NCAA Tournament East Region Betting Primer (2021 March Madness)

The East Region has several intriguing storylines, starting with two prominent coaches that are trying to lead their alma maters to a deep run in their first NCAA tournament appearances. Juwan Howard will aim to get his Michigan Wolverines back to the national championship game, where he ultimately fell short in consecutive years as a player with the Fab Five. Also, Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas set a record for the team with the lowest winning percentage to win the Big East Tournament and will look to carry the momentum of winning four games in four days into the Big Dance.

In the lower part of the bracket, one of the most intriguing storylines is Rick Pitino’s Iona Gaels earning an NCAA tournament berth in his first season with the team, and he now becomes the third head coach to take five different schools to the Big Dance. Their first-round opponent is a dangerous Alabama Crimson Tide team in search of their first-ever Final Four appearance. The East Region also has perhaps the most anticipated play-in game, between two of the sport’s most heralded blue bloods in Michigan State and UCLA.Here’s a detailed look at how the East Region breaks down (odds courtesy BettingPros consensus):

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(1) Michigan Wolverines (20-4 SU, 17-7 ATS, 9-15 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: -125

Strengths: Ranked sixth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency and seventh in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. 38.7% three-point shooting percentage ranks 12th in the country. Averaged 112 points per 100 possessions. Led the Big Ten in two-point percentage shooting defense (42.3%), and were second in the league in free-throw shooting percentage (77.8%).

Weaknesses: Michigan comes in limping to the tournament, having lost three of their last five games. Force opponents into turnovers on 15.1% of possessions (ranks 335th in the country). Rank 316th in bench minutes (23.6% of minutes come from their bench).

X-Factor: The injury to Isaiah Livers. Livers shoots 43.1% from three-point range. The Wolverines looked like they missed his presence and ability to space the floor in their loss to Ohio State. Without him, their offense looked stagnant at times and was not the same free-flowing offense we saw all year.

Prediction: If Livers is healthy enough to return by the Sweet 16, Michigan is good enough to make the Final Four. Without him, their ceiling could be the Sweet 16.

(2) Alabama Crimson Tide (24-6 SU, 17-12-1 ATS, 14-16 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +390

Strengths: Rank second in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. Led the SEC in both three-point shooting percentage and three-point percentage defense. Led the SEC in effective field goal percentage and effective field goal percentage defense. The Crimson Tide play at the ninth-fastest tempo in the country.

Weaknesses: Allow offensive rebounds on 29.8% of possessions ( ranks 245th in the country). 40.2% of their points come from three-pointers (13th in the country), so an off-shooting night could be their undoing.

X-Factor: Herbert Jones. Not only is he one of their most versatile offensive players (11.2 pts, 6.4 rebs), but he is one of the best defensive players in the country. The 6’8″ forward can guard any position on the floor. When he was saddled with foul trouble early in the first half of the SEC tournament semifinals against Tennessee, the Volunteers opened a double-digit lead.

Prediction: Alabama reaches their first Final Four in school history.

(3) Texas Longhorns (19-7 SU, 12-13-1 ATS, 16-10 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +500

Strengths: Rank in the top-36 in the country in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Were the best defensive rebounding team in the Big-12, allowing offensive rebounds on just 25.1% of possessions. Ranked in the top-three of the Big 12 in effective field goal percentage, three-point shooting percentage, and two-point shooting percentage. Top-three scorers (Andrew Jones, Matt Coleman III, Courtney Ramey) all shoot better than 82% from the free-throw line.

Weaknesses: Forced opponents into turnovers on 17.8% of possessions (ranks 240th in the country). 28.1% of their minutes come from their bench (ranks 252nd in the country).

X-Factor: The Longhorns possess one of the most athletic and versatile frontcourts in the country. Jericho Sims, Greg Brown, and Kai Jones are a matchup nightmare and do a great job of challenging shots at the rim.

Prediction: Sweet 16

(4) Florida State Seminoles (16-6 SU, 11-9-2 ATS, 14-6-2 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +500

Strengths: Rank tenth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. Rank in the top 33 in the country in both effective field goal percentage and effective field goal percentage defense. 35.7% offensive rebounding percentage ranks 11th in the country, and 39.0% three-point percentage ranks ninth in the country.

Weaknesses: Allowed offensive rebounds on 31.4% of possessions (ranks 291st in the country). Commit turnovers on 20.2% of possessions (ranks 241st in the country).

X-Factor: Relentless full-court pressure. A staple of Leonard Hamilton’s defense, the Seminoles pick up full-court man-to-man every possession in an attempt to wear the other team down. Florida State uses their depth to their advantage, as their 39.9% of bench minutes is 23rd-most in the country.

Prediction: Elite 8

(5) Colorado Buffaloes (22-8 SU, 17-13 ATS, 11-18-1 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +750

Strengths: Rank in the top 30 in the country in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Colorado is the country’s second-best free-throw shooting team at 82.2%.

