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West Region Round 1: Free Picks & Analysis

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March Madness Overview

Upsets. Heartbreakers. Chalk. You'll see it all this year with a field full of high-profile match-ups. But which teams will push forward? Which underdogs actually have a shot at making a run?
Spoiler alert - I look at this field and I see a lot of chalk: the best teams will prevail. That happens every year though. In the past 32 years the final four and championship game has been dominated by the top 10 ranked teams:
  • Only once has a 7 seed or greater went to the championship game. They won (UCONN in 2014)
  • The average seed of the winner is 1.8. 1.8! Look at your 1-3 seeds and pick your two winners now. 
But as dominant as the top teams have been, it is statistically more likely that we see a 10+ seed in the sweet 16 than not, so there will be upsets (just don't expect any Virginia/UMBC upsets this year). 

Potential Upsets: West Region

If you saw my posts earlier this week, the west region has an absolutely brutal draw in opening weekend. Sure teams like Michigan State have it tough drawing Duke, but that hypothetical match-up isn't until the Elite 8, their downstate rivals have a tougher path out of opening weekend.  Let me illustrate just how difficult opening weekend is in my eyes by providing you with my projected outcomes for each game. The spread in the below table is based on the away team.

Free March Madness Sports Picks and Bets

At face value - ie on my simulated projections alone - Murray St. & Vermont are both viable candidates for upsets. Nevada and Florida are arguably two top 20 teams (though I have Nevada covering) and Michigan can't escape facing either of them in the following round. While I believe Michigan will beat Montana, Montana is certainly the most difficult 15+ seed in the tournament, and I'm projecting the game much closer than Vegas. I left off Gonzaga here as they will smoke their first round, and I have them by 20 if they were to face Syracuse in round 2. 

So should I bet Murray, Vermont and Montana?

Not necessarily! These are just upset candidates, I see other strong upset candidates in the other regions, and like I said above this is a chalk (favorite) year, so don't pick a bracket flush with upsets. It's likely we'll see an upset here and two blowouts, though my main upset is coming from a different region.

The difficult part with March Madness is the fact that these teams have essentially been playing in two different leagues. Not quite NBA and G League, but not far from it. Look at the efficiency margin for Vermont (-6.01) vs. Florida State (+10.71). This is a measure of opponent strength and how well they fair against those opponents: Vermont not so well, Florida St. very well. However, Vermont hasn't had many chances, so whose to say they won't capitalize when they have one?  Some teams will, others won't. Efficiency margin is just one statistic, and it's one that analysts put TOO much weight on, which is why we see upsets every year.

Ok.Ok. Lots of info, but what are you going to do?

March Madness Picks & Bets: West Region Round 1

My Definite Bets: Nevada -2
Bracket Picks:
  • Syracuse (toss-up)
  • Murray St. (toss-up)
  • Florida St. 
  • Buffalo (lock)
  • Zags (lock)
  • Texas Tech (lock)
  • Michigan (lock)
Potential Bets or Parlay adds: Vermont +10.5, Murray +4.5, Montana +15, Buffalo -6. These bets are all borderline for me given the massive efficiency gap, so I may add one after further analysis or just add 1-2 (possibly as big ML dogs) to some fun parlays. 
Like this article? Interested in my bracket and pick projections for all games, including analysis like this? View my brackets & pick packages here where members get access to all of my plays, analysis and projected spreads.
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