Real-Time March Madness 2014 Picks: Updated Odds to Make the Final Four

Kerry MillerCollege Basketball National AnalystMarch 22, 2014

Real-Time March Madness 2014 Picks: Updated Odds to Make the Final Four

0 of 16

    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    And then there were 16.

    After a chaotic four days of second- and third-round action, we’ve listed each team’s odds of making it to the Final Four. These odds are considerably more enticing than anything you might find in a sports book, because we’re making each region add up to 100 percent instead of trying to profit off impressionable fans.

    In addition to how good each team looked in its first two games (or three in the case of Tennessee), we’re taking into consideration the remaining path to the Final Four. As such, this is more than just a “power ranking” of the remaining teams in the field.

    For example, both Baylor and Tennessee have looked downright incredible this week. If those two teams played each other in the next round, Tennessee would probably be slightly favored.

    But Tennessee has a marginally more difficult road against a Michigan team that could have been a No. 1 seed and a Louisville team that is one of the favorites to win it all. Thus, Tennessee’s odds sit at 5-1 while Baylor is listed at 7-2 for getting what we consider a more winnable Sweet 16 game against Wisconsin.

    Read on for the rest of the odds. The following slides are listed in ascending order of likelihood of making the Final Four.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are courtesy of ESPN.com or KenPom.com (subscription required).

Dayton Flyers

1 of 16

    Elsa/Getty Images

    Eye test

    The No. 11 seed in the East Region pulled off the first upset of the 2014 NCAA tournament on Thursday and subsequently added the biggest upset of the round of 32. The Dayton Flyers utilized great defenseand perhaps a little voodoo to cause opponents to miss wide-open three-pointersin knocking off Ohio State and Syracuse to advance to the Sweet 16.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    The Flyers shocked the world twice, but they might not be finished. In a surprising turn of events, they will draw Stanford in the Sweet 16 in a battle between two bracket-busters who haven't scored more than 60 points yet in a tournament game.

    That one could be a coin flip, but the subsequent game against Florida will not be. If Dayton gets to the Final Four, it might be the most improbable run of all time.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    Jordan Sibert and Khari Price need to catch fire from long range. The duo made just 1-of-6 on Thursday but shot a combined 42.7 percent during the regular season. They were much better on Saturday, making 5-of-12 from downtown against the vaunted Syracuse 2-3 zone.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 7-1

Stanford Cardinal

2 of 16

    Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Eye test

    Hardly anyone gave the No. 10 seed in the South Region a chance of making it to the round of 32, let alone to the Sweet 16.

    Honey badger don't care. The Cardinal played tough defense against both New Mexico and Kansas in pulling off consecutive upsets. On Sunday against the Jayhawks, Stanford committed 16 turnovers without making a single three-pointer, but Dwight Powell and Stefan Nastic were nearly unstoppable in the paint in the 60-57 victory.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    In a Sweet 16 pairing that no self-respecting college basketball fan could have possibly predicted, Stanford will face Dayton before likely running into Florida in the Elite Eight. Chasson Randle and the big boys in the paint should be enough to get past the Flyers, but they'll need to play one heck of a game to contend with the No. 1 overall seed.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    Consistent scoring from Powell and Anthony Brown is a must, and they could really use a defensive boost from Nastic and Josh Huestis as well. Stanford's starting five has been responsible for 91 percent of the team's points in the tournament, so don't expect any miracles off the bench.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 7-1

San Diego State

3 of 16

    James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

    Eye test

    There were a lot of defensive, low-scoring games on Saturday, and that boded quite well for the No. 4 seed in the West Region. Xavier Thames had a great night scoring 30 points, but the rest of the team had just 33 combined.

    Business as usual for the San Diego State Aztecs. They suffocated North Dakota State on the defensive end of the court, holding Taylor Braun and Lawrence Alexander to a combined 10 points on 3-of-24 shooting.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    If you thought SDSU's first two games were low-scoring, just wait until the Aztecs play Arizona next weekend. Much like the Louisville-Saint Louis game, it'll be a battle between two teams in the top 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency.

    Those two teams played each other in November, but a lot has changed since Arizona's 69-60 win. Dwayne Polee II didn't play a minute in that game for San Diego State, and the Wildcats still had Brandon Ashley.