Weaknesses: Rank outside the top-140 in three-point defense. Do not have great rim protection, as their 7.8% block percentage ranked 10th in the conference.

X-Factor: Experience. Colorado starts three seniors and two juniors, and their 2.30 average years of experience ranks 30th in the country.

Prediction: First-round loss

(6) BYU Cougars (20-6 SU, 14-8-3 ATS, 12-12-1 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +900

Strengths: Rank in the top 28 in the country in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Rank in the top 36 in both effective field goal percentage and effective field goal percentage defense. 37.3% three-point shooting percentage ranks 35th in the country. Averaged 111 points per 100 possessions.

Weaknesses: Force turnovers on 16.0% of possessions (ranks 322nd in the country). Their 28.6% offensive rebounding percentage ranks 149th in the country.

X-Factor: Alex Barcello. BYU’s leading scorer at 15.9 PPG shoots 52.2% from the field and 48.6% from three-point range.

Prediction: Round of 32

(7) Connecticut Huskies (15-7 SU, 16-5-1 ATS, 11-11 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +750

Strengths: Rank in the top 25 in the country in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Their 36.8% offensive rebounding percentage ranks sixth in the country. 14.4% blocked-shot percentage ranks tenth in the country.

Weaknesses: Allow opponents to rebound 29.8% of their misses (ranks 248th in the country). At times, UConn relies too much on James Bouknight for offense.

X-Factor: James Bouknight. Bouknight (19.0 pts, 5.7 reb) is one of the best players in the country. He can take over a game at any moment, and the Huskies will look to him to take their team on their back ala Kemba Walker in 2011.

Prediction: Round of 32

(8) LSU Tigers (18-9 SU, 13-13-1 ATS, 16-10-1 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +1200

Strengths: Explosive offense that averages 82.2 PPG (sixth in the country). Fifth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. 16.1% turnover percentage (ranks 35th in the country).

Weaknesses: Rank outside the top 125 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Allow opponents to rebound 32.8% of their misses (ranks 325th in the country).

X-Factor: Which LSU defense will show up in the tournament? LSU allowed 80 or more points 14 times this year, but allowed an average of 74.4 PPG in three SEC tournament games.

Prediction: Round of 32

(9) St. Bonaventure Bonnies (16-4 SU, 14-5-1 ATS, 6-14 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +2500

Strengths: Rank in the top 38 in the country in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Hold opponents to 30.6% from the three-point line (32nd in the country).

Weaknesses: Ranked 10th in the Atlantic 10 in offensive rebounding percentage allowed. Ranked outside the top-130 in turnover percentage forced. The Bonnies play at one of the slowest tempos in the country, which could be troubling if they are forced to play catch-up.

X-Factor: Clash of styles. St. Bonaventure plays at a very-slow pace, and wants to grind out games in the half-court. Their style of play is vastly different than LSU’s high-scoring up-tempo attack, which should make for a very entertaining game.

Prediction: First-round loss

(10) Maryland Terrapins (16-13 SU, 12-16 ATS, 12-15-1 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +1600

Strengths: Outstanding defensive team that allowed 23.1 field goals per game and held opponents to 41% shooting. Ranked third in the Big Ten in limiting opponents on the offensive glass and ranked fourth in the conference in effective field goal percentage defense.

Weaknesses: Rank outside the top-65 in effective field goal percentage and turnover percentage. Ranked last in the Big Ten with 68.8 PPG.

X-Factor: Rebounding. Maryland does not have a player in the starting lineup taller than 6’7″, which could be an issue against UConn’s big frontline.

Prediction: First-round loss

(11) Michigan State Spartans (15-12 SU, 9-18 ATS, 10-17 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +3600

Strengths: Head coach Tom Izzo is coaching in his 23rd-straight NCAA tournament. Spartans led the Big Ten in three-point percentage defense (30.8% allowed in league play). Deep bench provides 38.8% of their minutes (31st-most in the country).

Weaknesses: Offensive woes. Spartans rank 98th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency, 266th in effective field goal percentage, and 255th in three-point percentage.

X-Factor: Inconsistency. The Spartans proved they are capable of beating anybody, as they knocked off two N0. 1 seeds (Illinois and Michigan) this year. They also proved they can take their share of losses, as they had two separate losing streaks of at least three games.

Prediction: Win play-in game, lose first-round game

(11) UCLA Bruins (17-9 SU, 12-14 ATS, 15-11 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +3600

Strengths: Rank 26th in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. Ranked second in PAC-12 games averaging 39.0% from three-point range. Was the PAC-12’s best defensive rebounding team, allowing opponents to rebound just 23.7% of their misses.

Weaknesses: Ranks 198th in effective field goal percentage defense, and outside the top-240 nationally in both percentage of turnovers forced and three-point shooting defense. Their 29.7% of minutes from their bench ranks 208th in the country, and they are the 279th youngest teams in the country in terms of average experience.

