NCAA Tournament East Region Betting Primer (2022 March Madness)

Mar 16, 2022 - 1:03 AM

The East Region is a beast in the 2022 NCAA Tournament. Nine of the top 30 teams on reside in this region. This region is loaded, and whoever makes it to the Final Four will have certainly earned it.

Will defending champion Baylor overcome injuries and make another deep run? Can blue bloods UCLA and Kentucky achieve more glory? Will Purdue make it out of the first round? Or can someone like Texas, ACC Tournament champ Virginia Tech, Murray State, or San Francisco cause some havoc? Here’s a team-by-team breakdown of the East Region. Odds courtesy of BettingPros.

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(1) Baylor Bears  (26-5 SU, 16-15 ATS, 17-14 O/U)

Odds to make the FinalFour: +200

Strengths: Baylor is downright tenacious. They defend at a high level, force a ton of turnovers and crash the offensive glass with reckless abandon. The Bears rank 9th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 18th in adjusted defensive efficiency, per

Weaknesses: Baylor does the bulk of its scoring from the interior and is hitting just 34.6% of its 3-pointers. The Bears have also been hit hard by injuries, most notable to Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, who was a spark plug forward. This Bears team is really good, but it’s not on the level of last year’s team.

X-Factor: Will guard LJ Cryer be healthy enough to play in the Round of 32. It would make sense for the Bears to rest him in the opening round. But if Baylor is to make a run, they’ll need Cryer on the floor.

Prediction: Baylor will make it to the second weekend, where all bets are off depending on Cryer’s status. This team’s ceiling probably stops at the Elite Eight, however.

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(2) Kentucky Wildcats (25-6 SU, 15-16 ATS, 15-16 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +200

Strengths: The Wildcats have this thing called experience. They also might have the player of the year in big man Oscar Tshiebwe. Kentucky does just about everything well, but they excel particularly in scoring in the paint and pulling down offensive boards. Kentucky isn’t an elite defensive team, but they’re good enough.

Weaknesses: Kentucky’s aforementioned defense ranks 127th in adjusted efficiency in their last 10 games, a worrying trend for John Calipari’s bunch.

X-Factor: Can freshman Tyty Washington Jr., become a star on the grandest stage? Kentucky has the depth and talent to compete with anyone. But they need Washington to take the pressure off Tshiebwe.

Prediction: Kentucky has Final Four potential, but a potential matchup with Murray State or San Francisco in the Round of 32, followed by a possible matchup with Purdue in the Sweet Sixteen is terrifying. Kentucky feels like a safe bet to make the second weekend, with the upside to win it all.

(3) Purdue Boilermakers (25-6 SU, 13-17-1 ATS, 17-14 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +450

Strengths: Purdue is lethal offensively. Guard Jaden Ivey is a lottery pick and the big men duo featuring Zach Edey and Trevion Williams is tough to beat. Purdue has the nation’s most efficient offense, per Torvik, and has an effective field goal percentage of 57%. And if Purdue’s hitting its threes, you’re in trouble.

Weaknesses: Purdue is in big trouble if its shots aren’t falling. The Boilermakers struggle to defend, ranking 89th in defensive efficiency. They give up a high amount of threes, which leads to more variance in a tournament setting. Purdue also can get sloppy with the ball, as evidenced in their loss to Iowa in the Big Ten title game.

X-Factor: Sasha Stefanovic isn’t Purdue’s best player, but he might be their most important. When he’s hitting shots, Purdue is even harder to defend. If he’s having an off night, the offense can crumble.

Prediction: I love this Purdue team, but I just don’t trust them. They’ll get past Yale, but a Round of 32 matchup with Texas or Virginia Tech is terrifying. And Kentucky likely awaits after that. The second weekend is plausible, but a deeper run than that feels unrealistic unless all their shots are falling.

(4) UCLA Bruins (23-6 SU, 15-13-1 ATS, 14-15 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +450

Strengths: The Bruins are probably a tad under-seeded here. UCLA has all of the key pieces from last year’s Final Four team and ranks inside the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.

Weaknesses: UCLA’s talent hasn’t always manifested into success. And aside from a low turnover rate on offense, the Bruins aren’t elite in any particular category. They also don’t shoot great from the floor, ranking 142nd in effective field goal percentage.

X-Factor: Can UCLA make enough shots against the likes of St. Mary’s, Purdue, or Kentucky?

Prediction: I could see the Bruins being ripe for an early upset, as none of their potential second-round matchups will be easy outs. UCLA has the upside to go to back-to-back Final Fours, but something feels off with this team.

