NCAA Brackets 2014: Picks, Odds Advice, Updated Schedule After 1st Round, Day 1

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NCAA Brackets 2014: Picks, Odds Advice, Updated Schedule After 1st Round, Day 1
Al Behrman/Associated Press

Can you feel that Madness? Following North Carolina State and Albany's thrilling and shoc—OK, not really. While the First Four games remain technically a part of the NCAA tournament, they're still working their way into the national lexicon. To "casual" fans the First Four remains a tangential focus.

Following Tuesday night's games, though, perhaps those bracketeers will start taking notice. Albany is dead chum in the water ready to be gobbled up by Gators, but the Wolfpack's impressive win over Xavier should turn some heads.

All Your Bracket Essentials

Bleacher Report

ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren scored 25 points, Ralston Turner added 17 and N.C. State shot nearly 55 percent in a dominant 74-59 victory. Xavier leading scorer Semaj Christon had more turnovers (seven) than made shots (six), and the Musketeers shot just 41.8 percent overall amid a surprisingly strong defensive effort.

With five wins in their last six games, including one over Syracuse, the Wolfpack could be a round-of-64 threat to fifth-seeded Saint Louis. They seem to be finding themselves at the perfect time, and with Warren extending his streak of games with 20 or more points to 18 on Tuesday, the individual star power is there.

Recent history is also on the side of the First Four teams. In every year since the advent of the 68-team format, at least one of the advancees has gone on to defeat their lower-seeded opponent in the next round. In 2011, VCU went from First Four to Final Four. Last year, La Salle made it all the way to the Sweet 16.

Anything can happen in the NCAA tournament, and that's why the First Four matters. But has its results changed anything yet? Here is a look at updated picks and odds for the 2014 NCAA tournament.

Updated Schedule

First Four
Date Time (ET) Team Team TV
3/19 6:40 p.m. No. 16 Texas Southern No. 16 Cal Poly TruTV
3/19 9:10 p.m. No. 11 Iowa No. 11 Tennessee TruTV

South Region
Date Time (ET) Team Team TV
3/20 12:15 p.m. No. 6 Ohio State No. 11 Dayton CBS
3/20 30 min after Ohio State vs. Dayton No. 3 Syracuse No. 14 Western Michigan CBS
3/20 1:40 p.m. No. 8 Colorado No. 9 Pittsburgh TBS
3/20 30 min. after Colorado vs. Pittsburgh No. 1 Florida No. 16 Albany TBS
3/21 1:40 p.m. No. 7 New Mexico No. 10 Stanford TBS
3/21 30 min after New Mexico vs. Stanford No. 2 Kansas No. 15 Eastern Kentucky TBS
3/21 7:27 p.m. No. 5 VCU No. 12 Stephen F. Austin truTV
3/21 30 min after VCU vs. Stephen F. Austin No. 4 UCLA No. 13 Tulsa truTV

East Region
Date Time (ET) Team Team TV
3/20 2:10 p.m. No. 5 Cincinnati No. 12 Harvard TNT
3/20 30 min after Cincinnati vs. Harvard No. 4 Michigan State No. 13 Delaware TNT
3/20 6:55 p.m. No. 7 Connecticut No. 10 Saint Joseph's TBS
3/20 30 min after Connecticut vs. Saint Joseph's No. 2 Villanova No. 15 Milwaukee TBS
3/21 6:55 p.m. No. 8 Memphis No. 9 George Washington TBS
3/21 30 min after Memphis vs. George Washington No. 1 Virginia No. 16 Coastal Carolina TBS
3/21 7:20 p.m. No. 6 North Carolina No. 11 Providence TNT
3/21 30 min after North Carolina vs. Providence No. 3 Iowa State No. 14 NC Central TNT

West Region
Date Time (ET) Team Team TV
3/20 12:40 p.m. No. 2 Wisconsin No. 15 American truTV
3/20 30 min after Wisconsin vs. BYU No. 7 Oregon No. 10 BYU truTV
3/20 7:27 p.m. No. 5 Oklahoma No. 12 North Dakota State truTV
3/20 30 min after Oklahoma vs. North Dakota State No. 4 San Diego State No. 13 New Mexico State truTV
3/21 12:40 p.m. No. 6 Baylor No. 11 Nebraska truTV
3/21 30 min after Baylor vs. Nebraska No. 3 Creighton No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette truTV
3/21 2:10 p.m. No. 1 Arizona No. 16 Weber State TNT
3/21 30 min after Arizona vs. Weber State No. 8 Gonzaga No. 9 Oklahoma State TNT

