Like a lot of folks, I had the Kansas Jayhawks
advancing through the Southwest Region into the Sweet 16. In fact, my bracket has Bill Self's crew repping the SW at the Final Four in Houston a couple of weeks from now.
Also similar to the brackets of others is the fact that Florida State, Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond are nowhere to be found after the Round of 32. For any of that trio to make it would've been something; that all three are in San Antonio this weekend is unprecedented.
Welcome to the upset-filled Southwest regional which has truly gone to the 'dogs. While Jayhawks fans aren't complaining about having to get past three double-digit seeds to reach this year's ultimate quartet, it probably scares the hell out of Self whose Kansas squad is the most prohibitive regional favorite at minus 325 to win the Southwest.
The Seminoles are plus 400 to emerge from San Antonio and head east on I-10 200 miles to Houston, trailed by the Spiders (plus 700) and Rams (plus 735).
Having the easiest path – on paper, at least – to this year's Final Four has top-seed Kansas the current favorites to win it all in Houston at 5/2. That's just pennies ahead of overall 1-seed Ohio State at plus 255.
Florida State, seeded 10th in the SW, is a 20/1 long shot to cut down the nets on April 4. Twelve-seed Richmond (25/1) and 11-seed Virginia Commonwealth (27/1) follow.
Morehead State fired the first shot in this region when the 13-seed Eagles took down 4-seed Louisville very early on last Thursday's slate. The underdog won six of the first nine games played in the Southwest, including Virginia Commonwealth's win over USC during First Four action. Taking the points in this region proved the winning bet 10 of 13 games. One of the few chalk winners was Richmond beating Morehead State last Saturday in Denver in a 12/13 matchup.
The winning wasn't just limited to spread bettors as the 'under' cashed at a 10-2-1 clip.
Kansas (34-2 straight up, 18-16 against the spread) avoided the upset gremlins to reach the Sweet 16 as the only Big 12 representative. The Jayhawks will now try to return to the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 2008, coincidentally in San Antonio.
Victories over Boston University and Illinois in Tulsa last weekend raised Kansas' win streak to 10 games, though the Jayhawks are an even-Steven 5-5 ATS in the span. Both games went 'under' after the Jayhawks entered the tourney 19-11 to the high side of the total.
The Jayhawks will be giving up 11 points to Richmond (29-7 SU, 21-12 ATS) who has been a solid cover all season and brings a nine-game streak into Friday's matchup at the Alamodome. Strong outside shooting (12-of-24) and turning it over just twice pushed the Spiders past Vanderbilt in their opener as three-point underdogs. The three-point touch wasn't as strong in the subsequent victory over Morehead State, but Richmond led from start to finish to easily cover as 4½-point chalk.
One concern for the Spiders is junior forward Darrius Garrett who is questionable with a head injury. Garrett's scoring won't be missed (1.9 PPG) but he's third on the team in rebounding (4.1 per game) and would normally be counted on to negate some of Kansas' inside strength.
Florida State (23-10 SU, 16-10-2 ATS) used its tried-&-true defense to send both Texas A&M and Notre Dame home. Ranked 27th in the country allowing 61.7 points per game, the Seminoles held the Irish nearly 20 points below their season average in a 71-57 triumph as five-point underdogs.
They'll bring a five-game cover streak and four-game 'under' run into Friday night's meeting with Virginia Commonwealth. Florida State opened as 3½-point chalk against the Rams, a number that has inched up a half at most NCAA odds windows.
In becoming the first team to reach the Sweet 16 by winning three tournament games, VCU (26-11 SU, 16-20 ATS) is no stranger to being the underdog. The Rams were getting points in their last two Colonial tournament games, and were underdogs last week to USC (plus-4), Georgetown (plus-5½) and Purdue (plus-9½).
The Trojans, Hoyas and Boilermakers all discovered Virginia Commonwealth did indeed belong in the tournament after being originally painted as the poster child for bad choices by this year's NCAA Selection Committee. The Rams now have company in the Seminoles and Spiders, two teams that few thought belonged in the Sweet 16.