    If the Aztecs can exact revenge, they'll probably run into Wisconsin in the Elite Eight. If you like slow-tempo basketball, that is the game for you.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    Someone other than Xavier Thames needs to show up in a big way. Polee has been a key contributor lately. The Aztecs will need him to keep it up, and hopefully get some monster games out of JJ O'Brien and/or Josh Davis.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 5-1

Tennessee Volunteers

4 of 16

    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Eye test

    VCU and George Mason made it to the Final Four as No. 11 seeds, but has there ever been a better looking one than Tennessee? The No. 11 seed in the Midwest Region outlasted Iowa in the first round and absolutely throttled Massachusetts in the Round of 64. Mercer was unable to escape the Rocky Top wrath.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    Things get considerably more complicated after that blowout win over the Bears. By facing Michigan and then perhaps Louisville, the Vols will have back-to-back games against teams in the top 10 in adjusted offensive efficiency.

    They have played six games this season against teams in the top 20 of that category: three losses to Florida, a loss to Kentucky, a loss to Wichita State and an overtime win over Iowa.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    Tennessee will need to dominate the glass like never before. Against those efficient offenses, the Volunteers cannot allow second-chance opportunities and need to get a bunch of their own. They are one of the best rebounding teams in the country, but may need to take that to another level.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 5-1

UCLA Bruins

5 of 16

    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

    Eye test

    The Bruins got a rough draw in likely facing Florida in the Sweet 16, but the No. 4 seed in the East Region is playing some of the best basketball in the country right now.

    Since inexplicably losing to Washington State by 18 points in the final game of the regular season, the Bruins have trucked Oregon, Stanford, Tulsa and Stephen F. Austin, and they also beat Arizona in a close game.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    What once seemed like a nearly impossible one-two punch from Sweet 16 to Elite Eight could be much more manageable. The Bruins will still have an extremely difficult game against Florida in the Sweet 16, but instead of Kansas or Syracuse, they would now draw either Dayton or Stanford in the Elite Eight. They have already beaten Stanford twice this season.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    Kyle Anderson simply needs to do Kyle Anderson things while avoiding turnovers. In games when Anderson has at least 10 points, five rebounds and five assists with less than four turnovers, the Bruins are 16-0.

    The fact that he has 16 such stat lines this season is unbelievable.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 4-1

Connecticut Huskies

6 of 16

    Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

    Eye test

    Before the tournament began, I wrote, "If anyone is capable of making a Kemba Walker type of run through this year's tournament, it might be Shabazz Napier." Napier has been doing Walker things for the No. 7 seed in the East region so far.

    Napier had 24 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals in Connecticut's overtime win over Saint Joseph's in the Round of 64. He added another 25 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals in helping the Huskies upset Villanova on Saturday night.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    Against an Iowa State team sans Georges Niang in the Sweet 16, the Huskies will likely be the favorite in their old Big East stomping grounds of Madison Square Garden. They'll have a very difficult Elite Eight game against either Michigan State or Virginia.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    Napier can't do it all. DeAndre Daniels and Ryan Boatright added 35 points against Saint Joseph's and another 22 against Villanova. They will need to continue putting up numbers at least that good for Connecticut to keep advancing.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 4-1

Kentucky Wildcats

7 of 16

    Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Eye test

    There were a lot of ugly games over the weekend, but Kentucky and Wichita State delivered the most enjoyable tournament game at least since Kentucky played Indiana in 2012maybe longer.

    Both teams played unbelievably well, but someone unfortunately had to lose the game. In the end, it was the team that was supposed to be undefeated this season handing the first loss of the year to the team that was.

    Fred VanVleet had an incredible season and was a 43.7-percent three-point shooter on the year, but he was unable to connect with the season on the line. Kentucky advances by the skin of its teeth, and is officially a threat to win it all. Sunday might have been the most complete game that the Wildcats have played this season.

    They sure did pick a fine time to do so.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    We can throw out most of the stats in this Sweet 16 hate-fest between Louisville and Kentucky, but there is one interesting one. These two teams play each other at the end of December or the beginning of January every year, and for the past eight years, the team that won the regular-season game also lasted longer in the NCAA tournament.

    Kentucky won earlier this year by a score of 73-66.

    After that one, the Wildcats would either run into Michigan or SEC-rival Tennessee.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    Aaron Harrison needs to be an efficient scorer, and Julius Randle needs to get a lot of touches. If Willie Cauley-Stein is solely in the game to block shots and grab rebounds, so be it.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 7-2

Baylor Bears

8 of 16

    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Eye test

    When it comes to identifying teams that could make deep runs in the NCAA tournament, we're always looking for the ones peaking at the right time.

    The No. 6 seed in the West Region appears to be doing just that. The Baylor Bears are now 8-1 in the month of March with six winsfive away from homeagainst tournament teams. Save for the Big 12 final against Iowa State, senior forward Cory Jefferson has been unstoppable in the post.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    Baylor made Creighton look like a D-II team, but the Bears will probably have a little more difficulty with Wisconsin in the Sweet 16.

