Hey, buddy, how’s your bracket?
Maybe you resisted lighting it on fire until Kansas followed Duke out the door Saturday. Maybe you’re still moping over an alma mater’s exit (thanks for the Big East titles, Marquette!) on Sunday, or your favorite conference was mostly a raging tire fire (hello, Big Ten!).
But hope springs eternal, and while the tournament field has been whittled from 68 teams to 16, there are still wagers to be placed and value to be found with the right teams who find themselves two victories from making a program-changing trip to Houston for the Final Four.
The following is a region-by-region breakdown of wagers to consider, along with the best Final Four prices across a multitude of mobile sportsbooks. Interestingly, two regional sites — Madison Square Garden and Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena — are in states where sports wagering is readily available (in New York and Nevada, respectively). The two others, Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center and Kansas City’s T-Mobile Center, are being held where legal sports wagering is available with a short trek across state lines, as those going to Louisville can place bets in Indiana and Kansas City, Missouri, is just over the Kansas state line.
Game lines and totals are based on oddsmaker consensus.
East Region at Madison Square Garden (NYC)
Acting like Marquise Nowell hasn’t done this all year😮💨pic.twitter.com/bbFiQy3Vmh
— Liam Giffin (@LiamGiffsports) March 19, 2023
Who’s left: No. 3 Kansas State (+350 to advance to the Final Four at DraftKings, Caesars Sports, PointsBet, and Betfred), No. 4 Tennessee (+130 at BetRivers, Barstool Sportsbook, and DraftKings), No. 7 Michigan State (+333 BetMGM), No. 9 Florida Atlantic (+470 at FanDuel).
Matchups: No. 3 Kansas State vs. No. 7 Michigan State (-2/137.5), No. 4 Tennessee (-5.5/130.5) vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic.
The skinny: No Purdue, no Duke, but still some solid star power available at the “World’s Most Famous Arena” in the form of Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. This space tabbed the Wildcats as its first potential Final Four sleeper back in mid-January, with value as high as +2500, and there’s no going back as Little Apple supporters invade the Big Apple. Toppling the Spartans, though, will be a tall order for Nowell and Keyontae Johnson, especially after Michigan State did admirable work stifling Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek and Marquette in the second round.
Tennessee, which absolutely manhandled Duke in the second round, arrives in New York as the clear-cut favorite in the region. The Vols face a Florida Atlantic team — basically an upgraded version of first-round opponent Louisiana — in the Sweet 16. The Owls will need Johnell Davis to have his best game of the season, and it would not hurt if Alijah Martin rediscovered his 30-point, 11-rebound form from the C-USA title game against UAB. If the Volunteers play that bruising style they showed against Duke, it should be enough to overwhelm Florida Atlantic.
The Sweet 16 game pick: Kansas State ML vs. Michigan State (+115 at DraftKings, Caesars, Hard Rock, WynnBET, and Betfred)
The prop play: Santiago Vescovi OVER 2.5 3-pointers vs. Florida Atlantic (-103 at BetRivers/Barstool Sportsbook)
The regional winner: Kansas State over Tennessee
South Region at KFC Yum! Center (Louisville)
🇬🇧 No stopping him! Newcastle-born big Tosan Evbuomwan helped #15 Princeton into the Sweet 16 with nine points, nine rebounds and five assists in a big 78-63 over NCAA Tournament #7 Missouri.
Tosan and Co go again against #6 Creighton on Friday.#GameTime | @Tosan_Evb pic.twitter.com/2PVeeLrxpy
— Basketball England 🥇🥈 (@bballengland) March 20, 2023
Who’s left: No. 1 Alabama (-125 at PointsBet), No. 5 San Diego State (+650 at FanDuel), No. 6 Creighton (+200 at BetRivers, Caesars, PointsBet, and Hard Rock), No. 15 Princeton (+3000 at DraftKings, BetMGM, and Hard Rock).
Matchups: No. 1 Alabama (-7.5/137) vs. No. 5 San Diego State, No. 6 Creighton (-9.5/140) vs. No. 15 Princeton
The skinny: Though this space also had San Diego State among its Final Four sleepers, there was a specific point of mention that the Aztecs would be a better value pick had they been placed in the bottom half of a regional bracket versus the spot they landed opposite top-seeded Alabama. Both teams like to shoot 3-pointers and are miserly defending against them (each team is holding opponents under 30% shooting from deep). Something will give here, and if one team figures the other out on the perimeter, that’s where fortunes are cast.
