Taking a look at best value bets for March Madness


Selection Sunday surprises, pleasant and unpleasant, set the stage for sports-betting fans to check the lines and begin pretending they know what’s going to happen.

We’re happy to pretend along with everyone else, and we’ll offer a big bet and a hidden gem from each of the four regions. (Odds are from DraftKings.)

South Region

The big bet: Houston +140 to win the South.

Houston is not happy (not going to say, ‘Houston, we have a problem,’ because coach Kelvin Sampson has a situation that 67 other tournament coaches would welcome).

After an embarrassing loss in the Big 12 tournament to Iowa State, the Cougars are not in a group you want in your draw.

Houston really has only Marquette, Kentucky and Duke to worry about.

The Golden Eagles, the region’s No. 2 seed, have to hope Tyler Kolek can be near 100 percent. Kolek missed the conference tournament with an oblique injury, and that team isn’t much of a threat without him.

On their best days, the Wildcats and Blue Devils can compete, but, as tournament fans know, defense travels everywhere. And Houston will bring it.

Not to be ignored is the fact that the Cougars rank among the top 25 in several offensive efficiency metrics.

Go with the angry kids from H-Town.

The hidden gem: Wisconsin -4.5 against James Madison.

The Badgers are improving and nearly doubled down on their upset of Purdue with a Big Ten title, but, after falling to Illinois, they certainly are a potential Final Four team.

The Dukes provide all the excitement from those No. 5 vs. No. 12 betting fans (yep, one out of every four No. 12 seeds is usually a first-round winner in the NCAA Tournament).

It’s not James Madison, so we’re saying class will prevail.

Midwest Region

The big bet: Tennessee to win three games.

It’s a simple bet with slightly more complicated mathematics, but it is worth a look in the grand scheme of things.

The No. 2-seeded Volunteers were run out of the gym the last time we saw them. Similar to Houston’s folly, this was an ugly 73-56 loss to the conference tourney’s No. 9 seed, Mississippi State.

Beginning Thursday night in Charlotte, N.C., Tennessee will be in revenge mode, and the path ahead isn’t terribly daunting.

To win this “rollover” bet, the Vols need to take care of Saint Peter’s before meeting the Texas-Boise State/Colorado winner and then likely South Carolina or Creighton.

Take Tennessee at an adjusted number against Saint Peter’s (-14 at -270 odds would return $27 for a $20 bet). Take that $27 and roll it over to the next game on a moneyline bet (the Vols just have to win) likely in the -310 range.

With a victory, you would have about $36 to place on Tennessee’s third game, with that moneyline around -150.

A win against South Carolina or Creighton would move your take back to north of $60 — a nice return on the initial $20 wager.

The hidden gem: Gonzaga-McNeese State over 147.5 points.

Zags point guard Ryan Nembhard will welcome the challenge, push the pace and McNeese State will be happy to oblige.

West Region

The big bet: Arizona +190 to win the region.

The bookmakers are on to us! Despite being the region’s No. 2 seed, Arizona is the favorite to reach the Final Four from this group.

After watching North Carolina stumble against North Carolina State, it’s not hard to understand, although the Wildcats’ tumble against Oregon was almost as bad.

The belief here is that Arizona will find a way to get Caleb Love going again (he struggled in the Pac-12 tourney), and the added motivation from Love, a former Tar Heels guard, can’t hurt.

The hidden gem: Saint Mary’s -5 over Grand Canyon

The Gaels rank in the top 10 in opponents’ field-goal percentage allowed.

Grand Canyon has one star player, and Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett will figure out a way to stop another 12 vs. 5 upset.

East Region

The big bet: UConn +105 to win the region.

Come on, Iowa State had its fun against Houston, but UConn is a very sound defending NCAA Tournament champion.

Don’t overthink it. The Huskies return plenty of experience, and coach Dan Hurley always has a chip on his shoulder — and he’s happy to share it with his players.

The hidden gem: Duquesne +7.5 against BYU

The fun of the tournament is rooted in the upsets, and this one doesn’t really feel like one.

BYU must hit 35 to 40 percent of its 3-point attempts, because it doesn’t defend particularly well, and Duquesne just captured the Atlantic 10 tournament title.

The Dukes are a solid squad that is suddenly hot. They don’t have a ton of 3-point shooting, but that’s a good thing because they’ll concentrate on what they do best.

Bet on Duquesne’s Dae Dae Grant and Jimmy Clark III to keep their team rolling.