March Madness odds: Michigan State among region favorites

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The Virginia Cavaliers came away from Selection Sunday as the No. 1 seed in the Midwest in this year’s NCAA Tournament, but it is the No. 2 Michigan State Spartans who have caught the eye of the oddsmakers, who have made them strong +160 favorites to win the region at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Virginia, which opens the tourney against No. 16 Hampton as a 13-point favorite, received the nod as top seed despite dropping a 61-57 decision to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament championship game, leaving them with a 26-7 record on the season heading into Thursday’s Pirates vs. Cavaliers betting matchup at PNC Arena.

Conversely, the Spartans have been dominant down the stretch, winning 13 of their past 14 straight up, falling short of the Big Ten regular season title but claiming the conference tournament championship with a 66-62 victory over Purdue, and open their tourney against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders as 17.5-point chalk.

The No. 2 seed also leads the way on the March Madness odds in the West Region, where the Oklahoma Sooners have edged out No. 1 Oregon as +210 favorites to reach the Final Four for the first time since 2002.

Oklahoma struggled down the stretch, going 6-5 SU in their past 11, including an early exit from the Big 12 Tournament, where they fell 69-67 to West Virginia in the semifinal, and take a 25-7 SU overall record into the Big Dance, one game back of Oregon.

The Ducks capped an 8-0 SU stretch run with an 88-57 rout of Utah in the Pac-12 Tournament championship game, but enter the NCAA Tournament at a distant 18/1 on the national championship odds at the sportsbooks.

In the South, the Kansas Jayhawks lead the way as clear +130 chalk, followed by No. 2 Villanova at +275. The Jayhawks also sit atop the March Madness odds as 6/1 favorites to claim their first national championship since 2008, and enter the tournament atop the AP Top 25 rankings for a third straight week.

The Wildcats briefly occupied the No. 1 spot on the AP Top 25 early in 2016, and topped the Jayhawks in two of their past four meetings, but fell to Kansas 72-57 in their last March Madness matchup eight years ago, failing to cover as 12.5-point underdogs, according to the OddsShark College Basketball Database.

Things are much tighter at the top of the odds in the East, where the Tar Heels lead the way as +160 favorites, followed by the No. 3 Mountaineers at +375, and No. 4 Kentucky at +400, while No. 2 Xavier trails at +500.