USFantasy Sports regular customer and blogger, Doug Shain, provides his point of view on the USF March Madness Contest
2017 NCAA Tournament Props Analysis
I love the NCAA Basketball Tournament. I love it so much that I’m 39 years old and I can’t remember ever working on the first Thursday of the tournament. For one glorious Thursday a year (and that Friday if I can find a way to get that day off as well) I plop down at the nearest casino with bet slips in my hand and revel in the glory that is College Basketball. This year is going to be no different except for one small exception; this year those bet slips are going to say USFantasy on them. When I saw the props released for the tournament earlier this afternoon I got a huge smile on my face. There are just so many juicy bets waiting for me (and you) this week. I won’t break down every prop available but let’s take a few moments and look at some of my favorite prop bets for the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Final Four Card
You can bet who will make the Regional Finals (and who will go to the Final Four) from each of the four regions. You do this with win and place bets. You can also do a Pick 4 bet for all four props with your Final Four picks (big money potential here).
Prop #1 (East Region): The teams to beat in this region are the top two seeds, Duke and Villanova. I think they are both going to have short odds by the time betting closes on Thursday morning, although I wouldn’t shy away from Villanova if we start to see that they might close at 4-1. It’s very likely that Duke will be the favorite from this region. The one team that I think has the most value in this region is SMU. They opened at 16-1 to win the region, worse odds than the #8 seed Wisconsin. SMU is playing great basketball and just demolished Cincinnati in the American Athletic Conference Championship. I think they are underseeded as a 6 and could give Duke trouble in the Sweet 16. I have them moving on to face Villanova in the Elite Eight. A PLACE bet on SMU could pay off well and I’d back that up with a WIN bet in the off chance they upset Nova and head to the Final Four.
Prop #2 (West Region): Gonzaga is the weakest of the four #1 seeds and the one most likely to lose before they get to the Elite Eight. The thing is, everyone knows this and I think there’s a chance we can see them closing with decent odds to win this region (8-1 is not out of the question). The money is going to come in on Arizona (Pac-12 Conference champs), and rightfully so as they are top 5 team since Alonzo Trier came back into the fold, but the Wildcats have a couple of potential hiccups (most notably Florida State) along the way and if they get upset then a Gonzaga bet starts to look might interesting. Speaking of Florida State, what if they get upset by the Dunk City boys from Florida Gulf Coast? Could the Eagles make a run to the Elite Eight? It would be one of the craziest runs in NCAA history but they are a strong 14 seed and quite capable of an upset or two along the way. If the odds on the Field remain at 99-1, I’d probably throw a couple of bucks in there on the off chance that we get an FGCU run. Notre Dame is another team that could make a run, although they could just as easily get bounced in the first round as a very inconsistent basketball team. When they are hot, they are one of the best teams in the NCAA (like when they made that run in the ACC tournament) but when they are cold they are downright awful. Still, at 13-1 in the weakest region they make some sense as a longshot bet. When all is said and done, I think Arizona comes out of the region (they’re my Pick 4 team) but I’m throwing some money behind Gonzaga if the odds start to creep past 6-1.
Prop #3 (Midwest Region): Kansas is one of my least favorite teams in the NCAA but they are an elite squad when Josh Jackson is playing his best. There really isn’t a team in this region that jumps out as an obvious squad to upend them in a run to the Final Four (at least not in the same way that Arizona is for Gonzaga) but that doesn’t mean we can’t find some value in the case of an upset along the way. A potential Second Round game against Michigan State is where one of those upsets can come into play. Despite a poor regular season, Sparty is always a threat come March. They are a very healthy 25-1 to win the region right now and while I don’t think they can beat Kansas and either Oregon/Louisville, I do think they can make the Elite Eight and cash a PLACE bet for you. Two other teams that I’m targeting in this region as potential PLACE bets (with a WIN bet backup) are Rhode Island and Oregon. URI is playing great basketball right now and they are only an 11 seed because of some early season struggles due to injury. They should be able to handle Creighton and then will have a Second Round showdown with Oregon. The Ducks are going to be discounted by the betting public because of the loss of Chris Boucher but Dillon Brooks and company are more than capable of making a run without their defensive whiz. If we can get odds in the 10-1 range to win this region then I’ll be all over Oregon for sure. I think the winner of the Oregon/URI Second Round game is going to the Elite Eight, and thus will cash a PLACE ticket for you.