Then there is Princeton, this year’s tournament darling and bane to New Jersey sportsbooks who cannot take wagers on the Tigers — similar to St. Peter’s and its epic run as a No. 15 seed last year. The Tigers throttled Missouri as Caden Pierce went wild on the offensive glass; he will have a tougher time finding those caroms versus a Bluejays team with 7-footer Ryan Kalkbrenner. Additionally, this version of Creighton is the one everyone hyped in the preseason — good defensively, crisp offensively, capable of going on a heater from 3-point range, and able to score at the foul line.
The Sweet 16 game pick: San Diego State UNDER 64.5 points vs. Alabama (-106 at FanDuel)
The prop play: Ryan Nembhard OVER 3.5 assists vs. Princeton (+100 at DraftKings)
The regional winner: Alabama over Creighton
West Region at T-Mobile Arena (Las Vegas)
Did not know Drew Timme could do this now pic.twitter.com/nruleJN7ql
— Ricky O’Donnell (@SBN_Ricky) March 20, 2023
Who’s left: No. 2 UCLA (+220 at PointsBet), No. 3 Gonzaga (+275 at PointsBet), No. 4 UConn (+210 at DraftKings), No. 8 Arkansas (+600 at FanDuel, Hard Rock, and Betfred)
Matchups: No. 2 UCLA (-2/145.5) vs. No. 3 Gonzaga, No. 4 UConn (-3.5/139.5) vs. No. 8 Arkansas
The skinny: The NCAA Tournament makes its live Las Vegas debut, and Sin City could not have gotten four better teams to showcase itself further as a sports destination. UCLA and Gonzaga did nothing in their first and second-round victories to dispel the notion that this could be a worthy sequel to their 2021 Final Four overtime thriller. Jaime Jaquez Jr. versus Drew Timme is a heavyweight tilt of offensive prowess and facial hair supremacy, and while the talk with the Bruins is usually defense first, know that they are 13-1 when totaling 17 or more assists — a figure they hit in tournament wins over UNC-Asheville and Northwestern.
Connecticut is still undefeated against non-Big East opponents after pulling away from both Iona and Saint Mary’s in the first two rounds. The Huskies also realized that going through Adama Sanogo offensively helps open the perimeter attack for Jordan Hawkins and Tristen Newton, who went a combined 21-for-47 (44.7%) from 3-point range in the two wins. Arkansas must crash the boards in this game, which will be a challenge given that UConn ranks third in the nation with a plus-9.3 rebound margin, and get some perimeter production, as hitting its season average of five 3-pointers will not be enough to advance.
The Sweet 16 game pick: UConn -4.5 vs. Arkansas (-105 at FanDuel and BetMGM)
The prop play: Drew Timme OVER 18.5 points vs. UCLA (-125 at Caesars)
The regional winner: UConn over Gonzaga
Midwest Region at T-Mobile Center (Kansas City)
Marcus. Sasser. ‼️‼️
📺 TBS #AmericanHoops x @UHCougarMBK pic.twitter.com/OaWVPsbOzq
— The American (@American_Conf) March 19, 2023
Who’s left: No. 1 Houston (+100 at BetRivers), No. 2 Texas (+225 at BetRivers), No. 3 Xavier (+700 at DraftKings, PointsBet, and Hard Rock), No. 5 Miami (+900 at BetMGM)
Matchups: No. 1 Houston (-7/137.5) vs. No. 5 Miami, No. 2 Texas (-4/148.5) vs. No. 3 Xavier
The skinny: There was some talk that the Cougars did not deserve the overall No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and then Kelvin Sampson’s team shut up those critics by suffocating Auburn in the final 20 minutes of its second-round win. The Cougars get a favorable matchup versus a Miami team that does many good things but nothing great. Additionally, the Sweet 16 has always felt like the ceiling for the Hurricanes, and a matchup against a grizzled Houston team with 11 NCAA Tournament victories going back to 2019 does nothing to change that belief.
Texas has flown under the radar practically all season with interim coach Rodney Terry and is riding a three-prong attack offensively of Marcus Carr, Sir’Jabari Rice, and Dylan Disu, with the trio averaging 53.3 points in the last three games. Though Xavier is still not the complete version of itself without injured forward Zach Freemantle, coach Sean Miller has recalibrated his offense while not seeing the best of leading scorer Souley Boum. The fifth-year guard, who averages 16.5 points, is 2-for-17 from 3-point range and 8-for-35 overall in his last three games, but everyone else stepped up at various points in the first two rounds.
The Sweet 16 game pick: Miami vs. Houston OVER 137.5 points (-110 at PointsBet)
The prop play: Adam Kunkel OVER 1.5 3-pointers made vs. Texas (-137 at BetRivers/Barstool Sportsbook)
The regional winner: Houston over Texas
Photo: Getty Images