Is Winthrop any good?
Such is the beauty of Selection Sunday, when a suddenly-revealed NCAA Tournament matchup sends everyone scrambling to the internet.
Many Villanova fans certainly did just that, hoping to decipher their team’s chances in a first-round game that is scheduled to tip off at 9:57 p.m. Friday night.
NCAA tournament South Region
But the South region has a lot more intrigue than just Villanova (5 seed) and Winthrop. Baylor, who boasts a pair of the country’s best guards, is a No. 1 seed. Ohio State, Purdue, and Wisconsin, members of perhaps the country’s best conference, all landed in the same region.
Traditional power North Carolina is a No. 8 seed. And there might be a sleeper lurking somewhere too, some double-digit seed that finds a way to steal a few games.
So Villanova’s South region is pretty interesting, far beyond the Wildcats’ first-round game with the Eagles. In our first installment of Play Pennsylvania’s Clutch 3, we’ll cover a player, a team, and a game to watch in the South Region, along with some of the betting odds listed at the best PA sportsbooks.
March Madness is only a few days away.
So you better get ready.
Team to Watch: Villanova (+1000 to make the Final Four)
For Pennsylvania’s basketball fans, the greatest draw in the South region is Philadelphia‘s flagship team. Villanova suffered a one-point loss to eventual Big East Champion Georgetown (72-71) on Thursday, but the Wildcats are still 6-point favorites in Friday night’s game according to DraftKings Sportsbook. Villanova is -265 on the moneyline, with Winthrop’s number posted at +215. The game’s total is set at 140 points.
Winthrop has lost only one game this entire season (23-1) and enters the NCAA Tournament on a seven-game winning streak in the Big South. So the Eagles are unlikely to be a doormat for Villanova. And if the Wildcats can advance, they’ll get a second-round matchup with either Purdue or North Texas.
DraftKings has Villanova’s odds to win the region set at +1000 and that might be a long shot without senior guard Collin Gillespie, who tore his MCL earlier this month. But the team’s fans will be rooting for an improbable run nonetheless. After all, that’s what the NCAA Tournament is all about.
Villanova updated NCAA tournament game odds
Here you can find updated odds on Villanova’s next game.
Player to Watch: E.J. Liddell, F, Ohio State
The Buckeyes have some support across state lines in Pennsylvania and their big man is a big reason the team has had a solid season. Sophomore forward E.J. Liddell is a finalist for the Wooden Award, which is given annually to the most outstanding player in college basketball.
Liddell leads the team in points, rebounds, and blocks. He also has decent range for a front-court player, which creates some matchup problems for opposing big men.
The Buckeyes are 16.5-point favorites in their first-round game with Oral Roberts. DraftKings also has them at +400 to make the Final Four. And Liddell will likely play a large role if they make it that far.
Game to Watch: Virginia Tech vs. Florida (-1), 12:15 p.m. Friday
The NCAA Tournament schedule has shifted somewhat this year, with the First Four games all played on Thursday. So the first round truly begins on Friday – and the very first game provides an excellent excuse to leave work early or just ignore it completely.
Florida is a 1-point favorite in what oddsmakers expect to be a tight game between two power-conference teams. DraftKings has the Gators at -114 on the moneyline with the Hokies listed at -105. The game’s total is 137.5.
Florida qualified for the tournament with the help of five players who average in double figures. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech made it despite a three-week pause to its season because of COVID issues.
Some people believe that the winner of this game could become a Cinderella team, considering their power conference pedigrees and some tough schedules that should have them prepared for whomever they might face. DraftKings has Virginia Tech at +1500 to advance to the Final Four. Florida is +1800.
Let the NCAA tournament fun (and wagering) begin
So Villanova’s South Region has plenty of storylines.
Can the chalk survive? Can Villanova make a run? Will a Cinderella emerge?
The questions that we all missed so much last year will be answered soon.
Until then, you have a few more days to get your brackets and bets ready.
Then the fun really begins.
Lead image credit: AP Photo/Jessica Hill