Selection Sunday reaction and updated March Madness odds 2023: UCLA can win a wild West region
Selection Sunday just put the exclamation point on a fun week of March Madness in which automatic bids were handed out to conference tournament champions. We also know the at-large qualifiers for the NCAA Tournament as the committee has announced its much-anticipated field of 68. With that, arguably the best 3 weeks on the annual sports calendar are ready to tip off.
Let’s discuss what the 2023 Big Dance may have to offer as we begin the process of helping you make your bets and fill out your bracket.
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Alabama is the #1 overall seed after winning one of the best conferences in the nation, the SEC (both the regular season and the tournament). Brandon Miller has been playing better and better since his off-the-court issues began and it doesn’t seem to be a real distraction for the Crimson Tide. Of course, the media will make sure it’s a big story the farther and farther ‘Bama advances in the Big Dance. That’s not to say the Crimson Tide will suddenly fold, but it doesn’t help. A relatively difficult path also complicates matters. Arizona, the #2 seed, just won a loaded Pac-12 Tournament and #4 seed Virginia was co-champion for the regular season in the ACC. Both of those programs know how to win in March. Alabama is a school that knows how to win in January.
Prediction: Arizona (+380)
Value play: Virginia (+2000)
The Midwest Region might come down to one thing and one thing only: Marcus Sasser’s groin. If Houston’s star is 100%, there is absolutely no reason why his team shouldn’t take care of business and punch its ticket to the Final Four. Sasser got injured in the semifinals of the Conference USA Tournament and missed the Cougars’ final loss to Memphis. He says he should be ready to go for the first round. Houston obviously won’t need him until at least the second round. There are a couple of respectable Big 12 challengers in Texas and Iowa State plus a former Big 12 representative in Texas A&M that could be factors in the Midwest, but — if healthy — the Cougars are the cream of this crop.
Prediction: Houston (+150)
Value play: Iowa State (+1000)
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How will the West be won? Probably the hard way! Given the strength of this region, no team figures to have it easy. It starts with blue bloods Kansas (#1) and UCLA (#2) and also includes perennial contender Gonzaga, another esteemed program in UConn and a talented TCU team. Despite the depth of this region, I think Kansas and UCLA are good enough and experienced enough to play their way into a head-to-head showdown in the Elite Eight. Both teams finished runner-up in their conference tournaments, but UCLA was far more impressive in a heartbreaking final against Arizona whereas Kansas got blown out by Texas. It’s tough to pick against team led by Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr.
Prediction: UCLA (+310)
Value play: TCU (+2200)
Purdue was looking like the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for much of the 2022-23 campaign before losing a few too many games down the stretch of the regular season. Well, the Boilermakers have turned things back around right in time by winning the Big Ten Tournament and getting a #1 seed. It hardly matters that it isn’t #1 overall, as Zach Edey and company find themselves in a relatively soft region. That being said, don’t discount #2 seed Marquette. You want to be playing your absolute best basketball in March and that is exactly what head coach Shaka Smart’s squad is doing. The Golden Eagles have an easier path to the Elite Eight with Tennessee and Duke on Purdue’s half of the draw and that may help them cut down the nets in New York on their way to Houston.
Prediction: Marquette (+450)
Value play: Duke (+1000)
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