It’s not too often the Committee “gets it right” with their March Madness brackets, but once the dust cleared on Selection Sunday, nobody was complaining too much. This year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is noticeably short on snubs; you could bicker over seeding, perhaps, and maybe the Utah Utes should be in the First Four instead of the USC Trojans. But that’s about it.

This year’s Tournament should be a dandy, with at least 10 viable contenders bringing short odds to the Big Dance. The Villanova Wildcats, who opened at +750 on the NCAAB futures market, are the first reigning champions to be named top overall seed since the Florida Gators in 2007 – and the Gators successfully defended their title, which bodes well for Villanova. They’ve been placed in the East Region, where the toughest competition should come from the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils (+650).

Running Bulldog
The Gonzaga Bulldogs (+900) would also have made a fine choice for No. 1 overall seed, but the one loss to the BYU Cougars at the end of the regular season was too much for the Committee. Gonzaga has a very good shot at winning the West Region and reaching the Final Four for the first time in school history. To get there, the Bulldogs might have to get through the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats; when they met back in December, the ‘Zags won 69-62 as 5-point favorites on neutral ground.

It’ll be the Kansas Jayhawks (+750) representing the Midwest Region as the No. 1 seed, even though they lost their opening-round Champ Week contest to the TCU Horned Frogs. The Committee gave the Jayhawks a pass; freshman guard Josh Jackson (21.3 points, 9.4 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.1 steals per 40 minutes) was suspended for that game. Be that as it may, Kansas may have their hands full if they run into the No. 2 Louisville Cardinals (+1600) in the Elite Eight.

Positively Shocking
The South Region figures to be the most competitive this season, and the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels (+650) will need to play their best to make it out alive. Serious challenges await from the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats (+1000) and the No. 3 UCLA Bruins (+1000) – this year’s hottest betting commodity  with the incredible Lonzo Ball running the offense. Ball is among the top favorites to win the Wooden Award and be named the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft. There is no better player in college basketball right now.

The South is also home to this year’s leading Cinderella candidate, the No. 10 Wichita State Shockers (+6600). But if the glass slipper doesn’t fit the Shockers, maybe it’ll be whichever No. 11 seed wins the First Four matchup between the Kansas State Wildcats (+25000) and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (+25000). Either of these teams would have been a quality at-large selection to go straight into the First Round, but the depth of the Big 12 and ACC, respectively, means they have to play each other first. Welcome to March Madness.


*Odds as of March 13, 2017