No region is going to give me bigger headaches when I make NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament free picks in the Sweet Sixteen than the East. Both matchups are pick ‘ems because the oddsmakers are just as confused about this matchup as us handicappers. Let’s break down the beasts of the East Region.
NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Free Picks For The East Region
#1 Virginia Cavaliers are +1000 to win NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament
To show how solid Virginia actually is, they haven’t lost a game in regulation since mid-January…and that was on the road against Duke. They also picked up an overtime loss against Maryland to end their regular season, but since then they have been clamping down on opponents defensively and ripping through them offensively. Virginia has been beating up opponents by an average of +10.8 points in their last five tournament-style games, and are 3-1-1 ATS in those matchups as well.
It’s hard to sell Virginia because they’re just a solid, defensively minded basketball team. They allowed the fewest points per game in the country amongst all 68 teams in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and were a frequent take in my free picks thanks to a great 19-11 ATS record. What they lack in a go-to scorer they make up for by having a capable seven-an rotation. Malcolm Brodgon is their leading scorer and he only averaged 12.6 points per game.
That’s the ultimate problem with Virginia long term: can you really rely on a team that lacks a reliable, explosive weapon when you need one? I’m not so sure. Defense does tend to win championships, but so does scoring. I also don’t believe that Virginia is as strong on the boards as their numbers suggest, and that’s a weakness I expect the Spartans to expose this coming weekend in the Sweet Sixteen. I like Virginia a lot, and think they’re a vastly under appreciated team overall, but it’s hard to boost them too much when I’m not even backing them this weekend in my NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament free picks. I think three paragraphs is enough.
#2 MSU Spartans are +450 to win NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament
What killed Michigan State heading in to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament the most was everyone form the President to every talking head on television, backing them as the “team to beat”. That’s part of the reason they had a -15.0 line against Delaware that they pushed on, and a -8.5 line when playing Harvard that they missed by a point-and-a-half in an 80-73 victory.
The action on Michigan State also grew immeasurably as they became America’s favorite free pick in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament and that didn’t help their backers either. The problem with all my complaining is that MSU deserves every single drop of attention they’ve been given. They’re a deep, talented and well-coached roster that has had zero problems with their competition over the last few weeks since an upset loss against Ohio State.
You’re going to take MSU if you like favorites. The only teams with better odds to win the national title are Florida and Louisville, who are both +400. The gap in value between MSU and Virginia has more to do with the public factor than anything else, so you might lose a couple points because of their overall popularity…but that doesn’t take away from how amazing the Spartans are as a team. Anything can happen in March Madness, but long term the Spartans are a damn fine team to keep your money safe with.
#3 Iowa State Cyclones are +2500 to win NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament
I’m done doubting Iowa State. They clobbered NCCU by +18.0 points and then forced UNC in to a horrible corner by winning with a last minute shot. Listen, UNC played an incredibly good game up until their point guard called a timeout with no time left. And this is kind of what Iowa State does – they wear you down by playing a physical style of basketball that few have the tank or strength of will to keep up with. Credit De’Andre Kane with setting that type of torrid pace.
I find it hard to see Iowa State imposing themselves on Michigan State and escaping the East Region, but they’re not going down without a fight. When it comes to a bet with long odds to win it all, you can’t ask for more in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament when gauging long term free picks on teams with stretched payouts. Iowa State is as good as any underdog in the futures market.
#7 UConn Huskies are +2800 to win NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament
The best reason to bet on UConn’s +2800 number is Shabazz Napier, a one man army who exploded against Villanova for 25 points. I think that win says more about how overvalued Villanova was in general terms than it does about how strong UConn is. Listen, they’re a really, really good flier play but I don’t personally believe that they can get past Iowa State’s defense. So throw a chip shot at UConn if you feel like it ($5 will pay out $140 for example), just know I’m not even taking UConn in my NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament free picks this weekend and there are few handicappers that adore Shabazz as much as I do.