There may not be a region in the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball tournament more puzzling than the West when it comes to your March Madness bets. With a few surprises in both selection and seeding, the West offers some of the most interesting early contests in the tournament.
High seeds, No. 2 Wisconsin , No. 3 Creighton, No. 4 San Diego State will all look to avoid the dreaded one-and-done NCAA Tournament appearance when they take to the court for their tourney openers while No. 8 Gonzaga and No. 9 Oklahoma State will square off in a riveting second round showdown that could turn into a flat-out thriller.
Plan the rest of your week with our NCAA Men’s Tourney TV and betting schedule .
March Madness West Region Round of 64 Betting Picks
Analysis: The Wisconsin Badgers (26-7 SU, 17-16 ATS, 18-14 O/U) may be the No. 2 seed in this region, but they’re also limping into March Madness riding an unimpressive 1-2 SU stretch over its last three games. Luckily, they’re playing an American University Eagles (20-12 SU, 4-0 ATS, 0-4 O/U) team that doesn’t look so hot itself despite winning its last three games and five of six overall.
Prior to their current stretch of fine play, the Eagles had lost three of four in falling to teams like Colgate and Lafayette. While the Badgers aren’t an offensive-minded team in any sense of the word, they do have a well-balanced offense that features four efficient double-digit scorers. The Big ten ballclub is in a totally different class of teams and will win this one easily against an Eagles team that has been held to 59 points or less in each of its L/4 games.
If you don’t think Wisconsin can cover the big, double-digit spread in this one, think again….Wisconsin trashed Minnesota by 26 in the Big Ten tournament on Friday. Besides, the Badgers have gone 6-1 ATS in their L/7 non-conference games.
The Pick: Wisconsin -13.5 Points
Analysis: Respected head coach Steve Fisher has built a nice program at San Diego State (29-4 SU, 18-12 ATS, 7-22 O/U) thanks to players like the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard. The Aztecs will make their fifth straight NCAA Tournament appearance and they’ll look to advance by taking down a New Mexico State (26-9 SU, 8-5 ATS, 3-7 O/U) team that has won five straight games and nine of its L/10, including their third straight Western Athletic Conference crown on Saturday.
Nevertheless, I expect the defensive-minded Aztecs to use their overwhelming defense to shut down the Aggies and bounce them out of March Madness before midnight .
New Mexico State is just 2-8-2 ATS in its last dozen games against teams from the Mountain West while San Diego State has compiled a perfect 6-0 ATS mark in its L/6 games against WAC teams while also going 5-1 ATS in their last six neutral site games.
San Diego State has not allowed an opponent to top the 65-point plateau in its last five games while not allowing more than 67 points in any of its L/10 games overall. The Aztecs win going away to cover the spread with room to spare.
The Pick: San Diego State -7 Points
Analysis: The Gonzaga Bulldogs (28-6 SU, 16-14-1 ATS, 12-19 O/U) and Oklahoma State Cowboys (21-12 SU, 13-15-1 ATS, 16-16 O/U) are going to square off in one of the most interesting opening matchups anywhere.
The Cowboys have won four of their last six games but lost to elite teams in Iowa State and Kansas along the way, so gifted point guard Marcus Smart and company certainly have a chip on their shoulders coming into this contest.
Oklahoma State averaged a stellar 80.3 points per game to finish 17th in scoring while also limiting their opponents to just 40.7 percent shooting from the field (46th) and just 32.2 percent from downtown ((72nd).
While Smart leads the Cowboys in scoring (17.8 ppg), the Cowboys do have three other double-digit scorers including underrated senior guard Markel Brown (17.1 ppg).
Gonzaga can also score the ball as they averaged 76.9 points per game (40th) while shooting a scorching 49.8 percent from the field (5th) and 32.0 percent from long distance (65th).
Defensively, the Bulldogs were also a ‘monster’ as they allowed just 65.0 points per game (54th) while holding their opponents to a pitiful 39.5 percent shooting mark from the field to rank 20th in the country. Gonzaga also has four double-digit scorers on its roster, though none are nearly as explosive and talented as Marcus Smart.
In the end, I expect the more athletic, faster and hungrier Oklahoma State Cowboys to win and cover the spread in a thriller.
I know this team has been wildly inconsistent this season, but they’re playing their best basketball at just the right time and I believe they’re going to use their superior athleticism to keep the efficient Bulldogs mostly in check and improve on their fine 5-2 ATS mark over their last seven games.
The Pick: Oklahoma State -2 Points
Analysis: If you love college basketball then you’ve got to love the Creighton Bluejays (26-7 SU, 18-13 ATS, 13-18 O/U) and superstar scorer Doug McDermott. Despite losing to Providence in the Big East Tournament, Creighton has managed to win seven of it s last 10 games overall with a 21-point win over Villanova, a 15-point win over Marquette and Providence and a 22-point win over DePaul.
UL Lafayette (23-11 SU, 14-14 ATS, 13-15 O/U) has won four straight games and eight of its L/10 games overall, but this is also the same ballclub that got blown out of the water by Baylor (19 points) and Louisville (39 points) and had to squeak past Western Kentucky to reach the NCAA Tournament. Louisiana-Lafayette is 6-19 SU in its last 25 road games while Creighton has covered two double-digit point spreads in its L/5 games.
This one is going to be close as far as the Bluejays covering the spread, but they have outscored their opponents by an impressive average of 12.1 points per game this season. I like the sweet-shooting McDermott and company to win and narrowly cover the spread to advance.