Midwest Region
Date Time (ET) Team Team TV
3/20 7:10 p.m. No. 2 Michigan No. 15 Wofford CBS
3/20 30 min after Michigan vs. Wofford No. 7 Texas No. 10 Arizona State CBS
3/20 7:20 p.m. No. 5 Saint Louis No. 12 NC State TNT
3/20 30 min after Saint Louis vs. NC State/Xavier No. 4 Louisville No. 13 Manhattan TNT
3/21 12:15 p.m. No. 3 Duke No. 14 Mercer CBS
3/21 30 min after Duke vs. Mercer No. 6 Massachusetts No. 11 Iowa/No. 11 Tennessee CBS
3/21 7:10 p.m. No. 1 Wichita State No. 16 Cal Poly/No. 16 Texas Southern CBS
3/21 30 min after Wichita State vs. Cal Poly/Texas Southern No. 8 Kentucky No. 9 Kansas State CBS

Updated NCAA Tournament Odds

Seed Team Odds
1 Florida 5-1
1 Arizona 8-1
1 Wichita St. 15-1
1 Virginia 18-1
2 Villanova 35-1
2 Michigan 30-1
2 Kansas 10-1
2 Wisconsin 20-1
3 Duke 18-1
3 Syracuse 18-1
3 Creighton 35-1
3 Iowa St. 40-1
4 Louisville 8-1
4 Michigan St. 11-2
4 UCLA 45-1
4 San Diego St. 65-1
5 Cincinnati 90-1
5 Saint Louis 125-1
5 VCU 90-1
5 Oklahoma 75-1
6 North Carolina 50-1
6 Ohio St. 65-1
6 Massachusetts 125-1
6 Baylor 75-1
7 Texas 125-1
7 UConn 80-1
7 Oregon 100-1
7 New Mexico 115-1
8 Kentucky 50-1
8 Gonzaga 125-1
8 Memphis 125-1
8 Colorado 500-1
9 Kansas St. 300-1
9 George Washington 500-1
9 Oklahoma St. 60-1
9 Pittsburgh 95-1
10 Stanford 225-1
10 Saint Joseph’s 350-1
10 BYU 500-1
10 Arizona St. 500-1
11 Dayton 500-1
11 Nebraska 450-1
11 Providence 225-1
11 Tennessee 115-1
11 Iowa 125-1
12 North Carolina St. 900-1
12 North Dakota St. 1,000-1
12 Harvard 1000-1
12 Stephen F. Austin N/A
13 Manhattan N/A
13 Tulsa N/A
13 New Mexico St. N/A
13 Delaware N/A
14 Western Mich. N/A
14 Mercer N/A
14 La.-Lafayette N/A
14 N.C. Central N/A
15 Eastern Ky. N/A
15 Milwaukee N/A
15 Wofford N/A
15 American N/A
16 Coastal Carolina N/A
16 Weber St. N/A
16 Albany N/A
16 Texas Southern N/A
16 Cal Poly N/A
N/A Field (Any Other Team) 100-1

Vegas Insider

When it comes to betting champions odds for this year's tournament, my best piece of advice is just don't. Nate Silver's predictive model gives Louisville a 15 percent chance of winning it all—and the Cardinals are his favorites. Accuscore (subscription required) comes out with similar numbers. Ken Pomeroy has Arizona as his favorite but only with a 15.9 percent shot. 

There is no smart bet, because there realistically is no favorite. Their three methods are among the best predictive measures we have from a statistical standpoint—at least among those readily available (for a fee)—and all three essentially say the same thing: Anything can happen. The good teams are pretty good but not great. On any given day, yada, yada yada.

This might be the one year where you're better off not paying for statistical analyses whatsoever. And when it comes to betting on an NCAA champion, this is typically a loser's bet regardless.

