NCAA Tournament 2014: Breaking Down Tough Picks and Title Odds

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NCAA Tournament 2014: Breaking Down Tough Picks and Title Odds
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With 32 second-round NCAA tournament matchups on tap for Thursday and Friday, millions of brackets are on the brink of being busted.

But you've got to start somewhere when attempting to project the perfect bracket. And, unfortunately, that starting point is the madness-filled first weekend of the Big Dance.

Below, we'll get you set with all your bracket essentials as well as championship odds and a breakdown of some of toughest picks you'll have to make this March. 

*Spread info according to Covers.com. 

 

All Your Bracket Essentials

Credit: Bleacher Report

 

2014 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. 1000-1
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

Source: VegasInsider.com

 

No. 5 Cincinnati (-2.5) Over No. 12 Harvard, East Region

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

After knocking off New Mexico as a No. 14 seed a year ago, Ivy League champions Harvard enter this year's tournament as a popular upset pick over No. 5 Cincinnati. 

The Crimson have won eight in a row coming in and feature five players, led by junior guard Wesley Saunders, who are averaging at least 10 points per game this season.

But PennLive.com's Dustin Hockensmith makes a case for why an upset can't happen:

The Bearcats are battle-tested with a 6-6 record against BPI top 50 teams and a defense that routinely held opponents under 60 points. … Harvard is just 2-2 against BPI top 100 teams and played in one of the nation’s weakest conferences. … Kilpatrick is the most explosive player on either side and an NBA draft prospect, while Jackson is a defensive ace who could cause matchup problems for the Crimson. … Harvard plays a similar tempo to the Bearcats, who look to slow the game down and keep it in the 50s.

Despite the upset potential, the favored Bearcats should emerge from this second-round clash. Led by senior guard Sean Kilpatrick, Mick Cronin's physical squad should limit Harvard on offense and make enough plays to pull away late. 

 

No. 7 Texas (-1.5) Over No. 10 Arizona State, Midwest Region

In one of the toughest No. 7 vs. No. 10 matchups to predict this spring, Texas will take on Arizona State in Milwaukee.

While the Longhorns struggled down the stretch after knocking off Iowa State, Kansas State, Baylor and Kansas in consecutive games midway through the year, they aren't fading nearly as much as the Sun Devils, who concluded the regular season on a three-game losing skid and lost five of their last seven games.

Following a shocking 17-point loss to Baylor in the Big 12 tournament semifinals, Texas coach Rick Barnes stressed the importance of everyone playing their role come tournament time, per The Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton.

"We just need everybody doing what they do well," he said. "And if we do that, I'm telling you, we can beat anybody we play. But if we don't, it can be like that."

Texas' lack of tournament success in recent years is cause for concern, but the Longhorns' rebounding prowess will be the decider. Texas ranks fourth in the nation in rebounding and averages 6.2 more per game than Arizona State.

Therefore, watch for the Longhorns to beat the Sun Devils up on the glass en route to victory.  

 

No. 9 Oklahoma State (-2) Over No. 8 Gonzaga, West Region 

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

It's no secret that the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchups can be tricky to predict. In 2014, there are several hard-to-pick showdowns, especially in the West Region, where No. 8 Gonzaga will face off against No. 9 Oklahoma State, per KING TV sports reporter Chris Egan:

Vegas has the Cowboys as two-point favorites, but there's no doubt that the Bulldogs have been the more consistent team, even if they're less talented overall.

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The hot-shooting West Coast Conference champions have won five straight coming in and rank fifth in the nation in team field-goal percentage, hitting shots at a clip of roughly 50 percent.

Still, it's almost impossible to pick against NBA-ready talent Marcus Smart and the Pokes, who can beat anyone in the country in a shootout when they bring their A-game. It'll all come down to which Oklahoma State team shows up Friday, but there's a good chance it'll be the team that closed the regular season winning five of seven games. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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