2023 NCAA Tournament Midwest Region Betting Primer (March Madness)

Mar 14, 2023 - 4:37 PM

We have finally made it, folks. March Madness is upon us, and there is no better week in sports than the one leading up to the first tip on Thursday. Here at BettingPros, you can find everything needed to fill out your bracket and place some money-making bets.

Here is your primer for the Midwest Region.

Check out all of our coverage for the 2023 NCAA Tournament >>

2023 NCAA Tournament Guide (March Madness)

2023 NCAA Tournament Midwest Betting Primer

(Odds courtesy DraftKings Sportsbook)

(1) Houston (31-3 SU, 18-16 ATS, 16-18 O/U) 

Odds to make the Final Four: +160

Strengths: Can I say everything? Ranking 11th in adjusted offensive efficiency and fourth in defensive efficiency, this is the most consistent of all consistent teams. They have some incredibly talented players in Marcus Sasser, Jamal Shead, and Jarace Walker, with Shead and Sasser making up arguably the best backcourt in the tournament. This team can rebound, score in every which way and defend the perimeter at one of the best clips in the nation.

Weakness: Houston just spent the past month and a half facing almost exclusively sub-100 ranked teams within their conference. But despite a weaker strength of schedule, they still have wins over Virginia and Saint Mary’s and competed against Alabama. They play a physical game, so the potential for getting into foul trouble is there, and Houston doesn’t exactly have the most depth. 

X-Factor: Not only is Sasser the X-Factor for this team but arguably the most important player in the entire field. If he is fully healthy, Houston is a clear championship-caliber team, maybe one of two in the top-tier choices with Alabama. Without Sasser on the court, this team’s ceiling is capped at the Elite 8, if that. We saw them get handled when Sasser was not on the court in the AAC title game. It does seem like that was more of a precaution, but it’s still a worry.

Prediction: Houston is my champion selection if Sasser is healthy, which it seems like he is. If not, Elite 8.

(2) Texas (26-8 SU, 17-17 ATS, 16-15-3 OU)  

Odds to make the Final Four: +300

Strengths: Texas is another team that enters the tourney ranking in the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They have a fast pace with an incredible transition offense that will beat nearly any team to the hoop. Their defensive turnover rate ranks 19th in the nation, and they had one of the best strengths of schedule all season.

Weaknesses: Foul trouble. The four games with the highest opponent free throw rate for Texas all resulted in losses. They have to be better at staying out of foul trouble to advance.

X-Factor: Timmy Allen. Despite not necessarily being the best player on the team, Allen is one of them, and if Texas has to play the tournament without him, that may cap Texas’ ceiling.

Prediction: Elite 8

(3) Xavier (25-9 SU, 18-15-1 ATS, 21-12-1 O/U)  

Odds to make the Final Four: +700

Strengths: Offense. With one of the fastest paces in the nation and a top-five shooting from beyond the arc, Xavier can catch fire in a game and in this tournament as a whole. They’ve taken down and faced off against some solid teams, as their dynamic looks are tough to defend from any angle.

Weaknesses: Defense. Ranking 70th in KenPom defensive efficiency, the Musketeers can be like swiss cheese at times, allowing many points to teams like DePaul and Butler. If their offense struggles in any game, they better watch out because they’ll be on upset alert, especially against some of these better defensive teams.

X-Factor: Perimeter shooting. Despite their preference for the interior look, Xavier needs to take advantage of the sharpshooters on their team to make a deep run. Without Zach Freemantle, the rest of the team will seriously have to step up.

Prediction: Round of 32

(4) Indiana (22-11 SU, 15-17-1 ATS, 19-13-1 O/U)  

Odds to make the Final Four: +1200

Strengths: Interior offense. Scoring at a 53% clip from inside the arc, Indiana gets over 60% of their points from inside the arc, ranking sixth highest in the nation. Their 27th-ranked offense can be deadly at how consistent it is, and they have faced some tough front courts this season.

Weaknesses: Perimeter defense and forcing turnovers. Any sharp shooting team will get a lot of looks against Indiana with their 43rd adjusted defensive efficiency. 

X-Factor: Trayce Jackson-Davis. One of the most impactful players in this region has to step up for the Hoosiers if they want to make a run. Jalen Hood-Schifinio is a close y-factor, but TJD is the man down low. Indiana goes where he goes.

Prediction: First round

(5) Miami (25-7 SU, 18-14 ATS, 14-17-1 O/U)   

Odds to make the Final Four: +1400

Strengths: Offense. Ranking 12th in offensive efficiency, Miami is essentially a Xavier lite with how fast they run their offense with the preference for an interior look despite some sharpshooters that can light it up from deep.

Weaknesses: Defense, especially on the interior, and depth. Miami’s 132nd-ranked adjusted defense is one of the worst among at-large teams. They allow a lot of points on the inside and don’t exactly have the size to combat that.

