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East Region Odds — Baylor Earns Top Seed, Kentucky Favored

Eric Rosales

by Eric Rosales in College Basketball

Mar 13, 2022 · 5:04 PM PDT

Oscar Tshiebwe arms out pumping up crowd
Kentucky forward Oscar Tshiebwe (34) celebrates during the second half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt in the Southeastern Conference men's tournament Friday, March 11, 2022, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
  • Baylor Bears earn top seed in East Region of NCAA Tournament
  • Kentucky, seeded second, has equal Final Four odds and better odds to win tournament than Baylor
  • Check out the odds, analysis, and betting predictions, below

The Baylor Bears, the defending NCAA Tournament Champions, have earned back-to-back top seeds, named the #1 spot in the East Region. It’s safe to say, however, that this bracket is up for grabs.

Consider that Baylor’s current odds to make the Final Four trail the Kentucky Wildcats, who are seeded second. The third-seeded Purdue Boilermakers (+350) and fourth-seeded UCLA Bruins (+600) make four teams from the East with Final Four odds in the top 11.

In terms of taking it all, UK has the third-best NCAA Tournament odds, behind only the top two seeds of the entire tournament, the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Arizona Wildcats.

Let’s have a look at this part of the draw, and try to parse through what the madness might look like.

March Madness East Regional Odds

Team Odds
Kentucky Wildcats +160
 Baylor Bears +200
Purdue Boilermakers +350
UCLA Bruins +600
Texas Longhorns +1400
North Carolina Tar Heels +1700
Saint Mary’s Gaels +2000
Marquette Golden Eagles +2200
Indiana Hoosiers +3000
Virginia Tech Hokies +3000
Murray State Racers +3000
San Francisco Dons +4000
Wyoming Cowboys +5000
Yale Bulldogs +10000
Akron Zips +20000
Norfolk State Spartans +20000
Saint Peter’s Peacocks OFF

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook on March 13.

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Baylor Staggers Into Top Seed

Before bashing the Bears as easily the shakiest top seed, their ability to return to lead a region is something to behold, considering the title team lost key pieces in Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Mark Vital.

Still, they were able to tie with the Kansas Jayhawks for the regular season Big 12 crown with identical 14-4 records in the conference.

Their Big 12 Conference Tournament run was over quickly, upset in the quarterfinals by the Oklahoma Sooners 72-67.

Still, they boast a 5th-best ranking on KenPom, with top-15 ranks in both adjusted offensive efficiency (9th) and defensive efficiency (14th).

Baylor averaged 76.5 points per game, good for 46th in the nation, and they have four players that averaged double-digit scoring on the year, led by James Akinjo, who averaged 13.4 points, as well as a team-leading 5.7 assists and 2.1 steals.

While cruising past the opening round opponent Norfolk St, it gets dicey the rest of the way, with North Carolina or Marquette in Round 2.

Kentucky’s Betting Outlook

There’s a lot to like with the Wildcats, which all revolves around star Oscar Tshiebwe, the current favorite in the 2022 Wooden Award odds.

The 6-foot-9 forward averaged 17 points and 15.1 rebounds on 60.2% shooting from the field. Tshiebwe enters the NCAA Tournament having recorded a double-double in 15 straight games.

On the year, he only went for less than 10 rebounds in a game twice, and failed to score in double-digits three times.

Kellan Grady was their top marksman from deep, hitting at a 42.6% clip, while Sahvir Wheeler kept the ‘Cats well fed, dishing out a team-high 6.9 assists per game.

After finishing second to Auburn in the SEC regular season with a 14-4 mark, they were in the running for a top seed, but stumbled in the semifinals to eventual SEC Tourney champion Tennessee.

Their path to the Sweet 16 offers little resistance, as they open vs Saint Peter’s and take on the winner of Murray St and San Francisco.

Purdue, UCLA and Others to Consider

While Kentucky looks to be the class of the East, other teams that are worth considering include the 9th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers, who lost to the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Tournament final Sunday.

They’re led by star Jaden Ivey, currently eighth in the Wooden Award odds, and they’re one of only 12 schools to score better than 80 points on the season. They rank third in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency.

It won’t be an easy run for them though: they draw Ivy League Champion Yale and have to deal with bucket-getter Azar Swain. They may also have to contend with a Texas Longhorns squad in Round 2, who rank 13th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive metric.

UCLA was a Jalen Suggs miracle heave from playing in the title game a year ago, and they return a lot of key pieces from that run, including Johnny Juzang. They fell in a close Pac-12 Tournament Final to Arizona, so they’ll be able to compete.

However, their part of the draw also consists of Saint Mary’s at the 5-seed, who have flown under the radar in the Mountain West with Gonzaga gaining all the glitz. They grind teams to a pulp, allowing just 60.5 points per game and rank ninth in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency. Their season also includes a win over the top-seeded Bulldogs.

Best Bet to Win East Region

After missing out on the tournament a year ago, John Calipari’s NBA’s draft-factory is back on the college landscape and looking very overwhelming to make it back to the Final Four for the first time since 2015.

If Baylor can settle down in the opening two rounds, they’ll still have to contend with either UCLA or Saint Mary’s in the Sweet 16, and a date with Kentucky to the Elite 8. And that’s a lot to ask.

The Pick: Kentucky (+750)

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