(5) St. Mary’s Gaels (24-6 SU, 19-9-1 ATS, 13-15 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +1800

Strengths: In a bracket loaded with talented teams, St. Mary’s could come in a little undervalued. The Gaels love to shorten games by playing at a snail-like pace. They aren’t prolific offensively, but they’re good enough. And good luck getting a 3-point shot off against them. St. Mary’s ranks fourth in the country in opponent 3-point rate.

Weaknesses: St. Mary’s is far from an offensive juggernaut, and has allowed opponents to shoot 34.4% from 3-point range on the shots they get off.

X-Factor: Matthias Tass drives the offense for the Gaels, but St. Mary’s also has three other players scoring in double figures. Can at least one of them emerge and deliver in each tournament game?

Prediction: St. Mary’s has the potential to bust some brackets. The Gaels are a veteran group that can make up for talent gaps by mucking up the game and controlling the tempo. Nobody wants to see this team across from them. A trip to the second weekend is absolutely in the cards.

(6) Texas Longhorns (21-10 SU, 12-18-1 ATS, 14-17 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +1400

Strengths: The predictive metrics still love Texas. The Longhorns rank 15th on both KenPom and Torvik. Chris Beard is an elite coach and the Longhorns get after it on the defensive end, ranking 13th in efficiency.

Weaknesses: Texas can’t score. Or I should say struggles mightily to score. The Longhorns rank 171st in effective field goal percentage, and it tends to be a matter of time before a scoring drought comes.

X-Factor: Can Texas’ five seniors step up? This is an extremely experienced team with plenty of returning players from last year’s tournament loss to 14-seed Abilene Christian. Can Beard flip the switch when it matters most?

Prediction: If Texas can get past Virginia Tech, it could give Purdue fits with its defense. But it’s hard to trust the Longhorns at all these days, as they enter the tournament losers of three straight.

(7) Murray State Racers (30-2 SU, 16-13 ATS, 12-17 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +4000

Strengths: Murray State doesn’t have Ja Morant anymore, but this team still ranks inside the top 50 in offensive and defensive efficiency. They clamp down 3-point shots and have a win over Memphis along with a 13-point loss to Auburn. The Racers haven’t lost since falling to the Tigers on December 22nd.

Weaknesses: Murray State can have issues defending the interior, as they rank 182nd in 2-point defense. The Racers also didn’t face the stiffest competition in the Ohio Valley Conference.

X-Factor: The trio of KJ Williams, Tevin Brown, and Justice Hill will have to carry the load if Murray State is to make a run.

Prediction: Murray State gets past San Francisco and gives Kentucky hell, but their run ends in the Round of 32.

(8) North Carolina Tar Heels (23-8 SU, 15-15-1 ATS, 19-12 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +2500

Strengths: The Tar Heels know how to score, ranking 26th in adjusted offensive efficiency. They also have a beast down low in Armando Bacot, who can give any team nightmares.

Weaknesses: You never know what you’re going to get from UNC. When they bring their A-game, they’re awfully impressive. When they don’t, it’s an unmitigated disaster at times. Consistency is UNC’s biggest issue.

X-Factor: Bacot should be able to dominate against Marquette, and he’ll need to dominate if North Carolina is to get past Baylor.

Prediction: North Carolina wins its first game before falling short against Baylor.

(9) Marquette Golden Eagles (19-11 SU, 16-13-1 ATS, 15-14-1 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +6000

Strengths: Marquette is a balanced team that plays awfully fast. The Golden Eagles rank 60th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 47th defensively. Shaka Smart’s bunch makes you earn every bucket.

Weaknesses: Marquette might’ve peaked in January. The Golden Eagles finished the year losing 4-5 with some questionable losses sprinkled in. The Golden Eagles also can’t rebound. They rank 328th in offensive rebounding and 307th in defensive rebounding.

X-Factor: All-Big East First Teamer Justin Lewis has to carry the load and keep his composure. Lewis is as talented as anyone in this region, but sometimes he gets lost in the shuffle when he faces adversity.

Prediction: Marquette bows out in the first round.

(10) San Francisco Dons (24-9 SU, 12-18-1 ATS, 16-15 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +3500

Strengths: The Dons are an analytical darling. They rank 19th on Torvik and 21st on KenPom. San Francisco is excellent at defending against the three, ranking 15th in opponent 3-point rate and 9th in 3-point percentage against. The Dons also shoot well inside.

Weaknesses: San Francisco takes a ton of threes but isn’t proficient at making them. And while they have a win over Davidson, they went 0-4 against Gonzaga and St. Mary’s and lost to Loyola-Chicago.