Prop #4 (South Region): I hope and pray that the pedigree of Kentucky and North Carolina encourage a lot of bets but I fear that the smart money is going to come on UCLA to win this region. I love the high flying Bruins and they are my pick to win the entire tournament. If I can get odds anywhere in the 5-1 range or better I’ll feel like it’s a gift. It’s not exciting to cash a 5-1 ticket when there are teams sitting at 25-1 or better but I’d rather cash a small winning ticket over holding a losing ticket any day. Two long shot that intrigue me in this region are Wichita State and Middle Tennessee State. Wichita opened at 25-1 to win the region but that number is going to drop rapidly. They are a 6 point favorite in their First Round matchup as a 10 seed and all the advanced metrics say they are top 10 overall team, not a 10 seed. This will drive money to Wichita. If I’m wrong about this, and I’ll be keeping a close eye on the live odds at USFantasy.com, then I’ll very happily put some money down on Wichita at 15-1 or longer odds. MTSU as a 12 seed is about as big of a joke as Wichita as a 10 seed, but nobody is talking about that. Vegas sees it as they’ve made MTSU a pick em against 5th seeded Minnesota. If MTSU gets by the Gophers, and they will, they’ve got a winnable Second Round matchup against Butler. After that it’s only one more win before you can cash a ticket on them. They opened at 75-1 and I’m all over that number.
Pick 4: While I’m willing to take some chances within each region, I want to make sure my Pick 4 bets are pretty safe. I’ll have a couple of teams from each region on my ticket but I’m not getting too crazy here. My Pick 4 will look like this: Villanova/SMU (East), Arizona/Gonzaga (West), Kansas/Oregon (Midwest), and UCLA/UNC (South). If I wanted to get a little nutty then I’d consider Wisconsin (East), Notre Dame (West), Rhode Island (Midwest), and Wichita State (South).
Prop #1 (Conference to Win Tourney):
Pac 12 – opened at 5-1 (I think UCLA wins the whole thing; Arizona/Oregon are legit contenders)
AAC – opened at 30-1 (with SMU as a longshot option)
Prop #3 (Seed to Win Tourney):
#2 Seed – opened at 4-1 (Arizona and Duke are the most likely candidates)
#3 Seed – opened at 6-1 (I love UCLA)
#6 Seed – opened at 25-1 (SMU)
NCAA Round 1 Card
Prop #6 (Nevada vs Iowa St)
Entry #’s 1-3: Nevada to win. Essentially, you’re getting an NV money line bet at about 7-1 based on opening odds. This is much better than actually making a bet on Nevada.
Prop #4 (Wichita State vs Dayton)
Entry #’s 1-4: Wichita State to win. Just like with Nevada, I’m getting an average of +475 on my money for a Wichita State money line bet even though they are 6-point favorites. The money line right now on Wichita if you take them traditionally is -260. This is like getting free money.
Prop #5 (Michigan State vs Miami)
Entry #3: Michigan State to win by 11 or more. I think Sparty blows out Miami and I’d love to get more than 10-1 on my money when it happens. There’s something about a Tom Izzo coached squad in March that is magical.
Prop #6 (Marquette vs South Carolina)
Entry #’s 4-7: South Carolina to win. South Carolina is essentially playing a home game. Marquette is very erratic on the road. Right now you’re getting an average of +575 for what amounts to a money line home game bet on South Carolina.