire dollar behind the stacked Midwest Region, which is somewhere in the vicinity of 2-to-1 depending on the book.

Out of the top 12 teams in the LVH Superbook’s future odds to win the tournament, only two are playing in the East Region. And that’s deceiving.

No. 2 seed Miami is only listed at 8-to-1 because the Superbook has liability on the Hurricanes from when they were 100- and 200-to-1 to win it all earlier in the year. Their true odds are longer than that, as evidenced by in-town competitors still listing Miami as high as 15-to-1 to win the title.

The Superbook staff favorably adjusted more prices than just Miami’s after the selection show on Sunday. No. 3 seed Marquette, in the most shocking line move of the whole tournament, went to 40-to-1 after resting at 75-to-1 just a few days before.

Marquette’s chances improving by that wide of a margin was the ultimate sign of disrespect toward the East from oddsmakers.

Sports books were poised to post No. 1 seed Indiana as the favorite of whichever bracket it landed in, but the Hoosiers are chalkier at a minus-price in the East. Indiana topped the Vegas odds to win the NCAA Tournament for the majority of the year.

But can anyone feel comfortable backing the Hoosiers to win four straight games with they way they finished the year? After defeating Michigan State 72-68 as 1-point underdogs on February 19, Indiana reached a season-low plus-350 price to capture the national championship.

The Hoosiers responded to the honor by going 2-4 against the spread and 3-3 straight-up in their remaining games. If not for a Michigan collapse where it blew a five-point lead with 52 seconds to go, both those records would get knocked down another notch.

No. 4 seed Syracuse had a similarly disappointing final three weeks of the season. The Orange went 3-6 against the spread and 4-5 straight-up within the same span of Indiana’s swoon. They’re now 30-to-1 to win the national title after getting as low as 10-to-1 during the season.

To conclude the mud-slinging portion of this preview, let’s explore how many Final Four appearances the programs in the East have combined for in the last seven years. That would be a tournament-low two, both by No. 6 seed Butler.

This year’s version of the Bulldogs isn’t as strong as the 2010 or 2011 bunches that finished as national runner-ups, but they’ve got a chance in this region.

Butler’s first opponent, No. 11 seed Bucknell, looked like a possible Cinderella team before the tournament, but this isn’t an ideal matchup.

The Bison, 3.5-point underdogs against the Bulldogs, run everything through 6-foot-11, 240-pound center Mike Muscala. Butler practically has Muscala’s clone in big man Andrew Smith, who’s less talented but competent enough to provide resistance.

Butler is one of only two teams in the tournament to have defeated two No. 1 seeds, Indiana and Gonzaga, during the regular season.

The other team to pull off the accomplishment sits right below Butler in the East Region, No. 7 Illinois. The Fighting Illini also defeated the Bulldogs by 17 points when they met in November.

In yet another game with a microscopic spread, Illinois gives No. 10 seed Colorado 1.5 points Friday in Austin, Texas.

The average opening spread in the East Region — not including the No. 1 vs. No. 16 game, because it’s pending a “First Four” contest tonight — was five points. That’s a point-and-a-half lower than the Midwest and West brackets, and four less than the South.

It helps that the East contains the smallest number of all the No. 5 vs. No. 12 games, No. 3 vs. No. 14 games and No. 2 vs. No. 15 games.

As a 2.5-point favorite against No. 12 California, No. 5 UNLV sees the line move 3.5 points in its direction since winning the first meeting between the two teams on the road in December. That’s still 2.5 points less than the average No. 5 vs. No. 12 spread over the last six years.

Marquette is tied for the second-lowest favorite in the last 10 years as a No. 3 seed against No. 14. The Golden Eagles are only minus-3.5 against the No. 14 Davidson Wildcats.

It’s worth noting that Davidson went 0-3 against teams that made the NCAA Tournament this year, though it did cover by one as a 6-point underdog at New Mexico in November.

Previous No. 14 seeds as short of underdogs as Davidson haven’t fared well. Belmont, as a 3-point underdog, got blown out by No. 3 seed Georgetown last year, 74-57.

Going back to 2004, No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette was plus-3.5 against No. 3 North Carolina State. The Ragin’ Cajuns fell 61-52.

The public has been just as hesitant to embrace Marquette as bookmakers, with only 1 percent of fans who submitted brackets to Yahoo! Sports picking the Golden Eagles for the Final Four.

Miami, on the other hand, has the most lopsided fan support-to-oddsmaker respect ratio in the whole tournament. The Hurricanes are the third-most popular pick to make the national semifinals out of all 68 teams, according to Yahoo!, with 21 percent calling for them to make it to Atlanta.

A growing sect of college basketball fans can’t understand why Las Vegas isn’t higher on Miami.

One reason is because the Hurricanes have more horrendous losses than any other top-seeded team in the tournament. They were favorites by at least 6.5 points in all six of their losses.

Well, that’s not exactly true. There wasn’t even a spread on an early-season game against Florida Gulf Coast, which Miami lost 63-51. A month later, Arizona clobbered Miami 69-50 as a 6-point favorite.

The no-shows weren’t isolated to the beginning of the season, either. The Hurricanes tripped up as 12.5-point favorites at home against Georgia Tech two weeks ago.

As impressive as a 13-game win streak to open ACC play was, Miami didn’t beat all of those teams senseless. In fact, the Hurricanes won five of those victories by less than two possessions.

But that’s admittedly nit-picky. At 20-9-1, Miami is tied for the best against-the-spread record in the NCAA Tournament. It trots out one of the nation’s best starting fives, which includes perimeter player Shane Larkin and big man Kenny Kadji.

Those two should fit in perfectly in the East Region, where star power rules the bracket. Larkin is the best scoring point guard at 14.6 points per game among the contending teams, but Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams ranks third in the nation with 7.7 assists per game.

Three of the consensus top seven picks in next year’s NBA Draft — UNLV’s Anthony Bennett and Indiana’s duo of Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo— also must navigate through Washington, D.C., in hopes of reaching the Final Four.

It’s a shame it’s not Las Vegas.

Pick to win the region: Syracuse at +500 Indiana should take this bracket, but the Hoosiers aren’t available at enough of a discount, despite recent woes. That’s unlike Syracuse, which is at a bargain price too juicy to pass up.

East Region Picks Against the Spread (in order of confidence)

Note: It's never wise to bet every game, but we'll pick every one throughout the tournament here and keep track of the record for fun. Talking Points finished last year's tournament 32-31 overall and 8-3 on top-confidence plays. The blog also made a killing on the conference tournaments last week, correctly picking three teams at plus-money for a gain of plus-14 units. Come back after the First Four games for picks on the official second-round matchups.

No. 5 UNLV -2.5 over No. 12 California

No. 10 Colorado +1.5 over No. 7 Illinois

No. 15 Pacific +12.5 over No. 2 Miami

No. 4 Syracuse -12.5 over No. 13 Montana

No. 9 Temple +4.5 over No. 8 North Carolina State

No. 1 Indiana -21 over No. 16 James Madison

No. 6 Butler -3.5 over No. 11 Bucknell

No. 3 Marquette -3.5 over No. 14 Davidson

No. 16 LIU-Brooklyn PK over No. 16 James Madison

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy