Arizona was always hugely successful under former coach Sean Miller but could never get to the Final Four. Could the Wildcats’ fortunes change this year under new coach Tommy Floyd? They are the No. 1 seed in the South Region and +160 favorites to win it. The college basketball betting odds for the Cats will open against either No. 16 Bryant or No. 16 Wright State after they meet in the First Four.
South Region Bracket Top Betting Predictions
Under Lloyd, the Wildcats rolled through the Pac-12, winning 16 of 18 by double digits. They have been ranked in the top 10 since Dec. 13. Arizona finished the regular season as one of five teams ranked among the top 20 nationally in offensive and defensive efficiency. Then the Wildcats won the Pac-12 tournament, rallying from 12 down to beat UCLA.
Lloyd has put together a decorated résumé that includes wins against Michigan, Illinois and a 4-1 record against USC and UCLA. He has three legit stars — projected NBA draft lottery pick Bennedict Mathurin (17.1 PPG), Azuolas Tubelis (14.7 PPG) and Christian Koloko (12.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG) — who could lead Arizona to the Final Four for the first time in 21 years.
Villanova is the No. 2 seed and a +350 second favorite in the West. The Cats open against Delaware. This is the seventh time since 2010 that the Wildcats have been a #2 seed or higher in the NCAA Tournament. The high seed is a fitting reward for a Villanova squad which was won 26 games on the year, went 16-4 in regular season Big East action and won three straight games in the conference tournament over St. John’s, Connecticut and Creighton to win the Big East title. Head coach Jay Wright and the Wildcats own nine wins over teams in the NCAA Tournament field. Villanova has played nearly half of its games on the season (16 of 33) against fellow NCAA teams.
Villanova has reached the NCAA Tournament for the 16th time in the last 17 seasons and the ninth season in a row (not including the 2020 tournament which was cancelled). This is the seventh time in the last nine years that the Wildcats have won at least 25 games. Villanova is ranked No. 7 in the NET rankings and owns eight Quad 1 victories on the year, with its overall resume bolstered by 14 victories at road and neutral sites. Nova is 15-0 all-time vs. Delaware.
Tennessee is the No. 3 seed and +400 to win the South. The Vols won the SEC Tournament on Sunday. The Volunteers (26-7) earned a No. 3 seed for the second time in program history (also in 2018) and will travel to Indianapolis. Tennessee’s first-round opponent in South Region action is 14th-seed Longwood on Thursday at 2:45 p.m. ET on CBS.
The Vols have never previously faced Longwood (26-6)—winners of this year’s Big South Conference Tournament. This is Tennessee’s 24th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance, while Vols head coach Rick Barnes is making his 26th appearance as a head coach. Tennessee has played four NCAA Tournament games in Indianapolis, going 1-1 in 1982, 0-1 in 2014 and 0-1 in last year’s tournament.
Illinois is the No. 4 seed and +800 to win the South after winning the Big Ten regular-season title but losing in the conference tournament to Indiana. Illinois is making its 32nd overall NCAA Tournament appearance, and second in a row after earning a No. 1 seed last year. Illinois owns an all-time NCAA Tournament record of 41-32. Coach Brad Underwood, meanwhile, will be making his sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in nine years as a head coach.
Kofi Cockburn (21.0 PPG, 10.6 RPG) put together another incredible season that secured him a spot among the Wooden Award finalists. With Cockburn on the floor this season, Illinois has averaged 14 more points per 100 possessions compared with when he was on the bench.
The Illini open against No. 13 seed Chattanooga (27-7) in the first round on Friday in Pittsburgh. Chattanooga finished the regular season 27-7 overall and claimed the Southern Conference regular season and tournament titles. The Mocs are making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2016 and 12th time overall as a program. In its 1997 run to the Sweet 16, Chattanooga also drew Illinois which resulted in a 75-63 win in the Round of 32.
The Mocs have won five in a row entering the NCAA tournament. Malachi Smith (20.1 PPG, 41.5% from beyond the arc) is top-20 nationally in scoring.
South Expert Pick
- Arizona over Tennessee in final