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October 25, 2014

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NCAA Tournament by the Odds: How sports books see the West Region

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

New Mexico’s Jamal Fenton, left and Demetrius Walker celebrate after the Lobos defeated San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference tournament championship game 68-59 Saturday, March 10, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Odds to win the West Region

  • No. 1 Michigan State — 2-to-1
  • No. 2 Missouri — 11-to-5
  • No. 3 Marquette — 6-to-1
  • No. 4 Louisville — 6-to-1
  • No. 5 New Mexico — 9-to-1
  • No. 6 Murray State — 25-to-1
  • No. 7 Florida — 18-to-1
  • No. 8 Memphis — 14-to-1
  • No. 9 Saint Louis — 35-to-1
  • No. 10 Virginia — 50-to-1
  • No. 11 Colorado State — 150-to-1
  • No. 12 Long Beach State — 70-to-1
  • No. 13 Davidson — 100-to-1
  • No. 14 BYU — 100-to-1
  • No. 14. Iona — 150-to-1
  • No. 15 Norfolk State — 200-to-1
  • No. 16 LIU Brooklyn — 200-to-1
  • Numbers from Cantor Gaming

Note: LasVegasSun.com will run betting previews for all four regions in the NCAA Tournament over the next two days. Scroll to the bottom for odds on every opening game in the West Region.

Suppose for a second that you have no affiliation or connection with any school in the field of the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Not a fan. Not an alum. Nothing. You just love basketball and want to watch as many games as possible. Unfortunately, an evil Rick Majerus-shaped genie pops out of a bottle in your kitchen trash can with some bad news.

This year, you’ll only be permitted to watch one region before the Final Four. Which would you select?

If it’s anything other than the West, you’re crazy. The bracket that will conclude in Phoenix is by far the most wide-open and toughest of the four.

If one region goes totally awry in 2012, it will be the West. Even local oddsmakers agree.

It’s the only bracket with five teams — No. 1 seed Michigan State, No. 2 seed Missouri, No. 3 seed Marquette, No. 4 seed Louisville and No. 5 seed New Mexico — offered at a price of 9-to-1 or shorter to win the region. Three more squads — No. 6 seed Murray State, No. 7 seed Florida and No. 8 seed Memphis — are less than 25-to-1.

A few sports book directors in town believed Missouri deserved the final top seed over Michigan State. Instead, the two teams are practically co-favorites, with the Spartans offered at 2-to-1 to win the West and Tigers at 11-to-5.

Six of the top eight seeds won their conference tournament championship last weekend, more than the other three brackets combined. These teams are hot and, for the most part, evenly matched.

But all of the West’s top teams also have at least one fatal flaw, which makes them that much more interesting.

As usual, the Spartans are a tough-nosed group that plays defense better than anyone in the country, led by an elite coach in Tom Izzo. But they are overly reliant on Big Ten Player of the Year Draymond Green. Reference losses to Illinois and Michigan for what happens when Green has an off day.

Missouri has arguably the nation’s best guard group — led by Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon. But the Tigers are a poor rebounding team and must stick to a seven-man rotation because of a lack of depth. See two losses to Kansas State and a setback at Oklahoma State as spots where those woes caught up to them.

Marquette and Louisville have struggled with consistency. They’ve looked elite for parts of the season and mediocre at others. Reference the way Marquette went 2-4 with a poor loss to LSU and a home walloping administered by Vanderbilt after a 9-0 start to the season. See how Louisville couldn’t find the basket in an embarrassing 31-point beatdown against Providence and a 58-50 snoozing home loss to South Florida two weeks ago.

New Mexico is playing as well as any team in the nation but can’t function offensively when their guards don’t get the ball to Drew Gordon in the post. It’s the reason for most of their losses this season.

That’s all nit picky, though. All five of these teams have put together spectacular seasons. They’ve proven it both on the court and in the sports book.

Amazingly, the top five seeds in the West have all covered more than 57 percent of their games this season. New Mexico is the best against-the-spread team in the tournament with a 22-8 record, while Michigan State and Missouri are close behind at 22-10 and 18-9-2, respectively.

Louisville has been profitable at 18-13-1. So has Marquette with a 16-12-1 against-the-spread record.

It’s not as easy as simplifying this region down to five, though. The West has under-seeded teams at 7, 8 and 9. Not to mention No. 6 seed Murray State has lost one game all year.

Two of Florida’s best players — Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker — led the Gators to an Elite Eight appearance a year ago. Florida lost some other pieces from that team but picked up an NBA-caliber wingman in freshman Bradley Beal.

Memphis is exceptional in every category and ranked No. 9 in the nation by Ken Pomeroy. Saint Louis — coached by Majerus — slows its games down and plays defense as well as any team in the nation, even Michigan State.

Click to enlarge photo

Memphis guard Will Barton (5) gets tangled with Tennessee guard Josh Richardson, right, in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012, in Memphis, Tenn. Memphis won 69-51.

The Tigers are so respected in Las Vegas that Cantor lists them at 60-to-1 to win the national championship as a No. 8 seed. Two teams in the same slot in other regions, Creighton and Iowa State, are 200-to-1.

Memphis is a 3.5-point favorite over Saint Louis in a can’t-miss game Friday afternoon in Columbus, Ohio. Whoever wins is poised to give Michigan State an early challenge.

Look for a low point spread in that round of 32 affair and many other games in the West region. Whoever comes out of this one is going to deserve it.

Pick to win the region: New Mexico at 9-to-1 or Memphis at 14-to-1. Michigan State or Missouri is the safe pick, but everyone is so bunched together that gambling with a couple dangerous long shots is the smart play here.

West Region Picks Against The Spread (in order of confidence)

No. 6 Murray State -3.5 over No. 11 Colorado State

No. 5 New Mexico -4.5 over No. 12 Long Beach State

No. 14 Iona +2 over No. 14 BYU

No. 10 Virginia +3.5 over No. 7 Florida

No. 16 LIU Brooklyn +20 over No. 1 Michigan State

No. 9 Saint Louis +3.5 over No. 8 Memphis

No. 4 Louisville -7.5 over No. 13 Davidson

No. 2 Missouri -21.5 over No. 15 Norfolk State

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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