X-Factor: Johnny Juzang. UCLA’s leading scorer (14.0 PPG) needs to make perimeter shots to open up the offense. He was forced to take on more of a scoring role in the absence of Chris Smith and Jalen Hill. If the Bruins are in a tight game, his 91.5% free-throw percentage could be vital.

Prediction: Lose play-in game

(12) Georgetown Hoyas (13-12 SU, 16-9 ATS, 11-14 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +4200

Strengths: Rank 40th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency and 52nd in three-point shooting percentage. Rank first in Big East play hitting 37.6% of their shots from beyond the arc. Their 78.1% free-throw percentage ranked second in league play, and they were the Big East’s second-best offensive rebounding team.

Weaknesses: Commit turnovers on 21.7% of their possessions (309th in the country). Force turnovers on 16.2% of opponents’ offensive possessions (313th in the country). 46.1% two-point shooting percentage ranks 295th in the nation.

X-Factor: John Thompson’s legacy. Under head coach Patrick Ewing, the Hoyas have gotten back to the way the Hoyas played under “Big John”, with a physicality and toughness that they did not have when they started the season 3-7.

Prediction: Round of 32

(13) UNC Greensboro Spartans (21-8 SU, 17-12 ATS, 13-15-1 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +8000

Strengths: Commit turnovers on 15.5% of their possessions (18th in the country). Ranked first in the Southern Conference in the following categories: adjusted defensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage defense, turnovers forced, two-point percentage defense, and blocked shots.

Weaknesses: Allowed the highest percentage of offensive rebounds in the country. Ranked second-to-last in the country in effective field goal percentage and three-point shooting percentage.

X-Factor: Isaiah Miller. The Southern Conference Player of the Year will be tested by Florida State’s defensive pressure. His ability to take care of the basketball and dictate their offense will go a long way in determining their success.

Prediction: First-round loss

(14) Abilene Christian Wildcats (23-4 SU, 17-6 ATS, 14-9 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +5000

Strengths: Rank first in the country forcing turnovers on 26.7% of opponents’ offensive possessions. Rank in the top-21 in the country in both three-point shooting and three-point defense. The Wildcats are in the top-30 in both adjusted offensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage defense. A deep bench accounts for 36.9% of their minutes (49th-most in the country).

Weaknesses: Ranked sixth in the Southland Conference in effective field goal percentage and eighth in free-throw shooting.

X-Factor: Sharing the basketball. The Wildcats assist on more than 2/3 of their made baskets, and their ability to share the basketball is what makes their offense so difficult to defend.

Prediction: First-round loss

(15) Iona Gaels (12-5 SU, 11-5-1 ATS, 9-8 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +8000

Strengths: Iona is 18th in the country in effective field goal percentage defense, and their three-point percentage defense ranks 23rd in the country. The Gaels led the MAAC in both three-point shooting and three-point defense, as well as adjusted offensive efficiency and offensive rebounding percentage.

Weaknesses: Iona ranked last in the MAAC in turnovers, committing them on 22.7% of their possessions. They allowed the second-highest percentage of offensive rebounds in the league, and rank outside of the top-160 in two-point shooting percentage.

X-Factor: Rick Pitino. He is one of the most accomplished college coaches of all-time, so do not underestimate his ability to have an impact on the game.

Prediction: First-round loss

(16) Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (12-10 SU, 11-10 ATS, 8-13 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +8000

Strengths: Led the NEC in adjusted defensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage allowed. Allowed the lowest percentage of offensive rebounds in the league, and ranked second in the conference in three-point percentage defense.

Weaknesses: Rank outside the top-220 in the country in the following categories: adjusted offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, two-point shooting percentage and free-throw percentage.

X-Factor: Foul trouble. Mount St. Mary’s gets just 21.1% of their minutes from their bench, which ranks 328th in the country. Thus, it is imperative for their starting five to stay out of foul trouble, namely Jalen Gibbs and Damian Chong Qui who combined for 31.6 PPG.

Prediction: Win play-in game, lose first-round game

(16) Texas Southern Tigers (16-8 SU, 12-10-1 ATS, 13-9-1 O/U)

Odds to make Final Four: +8000

Strengths: The Tigers were the SWAC’s best offensive rebounding team, rebounding 33.5% of their misses in league play. They ranked second in the conference in adjusted offensive efficiency and third in free-throw percentage. Led the conference in scoring and out-rebound their opponents by 6.1 rebounds per game.

Weaknesses: Rank outside the top-235 in the country in the following categories: adjusted offensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage, turnover percentage, and three-point shooting percentage.

X-Factor: Tempo. Texas Southern plays at a breakneck pace, as they average the 24th most possessions per game in the country. Mount St. Mary’s will try and make it a half-court game, so Texas Southern’s ability to speed them up and score easily in transition will be critical.

Prediction: Lose play-in game

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