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NCAA Tournament: South Regional Odds and Betting Preview

Cincinnati Bearcats(29-4) @ Virginia Cavaliers(31-2)

  • Where: Philips Arena. Atlanta, GA
  • When: March 15, 2018 10:30 am EST
  • Moneyline: Virginia (+125), Cincinnati (+270), Arizona (+350), Tennessee (+600), Kentucky (+750), Nevada (+3000), Miami (+4000), Creighton (+5000), Kansas State (+7500), Texas (+7500)

There are plenty of story-lines among the top seeds in the South Regional bracket of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Virginia is 1st-seeded and fresh off an ACC tournament win. The Cincinnati Bearcats are sitting pretty with a 2nd seed. Tennessee is one of a large number of SEC teams vying for a national crown – the Vols are seeded 3rd and get a potential lay-up over Wright State in the Round of 64.

But the biggest story might be who isn’t a top seed – the Kentucky Wildcats.

Filled with NBA-level frosh and sophomore ballers, Kentucky challenges for a national title every spring. But John Calipari’s team has endured injuries, slumps and mistake-prone basketball this season, and is saddled with only a 5th seed.

Still, the ‘Cats have no intention of going away. Freshman guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander shot over 60% from the field and scored 29 points as UK won its 4th straight SEC tournament title last weekend.

A potential Sweet Sixteen showdown between Virginia and Kentucky awaits. Will someone trip the Jayhawks or the Wildcats first? And will Cincy or Tennessee have a chance to take down the winner?

NCAA South Regional Betting Preview: Top Seeds

For recreational bettors looking to pick a South bracket-winner, the first thing to know about Virginia (+125) is that the program is not a thrill-a-minute, Phi Slama Jamma-styled group of daredevils. The Cavaliers are a deliberately-paced basketball team that specializes in choking opponents in the half-court game.

Defensive specialists like 6’10” junior Jack Salt litter the roster. Talented guards Kyle Guy and Devon Hall work the bean around the perimeter and inside to cagers like Isaiah Wilkins, netting just enough points to leave foes frustrated and beaten.

It will take more than a high-powered offense to beat Virginia. The Cavs are excellent at stymieing teams who try to create a fast break out of thin air. Instead, it will take a strong defending unit to snag turnovers and claim easy buckets going the other way. That’s the only formula to get ahead of the ACC champs and stay there.

2 teams fit that bill, and neither are nicknamed the Wildcats.

The 3rd-seeded Tennessee Volunteers (+600) would volunteer to take a crack at UV. The Vols beat Kentucky twice in the regular season before falling to the Wildcats in the SEC tourney. Star junior forward Admiral Schofield shot the ball very well in the latter 77-72 loss, as did a strong cast of starters. It was the Vols’ bench that did not produce enough points to win. Tennessee is excellent on defense, and won’t be out-classed by any of the top seeds in the South.

Pundits are unsure of Cincinnati’s chances at (+270), with pundits calling into question the offensive punch of players like Jacob Evans, who has led the team with a modest 13.5 point-scoring average. Such analysis overlooks the real key to beating Virginia, or Kentucky for that matter – defense and transition scoring.  Cincy has arguably been the 2nd-best defense in the country in ’17-’18. Against UCF on February 6th, the Bearcats blocked 6 shots and held the Knights to 40 points. Cincinnati would go on to split a season series with Wichita State.

NCAA South Regional Betting Preview: Underdogs

Arizona’s odds to reach the Final Four have shortened considerably in less than a day, to (+350) at Bovada Sportsbook. The reasons are 2-fold. Bettors are drawn to any long odds on a tough team like the Wildcats, who opened at over 5/1 on most boards…and that’s just their line to win the region. Gamblers also like Deandre Ayton, a super-talented 7-footer who can dominate anyone.

But Ayton is awash in scandal due to a report that Wildcat head coach Sean Miller paid the big center-forward to attend the school. The Pac-12 champions may have too many distractions.

Kentucky, meanwhile, has been terrible at times in ’17-18. The squad lost 4 in a row and 6 out of 9 during a crucial late-season stretch of conference games. Gilgeous-Alexander is a special talent, but UK just isn’t consistent enough right now to justify a wager.

Bettors looking for a long-shot gamble on a potential South Regional winner should look at Texas instead. The Longhorns expect Mohamed Bamba to return from injury during March Madness and face only a defensively-challenged Nevada team in the Round of 64.

NCAA South Regional Betting Preview: The Pick

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In almost all cases, looking at rosters and match-ups is more important than adding up potential dollar amounts from the betting board.

But this time, the odds for an evenly-matched Regional open the door to a smart play. Tennessee is currently at (+600) to win the bracket of 16.

Yes, the Vols could possibly be out-jumped by Kentucky, out-defended by Virginia, swamped by Cincy or even beaten by a cathartic performance from Arizona. That doesn’t matter, because Tennessee could also sweep those teams. The first rule of futures betting is to compare the outcome against the odds. 6/1 on Tennessee is too long. If they played the bracket 6 times, the Volunteers would win it at least once and likely multiple times.

Bet on the Tennessee Orange & White to prevail in Atlanta.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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