X-Factor: Norchad Omier. With his injury status in the air, Miami won’t make it that far without him. As Evan Miya pointed out, if Omier is out, Miami drops in team rating from 38th to 63rd. He is an incredibly impactful player.

Prediction: First round

(6) Iowa State (19-13 SU, 16-16 ATS, 11-21 O/U)

Odds to make the Final Four: +1000

Strengths: Lockdown defense. Ranking eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency, any team unfamiliar with how Iowa State plays will be in for a rough ride. Especially considering how Mississippi State or Pittsburgh will be on a quick turnaround, the Cyclones might feast with all the turnovers they force.

Weaknesses: Offense. Generally speaking, having a top-25 offense is a recipe for a championship-ready team. Iowa State ranks 96th. They don’t take care of the ball well or get to the hoop at a high clip. While rebounding well, they have to do better at showing up offensively. 

X-Factor: Offensive glass. As I said, I trust their defense, but their offense is questionable. They must be vicious on the glass to make up for an inefficient offense if they want to succeed.

Prediction: Sweet 16

(7) Texas A&M (25-9 SU, 23-11 ATS, 16-18 O/U) 

Odds to make the Final Four: +1800

Strengths: Recent play. Since Jan. 1, Texas A&M ranks sixth in the nation on Bart Torvik. They consistently draw contact and rank sixth in the nation at offensive rebound percentage. They have an all-around talented roster and should be a fun team to watch.

Weaknesses: Perimeter defense. Opponents score nearly 37& of their points from beyond the arc against the Aggies, which does not bode well as they face Penn State. They also can get into foul trouble easily, with one of the highest defensive free-throw rates in the nation

X-Factor: Wade Taylor. The Aggies guard has been a bit out of the spotlight considering the other guards within the SEC, but Taylor has to step up as a take-over option for Texas A&M when they inevitably find themselves in a close game late.

Prediction: First round

(8) Iowa (19-13 SU, 17-15 ATS, 19-13 O/U) 

Odds to make the Final Four: +2000

Strengths: Offense. This seems to be a trend for many teams in this region, but Iowa’s third-ranked adjusted offense means they are never out of any game with their ability to go on runs. They take care of the ball well and rebound at a high clip, so a lot of points should go their way.

Weaknesses: Defense. All around, Iowa is a sub-par defense across the board, allowing opponents to shoot from the perimeter at a 36.6% clip, ranking 316th in the nation. Any above-average offense will nearly be able to score at will against Iowa.

X-Factor: Kris Murray. Keegan Murray’s younger brother finds himself in the spotlight with fewer expectations than the Hawkeyes at this time last year. Still, Murray has room to improve and is capable of taking over a game if needed, and he can really do it all

Prediction: First round

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(9) Auburn (20-12 SU, 15-17 ATS, 19-13 O/U) 

Odds to make the Final Four: +1500

Strengths: Perimeter defense. Auburn forces teams to shoot sub-30% from beyond the arc, ranking fifth lowest in the nation. It will be incredibly difficult for any opponents to get good looks from deep.

Weaknesses: Foul trouble and defensive rebounding. Auburn allows opponents to reach the charity stripe at one of the highest clips in the nation. They also allow a lot of second-chance looks to opponents. Offensively, their perimeter shooting lacks as well.

X-Factor: Homecourt advantage. With their first two games being played in Alabama, Auburn basically gets to play at home as their fans will travel. This benefits Auburn more than other teams as they rally at home way more than most of their counterparts. Their energetic play style will feed off their fans if the Tiger faithful travel well.

Prediction: Round of 32

(10) Penn State (22-13 SU, 20-13-2 ATS, 20-14-1 O/U)  

Odds to make the Final Four: +3500

Strengths: Perimeter shooting. The Nittany Lions shoot at the ninth-best clip from beyond the arc in the nation. They take care of the ball well and frequently get looks up each possession.

Weaknesses: Depending on the perimeter look, offensive rebounding. Over 43% of their points come from beyond the arc, the second highest in the nation. Any perimeter-based defense Penn State faces will feast, and if they are off-shooting one game, they don’t have much ability to score in other ways.

X-Factor: Jalen Pickett. Pickett is arguably the biggest X-Factor out there, ranking as Evan Miya’s most indispensable player on any team. His ability to draw in opponents before kicking it out is undisputed and a big reason for his third-highest assist rate. Where he goes, Penn State goes.

Prediction: Round of 32

(11) Mississippi State (21-12 SU, 16-16-1 ATS, 13-20 O/U) 

Odds to make the Final Four: +5000

Strengths: Interior defense. On KenPom, Mississippi State ranks sixth in adjusted defensive efficiency, but their pack line defense allows nearly nothing down low. On the perimeter, they are solid, but that’s where a high percentage of opponents’ looks come from. The Bulldogs will force turnovers and cause issues for opposing offenses.

