2023 NCAA Tournament East Region Betting Primer (March Madness)

Mar 13, 2023 - 9:03 PM

The East Region could be the region with the most potential for chaos during the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Despite winning the Big Ten Tournament, the top-seeded Purdue Boilermakers are by far the wobbliest 1-seed in the field.

The full collection of top seeds in the East Region isn’t all that impressive. Second-seeded Marquette plays wonderful offense but has plenty of liabilities. Third-seeded Kansas State turns the ball over a ton and is a shell of itself away from Manhattan. Fourth-seeded Tennessee is a defensive juggernaut that’s offensively inept.

This region could be ripe for the picking if you’re looking to go bold in your bracket pools. Here’s a primer on each team, along with a quick prediction.

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NCAA Tournament East Region Betting Primer

Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook

(1) Purdue Boilermakers (28-5 SU, 14-19 ATS, 15-18 O/U) 

Odds: +1200

Strengths: Purdue has the likely National Player of the Year in 7-foot-4 Zach Edey. He’s the engine behind a Boilermakers team that was the class of the Big Ten. Purdue also plays strong defense (38th in defensive effective field goal percentage) without fouling and cleans up the glass on both ends.

Weaknesses: The Boilermakers can be too dependent on Edey to generate offense. They are also reliant on a pair of freshmen guards, Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith. That could be problematic in the second round against Memphis or FAU. Purdue also struggled mightily to break full-court pressure throughout the Big Ten tourney.

X-factor: Loyer and Smith don’t need to be prolific; they just need to be steady. Purdue has enough around the edges to make a run, but one clunker from both of these guards can send them packing.

Prediction: Purdue runs into a nasty Memphis or FAU team and is the first 1-seed to fall in the Round of 32.

(2) Marquette Golden Eagles (28-6 SU, 22-12 ATS, 17-17 O/U) 

Odds: +2000

Strengths: Marquette runs a beautiful offense, and it starts with the screen and roll game of Big East Player of the Year, Tyler Kolek, and point forward Oso Ighodaro. The Big East champs rank ninth in offensive efficiency and are the fifth-best 2-point shooting team in the country. Marquette’s defense isn’t elite, but it’s improved down the stretch. The Golden Eagles also generate a ton of turnovers and thrive off deflections.

Weaknesses: Marquette can get bullied on the defensive glass by teams with more size. They rank 320th in defensive rebounding. They also struggle to defend the perimeter.

X-factor: Marquette’s depth and scoring talent. The Golden Eagles have seven guys who can score in double figures on any given night. If Kolek or leading scorer Kam Jones are having a bad day, they’ll need guys like Olivier-Maxence Prosper, David Joplin, Stevie Mitchell, and Chase Ross to step up.

Prediction: Marquette survives an early scare from Vermont and reaches the Elite Eight.

(3) Kansas State Wildcats (23-9 SU, 20-12 ATS, 16-16 O/U) 

Odds: +6600

Strengths: Kansas State uses its defense to fuel its offense in transition. The Wildcats rank 15th in defensive adjusted efficiency and force turnovers at a 20.7% clip. K-State plays at the 42nd-fastest pace in the country and is led by a pair of seniors, Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson.

Weaknesses: K-State is a drastically different defensive team away from home. The Wildcats drop to 96th in defensive efficiency in away or neutral games. They also struggle mightily to shoot threes and turn the ball over at a dangerously high clip.

X-factor: Can Kansas State string together consistent efforts away from home?

Prediction: Kansas State survives a scare from Montana State but falls in the Round of 32 to Kentucky.

(4) Tennessee Volunteers (23-10 SU, 17-16 ATS, 14-19 O/U) 

Odds: +2200

Strengths: The Volunteers defend like their lives depend upon it. They are the nation’s most efficient defense, force a ton of turnovers, and rank top-1o in both 3-point and 2-point field goal defense.

Weaknesses: Tennessee hails from an SEC conference that lacked much shooting firepower. They could be in for a rude awakening in this tournament. Plus, the Vols are a tough offensive team to watch and will be without guard Zakai Ziegler. Tennessee shoots a ton of threes but doesn’t make many of them. Tennessee went 4-6 down the stretch run.

X-factor: Seniors Santiago Vescovi and Josiah Jordan-James have to be factors on both ends for Tennessee to stage a long run.

Prediction: Tennessee advances to the Round of 32 but is taken down in Round Two.

(5) Duke Blue Devils (26-8 SU, 15-19 ATS, 14-20 O/U) 

Odds: +3000

Strengths: The ACC Tournament champions are blossoming down the stretch. Duke is riding a nine-game winning streak entering the big dance. Freshman Kyle Filipkowski is emerging as a serious scoring threat. Veteran guard Jeremy Roach has become the catalyst for the offense. And highly-touted freshman Dereck Lively is figuring things out. The Blue Devils are a defensively-oriented team that hammers the offensive glass. And Duke’s offense ranks 17th in adjusted efficiency over its last 10 games.

Weaknesses: The Blue Devils have not been a great shooting team this season, but they rank 29th in effective field goal percentage during their last 10 games. And while Duke is stingy defensively, they don’t force many turnovers. There are also questions as to the quality of Duke’s opponents in a down ACC.