Florida is the favorite at 5-1 odds and has a relatively safe road to the Final Four, but Joel Embiid could return to full health for the second weekend. If he does, Kansas suddenly looks a lot more dangerous— team in the tournament dangerous. 

If, no matter what, you must place a bet on an eventual champion, going with relatively long odds might be the way to go. The Jayhawks aren't worth the trouble at 10-1 odds, but Villanova has been vastly undervalued by prognosticators. Jay Wright's club has been lucky in close games this season, which is a concern, but it fills a lot of national champion criteria.

Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Peter Tiernan of Bracket Science pointed out the Wildcats were the only team nationally to fill out all three "championship tests." They measured out well from a metrics and commonality standpoint and could quietly be the favorite in an East Region folks seem to be handing over to Michigan State.

The Spartans are getting healthy at the perfect time and are my Final Four pick, but 35-1 might be too juicy to pass up.

Again, only if you insist. If you like a team, you're far better off in the long run just betting on it as part of teasers or individually as it goes along in the tournament. The risk will be lower over the course of the tournament, and one bad beat isn't going to make you feel stupid mixed in with a couple of wins. 

The only other longish shot that's enticing is Syracuse at 18-1. Remember: Only three times since 1985 has a team seeded worse than No. 3 won the NCAA championship.

Final Four Picks

No. 1 Florida (South Region) 

The Gators have two potential challengers hanging at the bottom of their bracket in Syracuse and Kansas. The Orange won their first 25 games and were the No. 1 team in the country midseason—they have potential. The Jayhawks have the odds-on favorite for the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft in Andrew Wiggins and the former odds-on favorite for the No. 1 pick potentially coming back in Embiid.

Can you say talent? But when it comes to the right combination of talent, cohesion and health, Florida is the best team in the country. After early-season strife left the Gators down to what amounted to a six-man rotation, Billy Donovan made a few key alterations, received a godsend in Chris Walker and reeled in 26 straight wins. Florida is a borderline lock.

No. 4 Michigan State (East Region) 

The East and Midwest are by far the most difficult regions to parse through but for completely opposite regions. The Midwest has been labeled rightfully as the "Region of Doom." It might be the best collection of talent in one region during my lifetime. The East, on the other hand, is filled with a bunch of teams I really don't like that much.

I fear Villanova outperformed its talent during the regular season. Virginia's style lends itself to keeping opposing teams in games. Iowa State really just didn't deserve a No. 3 seed. Michigan State is basically the least of the evils. The Spartans have the best tournament coach in America in Tom Izzo, are finally healthy again and have elite, experienced talent all over the floor.

Just don't act all amazed if either Virginia or Villanova comes out of this region; both are being undervalued.

Julie Jacobson/Associated Press

No. 1 Arizona (West Region) 

If Brandon Ashley were healthy, the Wildcats would be my national-title choice without much hesitation. As it stands, they're, instead, the one team I'm picking to advance to the final Four in every one of my brackets.

There is some talk about Oklahoma State posing a threat in the round of 32, but the Cowboys have to get past Gonzaga first. And, speaking of undervalued, that matchup is far closer to a tossup than anyone is giving credit. Otherwise, the Wildcats have a perfectly paved path (alliteration!) to the Final Four.

Creighton and Wisconsin have such poor consistency on the defensive end that either or even both could lose their round-of-32 matchups. San Diego State and Oklahoma are also nonthreatening. Don't even really think twice here.

No. 3 Duke (Midwest Region)

At least two (Duke and Louisville) and likely three (Wichita State) Midwest teams would be my selection if you threw them in the East. That's how talented this side of the bracket is. Michigan, which won the Big Ten regular season by three games, is the No. 2 seed and has somehow become an afterthought. Midwest analysis essentially comes down to playing likelihoods.

Louisville, on average, is the best team in the region and is probably a slight favorite to come out. But Wichita State is no easy out, and the Shockers are going to prove their mettle by defeating Kentucky in the round of 32.

Duke, meanwhile, is essentially a better version of Michigan. The Blue Devils and Wolverines both struggle defensively but boast elite, efficient offense. Jabari Parker and Co. get the Final Four nod, simply because I'm most comfortable with them advancing to the regional final. If that seems flimsy, well, welcome to the Midwest.

All advanced metrics are via KenPom.

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