The NCAA Tournament continues in Covers’ Mock March Madness bracket, with longtime oddsmaker Robert Walker unveiling which teams he advanced to the Round of 32. And although the top four seeds moved on in each region, there were a few Round of 64 surprises.
“The first round was rather chalky,” said Walker, USBookmaking’s director of sportsbook operations. “But there was one No. 12 getting through, with Akron over Auburn. Three No. 10 seeds advanced, in Utah State, Indiana and Texas Tech. And Wichita State’s win over Iowa gave the No. 11 seeds their only win.”
Let’s go to the region-by-region breakdown of the remaining 32 teams and 16 games.
NCAA Tournament Midwest Region
|No. 1 Kansas||12||No. 9 Louisiana State|
|No. 4 Wisconsin||9||No. 12 Akron|
|No. 3 Duke||3.5||No. 6 BYU|
|no. 2 Michigan State||6||No. 10 Utah State|
No. 1 seed Kansas – also the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed – of course advanced against No. 16 seed Robert Morris, and Michigan State, Duke and Wisconsin won as seeds 2-4 respectively. But Walker expects those teams to be challenged in the quest for Sweet 16 bids.
“There are some really great matchups in the field of 32,” he said. “Duke as a 3.5-point favorite over a really good BYU squad will probably see us moving to 4 or higher. We will need the Cougars. We will need No. 10 Utah State fairly large against Michigan State (-6). I’m going to Spartans -7 on the first sharp play.”
NCAA Tournament East Region
|No.1 Dayton||7.5||No. 9 Florida|
|No.4 Oregon||2||No.5 Butler|
|No.3 Creighton||5||No.6 Penn State|
|No.2 Florida State||5||No.10 Indiana|
As Walker noted, it was chalky at the top of all four regions, so Dayton, Florida State, Creighton and Oregon advanced as the East’s Nos. 1-4 seeds, respectively. Not surprisingly, he sees the best Round of 32 game coming from the middle of the pack.
“In the East, Oregon-Butler is a great matchup,” Walker said of the 4-5 clash, while noting the other three matchups are compelling, as well: No. 1 Dayton vs. No. 9 Florida, No. 2 Florida State vs. No. 10 Indiana and No. 3 Creighton vs. No. 6 Penn State. “I think we will write pretty good two-way in this region.”
NCAA Tournament West Region
|No.1 Gonzaga||7||No.8 Houston|
|No.4 Maryland||5.5||No.5 Virginia|
|No.3 Seton Hall||1.5||No.6 Michigan|
|No.2 San Diego||3.5||No.7 Arizona|
The first four remained on the floor in this region, as well, with Walker advancing Gonzaga, San Diego State, Seton Hall and Maryland. In fact, the West was totally chalk, with the top eight seeds moving to the Round of 32, the only region in which that occurred.
The eighth-seeded Cougars are catching 7 points against the top-seeded Zags.
NCAA Tournament South Region
|No.1 Baylor||7||No.8 Rutgers|
|No.4 Ohio State||Pick||No.5 Louisville|
|No.3 Kentucky||5||No.11 Wichita State|
|No.2 Villanova||2.5||No.12 Texas Tech|
Baylor, Villanova, Kentucky and Ohio State rolled on from the Nos. 1-4 seeds in the South. But there was a little apple-cart-upsetting, too, with No. 10 Texas Tech and No. 11 Wichita State advancing to the second round.
“Ohio State vs. Louisville is a pick ‘em, and that figures to be the game of the day,” Walker said of the 4-5 clash. “No doubt Wichita State will be our biggest decision of the four games here.”
The Shockers are 5-point underdogs to No. 3 seed Kentucky.
Walker is still working on his Round of 32 picks, but he’s dialed into three teams that have something in common.
“Watch for the six seeds in this round, BYU, Penn State and Michigan,” he said. “No. 6 seeds generally fair pretty well in the second round, winning almost half of their games.”
Further, Walker pointed out that the pointspreads aren’t too crazy for those at the top of the bracket, an indication of the perceived parity in this year’s tournament.
“Only Kansas is a double-digit favorite among the top seeds,” Walker said, pointing to the No. 1 Jayhawks laying 12 against No. 9 seed Louisiana State. “That’s despite historically this being a pretty good round for No. 1 seeds. I can see an absolute ton of moneyline parlays on the 1 seeds. It’s gonna be nothing but four-way moneyline parlays, all four No. 1 seeds.”
And that’s the case not only in our mock bracket.
“I can guarantee that’s what would’ve happened in real life,” Walker said. “Moneyline parlays have gotten a lot more popular. We’ve got to get one ‘dog to win outright. Otherwise, it’s gonna be ugly.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.