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Louisville Odds Still Looking Good In The Eyes Of Vegas

The good news is that my two NCAA Tournament Championship Game selections are still around, Duke and Indiana. Other than that, my bracket is probably in as bad of shape as yours is. If you can honestly tell me with a straight face that you had picked Florida Gulf Coast to reach the Sweet 16, well, then you clearly have a family member on the team or some other blind rooting interest. The Eagles are the first No. 15 to reach this round. It also should be noted that not a single bracket in the ESPN Challenge has all 16 correct teams still standing.

Louisville and Indiana were co-favorites at 5/1 when the tournament tipped off, but it’s the Cards who are now 3/1 overall favorites to cut down the nets in Atlanta at Bovada. I can’t argue with that choice thus far as Louisville looked excellent in routing North Carolina A&T and especially Colorado State in the first two rounds (I’ll never call the First Four the first round and the Round of 64 the second round, no matter what the NCAA wants to call it). U of L has won 12 straight since that crazy five-overtime loss at Notre Dame. Just one of those wins has been by single-digits. Now the Cards get a No. 12 seed in Indianapolis on Friday in Oregon. Louisville opened as the second biggest favorite of the Sweet 16 at minus-10 on BetOnline. The winner faces either Michigan State or Duke on Sunday. Louisville is 5/7 to win the Midwest Region. I still like Duke (12/1 to win it all) at 11/4 to take the Midwest.

Third-seeded Florida, not Indiana, is the second-favorite overall at 19/4 to win the championship. I wasn’t all that impressed with UF’s wins over Northwestern State and Minnesota, the latter of which got Tubby Smith fired on Monday. I still have concerns for when the Gators play in a close game because they haven’t won one yet this season. Florida is the biggest game favorite in the Sweet 16 at minus-13 against FGCU. But I’m not convinced that the Gators would then handle the Kansas-Michigan winner. UF is 4/5 to win the South Region. Florida Gulf Coast is the longest title shot at 75/1 and also longest to win any region at 15/1. I like Michigan at 5/2 to win the South after the Wolverines’ destruction of VCU.

The West Region is really out of whack with No. 2 Ohio State the only top-five seed to advance, and the Buckeyes needed a last-second three-pointer from Aaron Craft to beat Iowa State in the Round of 32. If OSU can beat Arizona on Thursday, it would be a sizable favorite against either No. 9 Wichita State, the Gonzaga slayer, or No. 13 La Salle. Ohio State is even-money to win the West and 15/2 to win it all.

The only chalk region is the East, with No. 1 Indiana, No. 2 Miami, No. 3 Marquette and No. 4 Syracuse all advancing, although the Golden Eagles had no right beating Davidson in the first round. That Marquette won that game by one point and then beat Butler by two may or may not be a good thing. Of the previous eight teams to win their Round of 64 and 32 games by two points or fewer, five then lost in the Sweet 16 (La Salle is in same boat as Marquette). Of the three teams that won in that round, two were able to reach the national title game, however. I don’t see Marquette beating Miami on Thursday. Indiana is 1/1 favorite for the East Region, just ahead of the Canes.

That a No. 1 seed wins the tournament is -110 at Bovada with "no" at -130. I definitely lean "yes" there with only Gonzaga missing off the top line. You can get a No. 2 seed winning at +250, and I’d probably put a few bucks down there just because there are three left and Ohio State has a pretty clear path to the Final Four at a minimum. In fact, I envision a Buckeyes-Duke national semifinal on one side of the bracket.

One prop I recommended last week that is looking very good right now is the Big Ten "over" 13 total wins. Four of the conference’s seven schools are still standing, and the only one that lost its first game was Wisconsin to Ole Miss.

Bovada also has released odds on the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. Considering Louisville is the overall favorite, its best player, Russ Smith, is the 5/1 favorite to win that award. Smith has the highest scoring average of any player still going in the tournament at 25.0 per game. Teammate Peyton Siva is 8/1 to win Final Four MOP. Indiana’s Victor Oladipo is 6/1 and Cody Zeller 8/1. Remember that the award isn’t for the tournament’s MVP but the Final Four’s. Thus, I lean Zeller here but for sure will be putting a few dollars down on Duke’s Mason Plumlee at 25/1. I’m rather shocked he’s at such long odds. Teammate Seth Curry is 12/1.

By Alan Matthews

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