Advertisement

March Madness: A breakdown of UConn and the East region from an odds perspective

[Betting by region: East | South | Midwest | West]

The NCAA tournament selection committee had some questionable seeding and placement decisions, and one of them was giving the No. 1 overall seed arguably the hardest region.

UConn has a tough path to Phoenix and the Final Four. There are tough teams throughout the East region, which makes it even scarier that as of Tuesday morning, an outrageous 34.57% of players in Yahoo's bracket game are taking the Huskies to win it all.

Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab and Scott Pianowski are going to break down each region from a betting and bracket perspective, using odds from BetMGM. Here's a look at the East:

Do you trust the favorite?

Frank Schwab: UConn is clearly the best team in college basketball. The Huskies have lost once since Dec. 20. With No. 1 seeds going down in seemingly every other conference tournament, they won the Big East tourney with ease. The only problem is about one-third of all title picks in Yahoo's bracket game are on UConn. It’s hard to win the NCAA tournament — especially considering how tough the East region is — and if you’re in a big pool, picking UConn probably isn’t how you win it.

Scott Pianowski: A lot was made of how deep this region is, but UConn has little to worry about. First of all, you won’t play every good opponent — some will fall by the wayside, and some will knock each other off. And the Huskies have zero weaknesses — they’re talented inside and out, cohesive, unselfish and fronted by a high-energy coach who knows how to lawyer the officials. I will be stunned if the Huskies don’t make it to Phoenix. Of course, it’s not easy to win your bracket by backing the chalk, but that’s a problem for another day.

Donovan Clingan and the Connecticut Huskies are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Donovan Clingan and the Connecticut Huskies are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) (Sarah Stier via Getty Images)

Which non-No. 1 seed could make a run?

FS: I wish Auburn wasn’t in UConn’s region. The Tigers' profile is really interesting for a No. 4 seed. They are the No. 4 team in KenPom, top 10 in offensive and defensive efficiency and just won a tough SEC tournament. Bruce Pearl is a good coach. The only problem is that the East is absolutely brutal. I’d pick Auburn to win any other region.

SP: Auburn definitely strikes me as underseeded. And not only do the Tigers have to settle for a four, they are in the top half of the region, the first big fish that has to face UConn. The Tigers are deep and play excellent defense. As much as the tournament is marketed by stars, I still fall in love with teams that have this kind of balance. I’d be more impressed by that SEC tournament win if they drew more of the better in-conference teams; so many things fell right for the Tigers last week. But Auburn will be a difficult out for anyone, and if the Tigers do draw UConn, at least it will be with extra rest and prep time.

First-round game to watch

FS: Northwestern vs. Florida Atlantic should be a fun one. We remember the Owls from last year and their magical tournament run, but they’ve been inconsistent this season. They were a No. 8 seed but there’s a good argument they shouldn’t have been in at all. Northwestern is a sound team that shoots 3s well and doesn’t turn it over. Florida Atlantic is favored by 2.5 points but probably shouldn’t be.

SP: I give Morehead State a puncher’s chance to beat Illinois. The Illini won a Big Ten tournament title without any heavy lifting; the conference was down somewhat and most of the primary contenders didn’t collide with Illinois. The Eagles started as 12-point underdogs but they’ve been getting the majority of the early tickets.

I also like shorting teams that had to play deep into the conference tournaments that run deep into championship week; the Illini were working through the weekend. As much as I love conference tournaments, lifting that trophy often comes with collateral damage later on. Sometimes I feel like losing in the semifinals is the perfect intersection of getting in some reps without fully emptying the reservoir. Illinois can score consistently, but it often gets sloppy and exposed on defense.

Which long shot is being overlooked?

FS: Drake is a pretty good No. 10 seed. The Bulldogs are 10-1 since Feb. 3. They’ve got a 19-point win over Nevada, a tournament team, and two wins over Indiana State, who should have been in the tournament. If the Bulldogs win as small favorites in the first round over Washington State, they can give Iowa State a challenge. Iowa State is a great defensive team and could have been a No. 1 seed, but Drake will be a tough out.

SP: I’ll stick with that same first-round matchup but pick Washington State. These guys are no fun to play against, one of the biggest and longest teams in the country. The Cougars beat handicapping darling Arizona not once but twice. The only reason why Drake and Washington State aren’t getting more talk at the moment is that Iowa State has looked too good to be true of late; everybody is afraid to pick against them, perhaps for good reason. But Drake or Washington State will make the Cyclones earn a trip into the second week.