X-factor: Filipkowski’s emergence has been the key to Duke’s hot stretch. He needs to continue his strong play if Duke has any chance of staging a deep run.

Prediction: Duke is every bit as legit as their recent run and makes it to the Final Four.

(6) Kentucky Wildcats (21-11 SU, 15-17 ATS, 20-12 O/U) 

Odds: +3300

Strengths: Kentucky has the experience, as well as the reigning player of the year, Oscar Tshiebwe. He’s the primary reason Kentucky ranks third in offensive rebounding. Kentucky’s offense surged down the stretch, ranking sixth in efficiency over their last 10 games. The Wildcats have a sky-high ceiling but struggle to consistently play at that level.

Weaknesses: Kentucky doesn’t do anything at an elite level well. They’re 148th in effective field goal percentage and 92nd in effective field goal defense. They neither get to the line nor foul opponents that often. There isn’t a glaring flaw other than they’re mainly average everywhere. I also don’t trust John Calipari.

X-factor: Freshman Cason Wallace has the ability to propel Kentucky to a higher level. But he was disappointing in his return from injury in the SEC Tournament.

Prediction: Kentucky has a pretty solid path facing a sinking Providence team than a vulnerable 3-seed in Kansas State. But they don’t seem like a team poised for a long run.

(7) Michigan State Spartans (19-12 SU, 15-16 ATS, 16-15 O/U) 

Odds: +7500

Strengths: Michigan State has Tom Izzo, one of the great tournament tacticians. The Spartans also can light it up from 3-point range, ranking fourth in that department. Michigan State gives up a fair amount of threes but defends them well, too.

Weaknesses: The Spartans are a bit too reliant on the 3-ball. They’re 279th in 2-point offense and don’t get to the free-throw line much at all. Michigan State was red-hot from deep during the final four regular season games. But they went 3-for-16 in the Big Ten tourney quarterfinals and predictably were one and done.

X-factor: Senior wing Joey Hauser is the straw that stirs the drink for the Sparty offense. He’ll have to be great for MSU to stage a long run.

Prediction: Michigan State reaches the Round of 32.

(8) Memphis Tigers (25-8 SU, 17-15-1 ATS, 18-15 O/U) 

Odds: +8000

Strengths: Memphis is the scariest 8-seed in this tournament. The Tigers are a fierce defensive team that ranks 27th in effective field goal defense and 21st in blocked shots. The Tigers have a legitimate bucket-getter in Kendric Davis. They can score both inside and out and get to the free-throw line regularly. Memphis also has wins over Houston, Auburn, VCU, and Vanderbilt on its resume. They also took top-seeded Alabama down to the wire early in the season.

Weaknesses: Memphis has a couple of potentially fatal flaws. The Tigers can get sloppy with the ball as a result of their frantic pace, which is the 20th-fastest in the nation. That desire to get in transition exposes them on the defensive glass, where they rank 323rd. That’s frightening, considering Zach Edey is staring them down in a potential Round of 32. Memphis is also overly aggressive on defense and fouls at a high rate.

X-factor: Davis could become one of this tournament’s stars.

Prediction: Memphis takes down FAU, then Purdue, and becomes one of this tournament’s Cinderella stories.

(9) Florida Atlantic Owls (31-3 SU, 21-10-1 ATS, 17-15 O/U) 

Odds: +10000

Strengths: FAU is a very solid team across the board. They are a top-50 offensive and defensive team. They rank top 20 in effective field goal percentage on both sides of the floor. They clean up the defensive glass, restrict 3-point attempts and take care of the ball. The Owls can space you out and are ready to drill threes over the top, shooting the long ball at the 39th-highest rate.

Weaknesses: Does FAU’s draw count as a weakness? I’d be sending the Owls to the second round against just about any other eight or nine seed. But sadly, one of FAU or Memphis will have to go home early. As far as team weaknesses, the Owls don’t generate a ton of havoc defensively, ranking well outside the top 150 in both turnovers and blocked shots. It’s fair to question FAU’s schedule as well, as the Owls went 1-1 against Florida and Mississippi in their two Power 5 showdowns.

X-factor: Big man Vladislav Goldin is a matchup nightmare at 7-foot-1, just what FAU would need against Zach Edey.

Prediction: If FAU can take down Memphis, this team can definitely knock out Purdue in the second round.

(10) USC Trojans (22-10 SU, 17-15ATS, 17-15 O/U) 

Odds: +15000

Strengths: USC’s greatest strength is its interior defense, which ranks second in the country. They also rank 11th in blocked shots. That strength could help them against a Marquette team that thrives on going inside, but might not be as much of a factor against Michigan State in the first round.

Weaknesses: The Trojans aren’t a great offensive team, ranking outside the top 100 in all major categories. They also allow a ton of second-chance opportunities.

X-factor: Senior guard Boogie Ellis may need to put up a strong performance to keep up with Michigan State’s 3-point barrage.

Prediction: USC finds itself in a tough matchup against a Michigan State team that prefers to shoot threes. The Trojans fall in round one.

