Final Four Predictions 2017: Odds and Picks for Top NCAA Tournament Teams

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 14, 2017

North Carolina's Justin Jackson (44) reacts following a basket against Duke during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, March 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Gerry Broome/Associated Press

Take a look at the NCAA men's tournament bracket. Would you be that surprised if any one of the No. 1 or No. 2 seeds won it all this year?

Probably not, and that's because the tournament field has a ton of depth at the top, featuring great senior leaders, freshman superstars and some of the best coaches the game has ever seen.

Here's a look at the latest odds for the top tournament teams and picks for each regional.

March Madness Bracket

Championship Odds

North Carolina5-1

Championship odds information per OddsShark.

South Regional

No. 1 seed North Carolina is 6-5 to win the South Regional, with No. 2 seed Kentucky and No. 3 seed UCLA at 3-1 and 9-2, respectively.

If UCLA and Kentucky win their first two games each, they will face off in the Sweet 16, while North Carolina will play No. 4 seed Butler or No. 5 Minnesota barring an upset.

With all due respect to the Bulldogs and Golden Gophers, they aren't in the same class as Kentucky and UCLA, who the sportsbooks are giving the seventh- and eighth-best odds to win the entire tournament.

UNC is traveling on the path of least resistance in the South Regional, and it's hard to take either UCLA or Kentucky to win when their hypothetical Sweet 16 matchup would be a toss-up.

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Therefore, the Tar Heels are the favorite in this regional and should emerge as the South representative in the Final Four.

Pick: North Carolina

East Regional

Villanova is 8-5 to win the East, while Duke is 13-5. The next-closest team is SMU, who was too under-seeded at No. 6, at 7-1.

A common theme will be repeated in this section and the next two: The No. 1 seeds received worse draws then the No. 2 seeds in their respective regionals because the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds are arguably better than the No. 3 seeds, which turns a potential Sweet 16 matchup into a trap game for the No. 1 seeds.

That being said, Villanova has it worse than any of the No. 1 seeds because it will likely face No. 8 Wisconsin in the second round. The Badgers won 25 games, finished second during the Big Ten regular season and made the Big Ten title game.

However, the selection committee only gave the Badgers a No. 8 seed, which is a questionable decision. Here's more on that potential game from data scientist and writer Ed Feng:

Ed Feng @thepowerrank

Villanova would be only a 4.5 point favorite against Wisconsin in a Round of 32 game. Not a favorable draw for the defending champs.

And here's a take from Nate Silver, the founder and editor-in-chief of FiveThirtyEight, on the Wildcats' draw in general:

Nate Silver @NateSilver538

As much parity as we've ever seen this year. Villanova might otherwise stand out from the pack a bit but they have a brutal draw.

Duke, which beat Louisville, North Carolina and Notre Dame in the last three rounds of the ACC tournament to win the conference title, can follow the path of least resistance and take the East Regional.

The Blue Devils also have two players in Jayson Tatum and Luke Kennard who are playing fantastic basketball right now. Tatum is a likely future top-five NBA draft pick, and Kennard could have won the ACC Player of the Year award:

#DukeNation @TheDukeNation

Luke Kennard: 20.1 PPG 5.3 RPG 2.5 APG 50.5 FG% Justin Jackson: 18.3 PPG 4.7 RPG 2.6 APG 45.2 FG% Luke was absolutely snubbed.

Take Duke to win the regional.

Pick: Duke

Midwest Regional

No. 1 seed Kansas is the leader in the clubhouse with 2-1 odds to win the Midwest. No. 2 seed Louisville is second at 15-4.

College basketball analyst Jon Rothstein had an appropriate name for this regional (and all the regionals, really):

Jon Rothstein @JonRothstein

NCAA Tourney Region Nicknames: East (Region of Prestige), West (Region of Opportunity), MW (Region of Chaos), South (Region of Tradition).

No. 1 seed Kansas looked bad in a Big 12 tournament quarterfinal loss to TCU (yes, KU was without freshman star Josh Jackson, but Kansas still gave up 85 points to a team that averages 74 on the season).

No. 3 seed Oregon lost sophomore forward Chris Boucher, who averages 11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, to a torn ACL.

No. 4 seed Purdue and No. 5 seed Iowa State are strong teams for their seeds, with the former winning the Big Ten regular-season title and the latter winning the Big 12 championship.

And No. 6 seed Creighton, which started the year 18-1, finished the season by losing eight of its last 15.

There's more chaos in this region, including No. 7 seed Michigan's torrid run and No. 10 seed Oklahoma State point guard Jawun Evans' rising path to stardom, but we have to end the regional blurb somewhere.

The only top team you didn't see mentioned was No. 2 Louisville, who can do a little of everything, except make free throws consistently.

The Cardinals are the highest-ranked team in the Midwest per the Ken Pomeroy Ratings, with its defense slotting sixth overall. Also, its path to the Final Four is easier (on paper) than Kansas' given the aforementioned issues Oregon and Creighton have going for them.

Take Louisville to use its strong defense to win the wild Midwest.

Pick: Louisville

West Regional

No. 1 seed Gonzaga leads the way at 31-20, while No. 2 seed Arizona is close behind at 11-5.

The Pomeroy and Sagarin ratings have Gonzaga ranked as the top team in the nation. That's not a big surprise considering the Bulldogs won 29 straight games before finishing with a 32-1 record.

The Zags beat Arizona, Florida and Iowa State in out-of-conference play, teams that all earned top-five seeds in this year's NCAA tournament.

Don't equate this year's Zags with others who didn't live up to expectations in March, as this is undoubtedly the best team in school history.

That being said, Gonzaga is looking right at a potential trap game in the Sweet 16, as No. 5 seed Notre Dame (the ACC runner-up) or No. 4 West Virginia (the Big 12 runner-up) would be the Bulldogs' likely opponents.

West Virginia in particular was under-seeded by one slot, as Sagarin and Pomeroy list the Mountaineers as fourth and fifth respectively in their ratings. WVU most notably crushed Kansas, 85-69, in Morgantown this season.

In the other half of the regional, Arizona won the Pac-12 title. The Wildcats didn't have sophomore guard and leading scorer Allonzo Trier for 19 games, but they still managed to go 17-2 without him. With Trier in the mix, the Wildcats are one of the best teams in the country and ranked No. 2 in the RPI.

Arizona's path to the Final Four isn't nearly as treacherous as Gonzaga's. No. 3 seed Florida State figures to pose the biggest challenge, but WVU and Notre Dame are a small cut above.

In the end, it's hard to pick Gonzaga simply because that Sweet 16 game looks so difficult on paper. Take the Wildcats to win the West.

Pick: Arizona

Regional odds information per OddsShark.

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