X-Factor: Big man Yauhen Massalski can be a handful for opponents when he’s on his game.

Prediction: San Francisco definitely could beat Murray State, but the dream likely dies after that.

(11) Virginia Tech Hokies (19-12 SU, 16-15 ATS, 13-18 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +2500

Strengths: Virginia Tech has all the momentum in the world after securing a bid by winning the ACC Tournament. Mike Young’s bunch is the third-best team in the country in 3-point shooting.

Weaknesses: Are the Hokies out of gas? I’m curious to see how they’ll look early after expending so much energy just to make the dance. Virginia Tech also can be beaten up inside and don’t get to the foul line often. If the threes aren’t hitting, the Hokies are in trouble.

X-Factor: Storm Murphy is the engine. If he’s rolling, Virginia Tech is tough to stop.

Prediction: The Hokies will certainly have the Longhorns on upset alert. If they can get past their grueling defense, they could definitely outshoot Purdue for a trip to the Sweet Sixteen.

(12) Wyoming Cowboys (24-7 SU, 16-11-3 ATS, 15-15 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +15000

Strengths: Wyoming is a sound team that loves to post opponents up. The Cowboys rank 30th in 2-point shooting and also defend the three at a high level.

Weaknesses: The Cowboys shoot a lot of threes, but they don’t hit a ton of them. Six of their eight losses came away from home.

X-Factor: Wyoming’s duo of Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike drives the Wyoming offense.

Prediction: Wyoming will bow out in Dayton after losing to Indiana.

(12) Indiana Hoosiers (18-12 SU, 16-14 ATS, 14-16 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +5000

Strengths: A solid run in the Big Ten Tournament saved Indiana’s title hopes. The Hoosiers are a strong defensive team, particularly inside. And Trayce Jackson-Davis is capable of carrying this team to a deep run.

Weaknesses: Indiana’s guard play is inconsistent, which is why the Hoosiers rank 170th in 3-point shooting and 111th in effective field goal percentage.

X-Factor: Trayce Jackson-Davis. That’s it.

Prediction: Indiana will get past Wyoming before falling to St. Mary’s on a quick turnaround.

(13) Akron Zips (21-9 SU, 14-14 ATS, 13-15 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +20000

Strengths: The Mid-American Conference champions enter the tournament winners of their last eight games. Enrique Freeman, Xavier Castaneda, and Ali Ali make up a solid trio that could give their opening-round opponent trouble. The Zips are a solid shooting team, ranking 57th in effective field goal percentage.

Weaknesses: Akron doesn’t get a ton of stops, and they give up a good amount of 3-pointers. The Zips also are less than 70% from the free-throw line.

X-Factor: Akron places at a slow pace, which means they’ll need to hit their threes if they want to pull off a colossal upset.

Prediction: Akron covers, but ultimately falls to UCLA.

(14) Yale Bulldogs (17-11 SU, 13-14 ATS, 13-14 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +20000

Strengths: The Ivy League champions are well coached by James Jones and rank 34th in 3-point defense.

Weaknesses: Yale struggles to put the ball in the basket, ranking 223rd in offensive efficiency and 170th in effective field goal percentage.

X-Factor: Azar Swain will need to go off for Yale to have a chance.

Prediction: Yale doesn’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with even a lousy defensive team in Purdue.

(15) St. Peter’s Peacocks (16-11 SU, 17-4 ATS, 7-14 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +25000

Strengths: The MAAC champions can defend. They rank 34th in adjusted defensive efficiency and seventh in effective field goal percentage. They also rank top 15 in defending both twos and threes.

Weaknesses: The Peacocks are somewhat inept offensively, ranking 254th in adjusted efficiency and 275th in effective field goal percentage. They also get a ton of shots blocked inside.

X-Factor: St. Peter’s will need to find a way to score from the perimeter against Kentucky’s strong interior defense. They don’t shoot a ton of threes, but they rank 100th in 3-point percentage.

Prediction: Oscar Tshiebwe may have 10 blocks in this game. But St. Peter’s might make life miserable for Kentucky offensively.

(16) Norfolk State (21-6 SU, 15-8-1 ATS, 9-15 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +25000

Strengths: Norfolk State is another low seed that defends pretty well. They rank 15th in effective field goal percentage, 12th against 3-point shots, and 44th against 2-pointers.

Weaknesses: Of course, some of this probably has to do with Norfolk State’s competition in the MEAC.

X-Factor: Baylor shows up to the wrong stadium.

Prediction: Baylor downs Norfolk State despite a gritty effort.

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