2015 Final Four Picks and March Madness Predictions
by Dave Schwab - 3/23/2015
The original 68-team field for this year's men's NCAA tournament has been pared down to just 16 teams following the first three rounds. After all the smoke cleared from this past Sunday's action, five of the top eight seeds in this tournament have advanced to this Thursday and Friday's Sweet 16 round, including three of the four No. 1 seeds in each region.
I have taken a hard look each section of the remaining bracket and am ready to release my picks for which four teams I have advancing to this year's Final Four.
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Midwest Region- No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky opened this tournament as a clear favorite to win it all, and after reshuffling the deck it remains a 1/1 favorite to continue its run to a perfect 40-0 record while winning this season's national title. The Wildcats are a prohibitive 1/4 favorite to complete their run through the Midwest Region to the Final Four after cruising past No. 16 Hampton and No. 8 Cincinnati in their first two tournament games.
Next up on the slate for Kentucky is Thursday's matchup against No. 5 West Virginia. The Wildcats were heavy double-digit favorites in their first two games, and even though they did not cover those spreads, the outcome of those games was never in question. The Mountaineers have had a good run so far with victories against Buffalo and Maryland, but their dancing days are over come Thursday night. Kentucky will then have to get past the winner of Thursday's No. 3 Notre Dame verses No. 7 Wichita State Shockers to win the Midwest Region. Right now, the Shockers might be a sexy pick to end Kentucky's run, but the betting odds for both of these teams to win the Midwest Region are set at 7/1.
West Region- No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers
The No. 1 Badgers are actually 3/2 second-favorites to win the West Region, with No. 2 Arizona having a slight edge as a 5/6 favorite. Wisconsin has already made short work of No. 16 Coastal Carolina and No. 8 Oregon in its first two tournament games, and it now has its sights set on No. 4 North Carolina in Thursday's Sweet 16 matchup.
Wisconsin's current straight up winning streak now stands at eight games, and it has just one loss in its last 19 games dating back to mid-January. Arizona is also riding an impressive winning streak that reached 13 games with victories against No. 15 Texas Southern and No. 10 Ohio State in its first two games in this tournament, but we are banking on defense as being the deciding factor in a likely matchup in the Elite Eight Round between these two powers. The Wildcats have a very good defense that is allowing just 59 points per game, but the Badgers have a great defense that is ranked 10th in the nation in points allowed (56.8).
East Region- No. 4 Louisville Cardinals
The top two seeds in the East, No. 1 Villanova and No. 2 Virginia, both made an early exit to leave things wide-open in this region for a trip to the Final Four. No. 7 Michigan State actually has the best odds to win the East at 7/4, but we like No. 4 Louisville's chances in this region at 12/5 odds.
The Cardinals will now face No. 8 North Carolina State, which is coming off its stunning upset of Villanova this past Saturday. Louisville's path to this Friday night's Sweet 16 matchup against the Wolfpack includes victories against No. 13 UC Irvine as a favorite and against No. 5 Northern Iowa as a slight underdog. The likely matchup in this weekend's East Region Finals would be Louisville against Michigan State in what could easily be an 'instant classic'. The Spartans will be a very tough out, but we still like the Cardinals chances to keep marching towards a possible showdown against Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament Finals.
South Region- No. 1 Duke Blue Devils
It's rare in the NCAA Tournament that three No. 1 seeds advance all the way to the Final Four, but we are not about to start betting against the South Region's No. 1 team. The Duke Blue Devils have responded extremely well to a stunning loss to Notre Dame as favorites in the ACC Tournament with lopsided victories against No. 16 Robert Morris and a tough No. 8 San Diego State by a combined 48 points in their first two NCAA Tournament games.
Duke has been listed as co-favorites along with the Gonzaga Bulldogs to win the South at 3/2 betting odds. The Blue Devils will first have to get past No. 5 Utah this Friday night in the first South Region Sweet 16 matchup, while the Bulldogs could have their hands full against the pesky No. 11 UCLA Bruins in the other game. When the smoke finally clears sometime late this Sunday night, we love Duke's chances to still be dancing into the Final Four.
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