    Even if they're able to run up the score against Wisconsin, there's no chance of that happening in the Elite Eight against Arizona or San Diego State. They'll eventually get involved in a defensive struggle, and that might be the end of the line.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    Baylor doesn't really have an "If Player X does Y, it will win" type of formula, but when everyone in the starting five comes to play, the Bears dominate. In the 17-point win over Texas in the Big 12 tournament, Brady Heslip had 24 points, Jefferson had a double-double, Isaiah Austin had seven blocks and Royce O'Neale had 10 rebounds.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 7-2

Iowa State Cyclones

9 of 16

    Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Eye test

    No Georges Niang? No problem!

    The No. 3 seed in the East region scored 85 points without its third-leading scorer. DeAndre Kane led all scorers with 24 points, and hit the game-winning layup with 1.6 seconds remaining in a up-tempo, high-scoring game. 

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    We have our doubts about how deep these Cyclones can go with an abridged rotation, but they're still alive and kicking for now.

    Kane vs. Connecticut's Shabazz Napier might be the most intriguing one-on-one matchup in the entire tournament. The winner of that game will have quite the challenge in the Elite Eight against either Michigan State or Virginia.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane must totally put the team on their back. The duo has averaged 35 points per game this season, but they might need to put up at least 50 to make up for the loss of Niang.

    Naz Long and Monte Morris will need to step up their game as well. Those two guys have basically been role players, but they'll both need to continue to play a pivotal role. Long and Morris combined for 25 points against the Tar Heels, and Iowa State needed every last one of them.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 7-2

Wisconsin Badgers

10 of 16

    Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

    Eye test

    In each of Wisconsin's first two games of the tournament, it was a tale of two halves. The No. 2 seed in the West Region got off to a slow start against American before outscoring the Eagles by 30 in the second half. Oregon scored 49 points and held a 12-point halftime lead over the Badgers, but they outscored the Ducks by 20 over the final 20 minutes.

    The Badgers utilized a balanced scoring attack in both games. Against Oregon, all five starters scoring 12 to 19 points.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    In the Sweet 16 against Baylor, the Badgers will be facing an extremely efficient offense that doesn't usually much concern itself defensenot much unlike their most recent game against Oregon. Historically a dreadfully slow team, Wisconsin proved throughout the season that it can win at any pace.

    Fifteen days after scoring 103 in a 74-possession game against North Dakota back on Nov. 19, the Badgers beat Virginia by a score of 48-38 in a game featuring just 57 possessions. Don't kid yourself into thinking they'll simply get sped up and outscored.

    Win that game, and they're getting a defensive grind in the Elite Eight against either Arizona or San Diego State.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    The Badgers need to avoid turnovers and fouls. Wisconsin entered the tournament ranked second in the nation in both offensive turnover percentage and defensive ratio of free-throw attempts to field-goal attempts, but has struggled in those categories in recent losses. Giving extra possessions to top-ranked teams would be their undoing.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 7-2

Michigan Wolverines

11 of 16

    Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

    Eye test

    The No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region rediscovered its offensive efficiency against Texas, shooting 14-of-28 from three-point range while committing just four turnovers. We were worried about how Jordan Morgan would handle Cameron Ridley, but the opposite was clearly the issue, as Morgan exploded for 15 points and 10 rebounds in Michigan's 79-65 win.

    Morgan entered the tournament with just one double-double on the season, but is 2-for-2 in that category in the NCAA tournament. Mitch McGary 2.0, anyone?

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    With both Duke and Massachusetts losing in the Round of 64, it's merely a red-hot No. 11 seed Tennessee standing between the Wolverines and the Elite Eight. They'll likely be treated to a rematch of last year's national championship game once they get there, hoping to exact revenge on Louisville.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    Caris LeVert needs to stay on track. LeVert was Michigan's second-leading scorer during the season, but he had just seven points in the B1G championship game against Michigan State and only six points on Thursday against Wofford. He woke back up for 14 points in the win over Texas, and will need to keep up the pace in subsequent rounds.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 3-1

Virginia Cavaliers

12 of 16

    Grant Halverson/Getty Images

    Eye test

    The No. 1 seed in the East Region really struggled in the opening game against Coastal Carolina, but then Virginia put a beating on Memphis on Sunday night.

    Save for the last couple of possessions with reserves on the court, the Cavaliers limited their turnoverssimultaneously limiting Memphis' fast-break opportunitiesand forced the Tigers to play half-court offensewhich they don't do very well.

    On their own offensive end, the Wahoos shot 55.6 percent from the field. Only once this season did Virginia shoot better than 40 percent from the field and fail to win the game. Letting the Cavaliers shoot better than 50 percent is suicide.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    Coming up next, it's the unstoppable force (Michigan State's offense) vs. the immovable object (Virginia's defense). It won't be easy, but no one's road to the Final Four is.