Weaknesses: Perimeter shooting, general offense. Ranking 363rd at shooting from beyond the arc, Mississippi State won’t take many open looks from beyond the arc. They can get to the rim at an effective rate and rebound well, but their 164th-ranked adjusted offense is concerning.

X-Factor: Neutral court rims. If teams are unfamiliar with their location and don’t shoot well due to it, Mississippi State can do an impressive job at advancing deeper in the tournament than expected.

Prediction: First Four

(12) Drake (27-7 SU, 16-16-1 ATS, 15-18 O/U) 

Odds to make the Final Four: +4500

Strengths: Momentum. Since Feb. 7, Drake ranks ninth on Bart Torvik in the nation. That’s among every team, adjusted for strength of schedule and all. They may be one of the hottest teams in the nation, and they have been playing at a high level for over a month now.

Weaknesses: Rebounding/manufacturing points. Their 98th-ranked adjust offense, while solid, is nothing to write home about. They do benefit from facing one of the worst defenses they could face in the first round in Miami, but if they are off in the game, they do not have much to fall back on.

X-Factor: Tucker DeVries: He may be the coach’s son, but do not sleep on this 6-7 forward who can do it all. His stroke from deep is as smooth as silk, his defense is impeccable in the way he pick-pockets his opponent, and his ability to facilitate and find open shooters is a marvel to watch. Where he goes, Drake goes, and I have high expectations for him.

Prediction: Sweet 16

(13) Kent State (28-6 SU, 20-11-1 ATS, 12-20 O/U) 

Odds to make the Final Four: +5000

Strengths: Experience, interior defense. Not only do the Golden Flashes rank 60th in DI experience among their lineup, but they have faced some pretty tough teams this season and stuck with them. They came within single digits to Houston and Gonzaga and throw Charleston in there as well, all on the road. This team can play physically and has shown their ability to stick with some of the best this tournament has to offer.

Weaknesses: Defensive rebounding, foul trouble. Despite their solid defense, Kent State will allow second-chance opportunities due to their general lack of height and aggression on the boards.

X-Factor: Sincere Carry. Not only is he on the all-name team, but Carry has carried (pun intended) this team thus far, scoring 26 points in the MAC title game. He has stepped up in the big moments when needed, and I believe in the guard’s ability to do it again.

Prediction: Round of 32

(14) Kennesaw State (26-8 SU, 20-10-1 ATS, 17-12-2 O/U) 

Odds to make the Final Four: +20000

Strengths: All-around game. I know this is a bit of a cop-out,, but nothing exactly stands out for the Owls in terms of their big strength. Their all-around play is a strength in itself, ranking above 100 in 3pt shooting, defensive turnover rate, free throw rate and defensive rebounding.

Weaknesses: Free throw shooting. What makes me hesitant about picking this team to upset Xavier is that even if it is close for the Owls, their 330th free throw shooting might cause them to shoot themselves in the foot. The fact that this game will be so high-paced makes me a bit concerned, too, as I imagine Xavier could really run them out of the gym.

X-Factor: Avoiding foul trouble. This team sends opponents to the charity stripe a lot. They cannot do that if they expect to win against such a high-powered offense. Any freebies for Kennesaw State will be the death of them.

Prediction: First Round

(15) Colgate (26-8 SU, 17-16 ATS, 20-13 O/U) 

Odds to make the Final Four: +20000

Strengths: 3pt shooting. Ranking first in the nation at almost a 41% clip from deep, Colgate can light it up against Texas. Funny enough, Colgate actually prefers the interior look. But if they expect to take down the Longhorns, Colgate must be electric from beyond the arc.

Weaknesses: Athleticism. This is a bit of a one-dimensional team that is very good at avoiding foul trouble but won’t cause many turnovers or disrupts the Texas offense all too much. Colgate hasn’t defeated a top-100 KenPom team all season and got smoked by Auburn back in early December. I am concerned about their defensive game plan here.

X-Factor: The Wells Fargo Arena rims. If Colgate is making their shots with the help of some generous rims on the neutral court, watch out. Their best bet is to take down Texas in a shootout, which is entirely on the table. Oliver Lynch-Daniels is a 50% shooter from deep, so he better take at least 10 shots in this game. 

Prediction: First Round

(16) Northern Kentucky (22-12 SU, 14-18 ATS, 12-20 O/U) 

Odds to make the Final Four: +40000

Strengths: I’m not going to take time considering Northern Kentucky as a viable candidate to defeat Houston

Weaknesses: Yes

X-Factor: The NCAA Tournament deciding to disqualify Houston for some reason.

Prediction: Can I say forfeit mid-game?

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