It's time to keep our region-by-region NCAA Tournament betting previews rolling.
After Jake Faigus shared his thoughts on the South, Zac Krull hit on both the East and Midwest earlier today, and now it's time for me to look at the West.
This loaded bracket includes the reigning national champion (Kansas), the Pac-12 regular season champs (UCLA), college basketball's most consistent program this last half decade (Gonzaga), plus a bunch of others (UConn, TCU) that can make some noise.
Here is our full gambling preview, with picks, predictions and upset specials - with odds provided by Betfred Sportsbook.
The Favorite: Kansas +300
The Jayhawks won the Big 12 regular season once again, and showed they showed they were the class of the best conference in basketball.
They are led by first team All-American Jalen Wilson who averages 20.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. He takes nearly a third of the Jayhawks shots for good reason. KU also has another projected first round pick on the wing in freshmen Grady Dick. He’s shooting nearly 40 percent from 3, and they return their point guard from last year’s national championship team Dajuan Harris. The Jayhawks also ranks seventh nationally in defensive efficiency and they rank in the top 50 in three-point defense.
Yet despite the talent and experience, advanced metrics say they only have an 8.6 percent of reaching the Final Four, the lowest projected odds among all No. 1 seeds. They are going to have many tough matchups, including either Illinois or Arkansas, two talented teams capable of knocking them off in Round 2. Having to face the front courts of a UConn or Saint Mary’s in the Sweet Sixteen is a struggle as well.
I haven’t even listed a possible Elite Eight matchup against UCLA, Gonzaga, or TCU.
The grind is hard for Kansas here.
Does the Second Favorite Have a Chance: UCLA +400
UCLA is back in the NCAA tournament as a top seed. Mick Cronin has taken the Bruins to the Final Four and made a Sweet Sixteen in his first two NCAA Tournament appearances in Westwood. UCLA has had some unlucky injuries down the stretch with loss of Jaylen Clark for the season and Adem Bona suffered a shoulder injury in the Pac-12 Tournament semifinal. The Bruins have depth and should be able to survive without Bona until the Sweet 16.
They also get a very easy path to the Sweet 16. They are a 17-point favorite against UNC Asheville and would be a seven to nine point favorite against either Boise or Northwestern, their second round opponent (assuming they beat UNC-Asheville).
The Bruins rank second nationally in defensive efficiency and they rank in the top 10 in defensive turnover rate. They don’t play the type of basketball metrics and college basketball nerds love. They hammer the offensive boards and take open mid-range jump shots. Tyger Campbell is an elite point guard and Jaime Jacquez is one of the best players in the country. UCLA has talent off the bench in Will McClendon and Dylan Andrews. They matchup extremely well with TCU. I think they would be Gonzaga in the Sweet Sixteen.
UCLA is my pick to win the national championship and I’m not ditching them here.
So yes, of course they have a chance. Much more than that.
Best Value: Arkansas +1800
I’ve lost so much money on Arkansas through the season, I can’t believe I’m actually writing this. Yet even in seasons of frustration, Eric Musselman seems to put it together in March.
They’re paced by a pair of likely lottery picks in five-star freshmen Nick Smith and Anthony Black. Talent wise, the Razorbacks have the best guard duo in the tournament. Guard play wins in March. Black is a three-point marksman and floor general. He has elite vision in transition and can open shots when you need to. Nick Smith is more of a go get a bucket type of guy. He is a source of energy who can get to the rim or hit shots off the dribble.
The Razorbacks boast the 16th-rated adjusted defensive efficiency (per KenPom). If Arkansas can figure it out, they can reach their ceiling and miraculously find a way to make it out of the region of death.
Stay Away: Gonzaga +400
The Zags are a popular pick to win the West Regional.
They should win quite comfortably against my alma mater Grand Canyon in the first round and Mark Few makes it the Sweet Sixteen almost every year. Drew Timme is a senior, they should make a run in his final year, right?
I just don’t see it.
Gonzaga ranks in the bottom 200 in true shooting percentage. When they can’t turn teams over, they can’t get stops. You are going to have to face elite point guards in Mike Miles and Tyger Campbell before getting to the Elite Eight. If they face TCU, that’s just a horrible matchup for them. The Zags don’t have any rim protection and have trouble defending the three. Julian Strawther has become a reliable secondary scorer to Timme. Outside of Strawther and Timme the rest of the Zags are streaky.
While they are a popular pick, I’m going to stay away from picking Gonzaga to advance deep into the tournament.
The Pick: UCLA +400
As mentioned above, UCLA is my pick to win the national championship and I'm not backing down here.
Yes, the Clark injury hurts, but this is a team that, even without Clark, beat a bubble team in Oregon in the Pac-12 Tournament, and was a play away from beating Arizona too. And that was without Bona in the final, who should be back.
Bottom line, this team isn't always pretty, but what they do translate to March.
I love the Bruins at +400 in the Betfred Sportsbook.
And think making it to Houston is just the first part of their March run.
To get full odds on the entire NCAA Tournament visit Betfred Sportsbook
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