    After that, the Cavaliers are either getting Connecticut or Iowa State. It definitely wasn't heralded as the most difficult region a week ago, but the East evolved into a beast for everyone still remaining in it.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    If the Cavaliers can keep the games at their pace and play defense the way they have been all season, they'll have a great chance no matter the opponent.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 5-2

Michigan State

13 of 16

    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Eye test

    The No. 4 seed in the East Region is so good that it's just letting different players carry the scoring load. Against Delaware, the Michigan State Spartans got 60 points from Adreian Payne and Travis Trice. On Saturday against Harvard, Branden Dawson made 12-of-15 field goals for 26 points, and Gary Harris added 18.

    At this rate, look for Matt Costello and Kenny Kaminski to have huge games in the national championship, simply because they can.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    The Spartans struggled to slow down Harvardlet that one sink in for a minutebut that certainly won't be an issue when they draw Virginia in the Sweet 16. They can win in both fast- and slow-paced games, though, so Virginia's methodical pace shouldn't bother them too much.

    Get past the Cavaliers, and they're probably going up against Shabazz Napier and the red-hot Connecticut Huskies in the Elite Eight.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    If they can avoid any more injuries, Michigan State figures to be the favorite out of the East Region. If Trice is ready and able to be a consistent three-point threat off the bench, the Spartans just might moonwalk to Arlington.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 5-2

Louisville Cardinals

14 of 16

    David Manning-USA TODAY Sports

    Eye test

    The No. 4 seed in the Midwest region has been winning ugly, but the Louisville Cardinals are sitting pretty. They had to work for those first two wins over Manhattan and Saint Louis, but utilized tough defense to survive and advance.

    Russ Smith has played miserably in the first two games. Can't imagine that will last forever.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    Louisville is very likely about to play two straight games against teams it has met in the Final Four in the last two seasons. First, it's in-state rival Kentucky, against which anything could happen. Then, it's a rematch of last year's national championship against Michigan.

    We got used to seeing Louisville win in blowout fashion throughout the season, but the Cardinals will need to win some serious grinders.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    As long as Montrezl Harrell can stay on the court by avoiding getting into foul trouble, Louisville will remain the team to beat in the Midwest region. Mangok Mathiang is a solid defender in the post, but the Cardinals need Harrell's offensive rebounding and dunking prowess.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 7-4

Arizona Wildcats

15 of 16

    Denis Poroy/Associated Press

    Eye test

    Much like Virginia, the No. 1 seed in the West Region struggled against the No. 16 seed before scoring a no-doubter against the No. 8 seed on Sunday night.

    Gonzaga never even had a prayer, committing 21 turnovers against the best defense this country has to offer. Every member of Arizona's primary six-man rotation stuffed the stat sheets.

    Perhaps most amusing of all? Nick Johnson (6'3") recorded two blocks against Sam Dower (6'9").

    When it's your night, it's your night.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    Up next for Arizona is a rematch of a good November game against San Diego State. Both teams rank comfortably in the top 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency, so don't expect a game in the 70s.

    From there, the Wildcats would face one of the most efficient offenses in the country, regardless of whether they face Baylor or Wisconsin. 

      

    Key to making it to Arlington

    The Wildcats need to continue to bear down inside the arc on defense. They rank second in the nation in two-point field-goal defense, and held Weber State to 25.7 percent shooting from two-point range on Friday. Defend San Diego State like that in the Sweet 16, and the Aztecs might not break 30 points.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 3-2

Florida Gators

16 of 16

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Eye test

    It was a relatively close game until the final minutes, but there was never a doubt that the No. 1 seed in the South Region was going to come away with a win on Saturday. Patric Young was a monster in the paint, Scottie Wilbekin was making trick shots look routine, and the Florida Gators committed just five turnovers and seven fouls in holding Pittsburgh to 45 points.

     

    Roadblocks ahead

    When the brackets were first announced, we were all looking forward to the Elite Eight pairing between Florida and a team once projected for a No. 1 seed in either Kansas or Syracuse. However, Dayton and Stanford have changed things considerably, giving Florida the easiest path to the Final Four.

     

    Key to making it to Arlington

    Defense has been Florida's backbone from day one. In the Gators' last 21 games, they held their opponent under 70 points 20 times. The one outlier was the game against Ole Miss in which Marshall Henderson had 22 first-half points, only to get shutout in the second. If they can keep the clamp down on defense, they'll represent the South in the Final Four.

     

    Odds to make Final Four: 4-5