(11) Providence Friars (21-11 SU, 18-12-1 ATS, 17-13-1 O/U) 

Odds: +10000

Strengths: Providence does a tremendous job of crashing the glass and getting to the free-throw line. The former strength will be a fascinating factor in their first-round game vs. Kentucky. Speaking of Kentucky, Providence’s best player Bryce Hopkins transferred to Providence from Kentucky. Ed Cooley is also one of the game’s best coaches.

Weaknesses: Providence can’t really shoot and doesn’t offer a ton of resistance defensively. The Friars run the team off the three-point line, but they aren’t great at contesting such shots. Providence also enters this tournament losing four of their last five.

X-factor: Seniors Ed Croswell and Jared Bynum need to support Hopkins and hope some shots fall.

Prediction: Providence gives Kentucky a game but can’t pull down enough offensive boards to win.

(12) Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (30-4 SU, 13-17 ATS, 13-17 O/U) 

Odds: +27500

Strengths: The Summit League champs are just two years removed from a Sweet 16 run as a 15-seed. Max Abmas was a key member of this team, and now he runs the show for the Golden Eagles. Oral Roberts lights it up offensively. They rank 34th in 3-point shooting and shoot the 16th-most threes in the nation. They’re 10th in 2-point shooting, play at a fast pace, and barely turn the ball over.

Weaknesses: Oral Roberts defends the interior well, but they can give up as many threes as they attempt. Oral Roberts isn’t a bad rebounding team, but they may struggle to keep Duke off the glass in the first round.

X-factor: Abmas is the engine, but Oral Roberts has capable scorers around him.

Prediction: Oral Roberts gives Duke all it can handle but comes up short in a thriller.

(13) Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (26-7 SU, 16-13-1 ATS, 17-12-1 O/U) 

Odds: +50000

Strengths: The Sun Belt champs are a solid offensive team that ranks 48th in overall efficiency and 56th in effective field goal percentage. They’re also a strong offensive-rebounding team that gets to the free-throw line regularly.

Weaknesses: Louisiana doesn’t play much defense. However, the Cajuns allow the 10th-fewest 3-point attempts in the country. The problem is 35.9% of those threes have gone in against them. Louisiana also sends opponents to the free throw line often.

X-factor: Seniors Terrence Lewis and Greg Williams have to be great against a strong Tennessee defense.

Prediction: Louisiana sticks with Tennessee but comes up short.

(14) Montana State Bobcats (25-9 SU, 19-12-1 ATS, 14-18 O/U) 

Odds: +50000

Strengths: Montana State’s greatest strength is inside the arc. The Bobcats rank 82nd in 2-point offense and 77th in 2-point defense. They also get to the free throw line at the fourth-highest clip in the country, an important factor against a foul-heavy Kansas State team. Montana State also ranks 73rd in turnover percentage on defense, which is huge against the occasionally careless Wildcats.

Weaknesses: Montana State can’t shoot threes and fouls a ton defensively.

X-factor: Montana State needs to generate turnovers if it has any chance of pulling a monstrous upset.

Prediction: The Bobcats cover but come up short against Kansas State.

(15) Vermont Catamounts (23-10 SU, 20-12 ATS, 18-14 O/U) 

Odds: +50000

Strengths: Vermont plays a unique small-ball lineup, plays at a sluggish pace, and ranks 67th in 3-point shooting and 16th in 2-point shooting. The Catamounts also take care of the ball, which is vital against a Marquette defense that excels at turning teams over.

Weaknesses: Vermont’s defense is highly suspect in all areas except free throw rate and defensive rebounding, two strengths that don’t matter much against Marquette.

X-factor: If Matt Veretto and Aaron Deloney can get some threes to fall often, the Catamounts could give Marquette a ton of trouble.

Prediction: Vermont is a dangerous 15-seed that gives Marquette everything it can handle but ultimately falls short.

(16) Fairleigh Dickinson Knights (19-15 SU, 12-18 ATS, 17-13 O/U) 

Odds: +50000

Strengths: The Knights take care of the ball and can turn teams over. They also rank 90th in offensive rebounding.

Weaknesses: Fairleigh Dickinson ranks second-to-last in the entire country in adjusted defensive efficiency.

X-factor: Can Fairleigh Dickinson force enough mistakes from a turnover-prone Texas Southern squad?

Prediction: First Four exit.

(16) Texas Southern Tigers (14-20 SU, 11-20-1 ATS, 14-18 O/U) 

Odds: +50000

Strengths: The Tigers have First Four experience after knocking off Mount St. Mary’s in Dayton last year. Texas Southern defends the paint relatively well, ranking 106th in 2-point defense. They also have momentum after an incredible run to the SWAC title as the 8-seed.

Weaknesses: The Tigers are a disaster offensively. They can’t shoot from anywhere on the floor, turn it over a ton, and rely heavily on getting to the free-throw line.

X-factor: Can Texas Southern get to the line enough? Against foul-heavy Fairleigh Dickinson, they just might.

Prediction: Texas Southern makes it two First Four wins in a row, then gets demolished by Purdue.

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