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NCAA Tournament 2015: Latest Predictions and Odds for Bracket Busters

Published by Bleacher Report on Wed, 18 Mar 2015

By now, you've probably filled out your bracket. You think it's done. You think you've done all the research humanly possible.And, deep down, we all know you're lying to yourself. No one's bracket is done until the 12 p.m. ET mark on Thursday. We can all sit there, tell ourselves we're done touching the damn thing and then 10 minutes later an expert on television makes you rethink every last selection. Or perhaps you open up some article by some oaf (hello!) on a sports website.Whatever. The reality is we're all going to obsess and tinker and scream and wail until the service running our respective pool no longer allows us to edit. It's a natural extension of our desire to perfect a completely imperfect process. There is no perfect bracket; there aren't even very many good ones. All there is by the second weekend is a group of lucky souls who somehow survived the wreckage and came away less battered than others.With that in mind, let's check in on a team in each region that's making waves with the oddsmakers.All Your Bracket EssentialsDownload the Printable BracketPlay the Free Bracket ChallengeMidwest RegionNo. 13 Valparaiso (+180) over No. 4 MarylandBy far the best odds for a No. 13 seed in this tournament. The next closest is Georgia State, which comes in at more than 3-1 odds to take down Baylor.We can point to many reasons for this to be the case, but it comes down to this: Maryland's the weakest No. 4 seed, and Valparaiso's profile matches up well. The Crusaders are spearheaded by three double-digit scorers inAlec Peters,Darien WalkerandTevonn Walker, who also spearhead a stellar defensive effort. Valpo enters the tournament ranking No. 31 in defensive efficiency, putting it a few spots ahead of its counterpart.Maryland enters the tournament as a bit of an overachiever. The Terrapins failed to make the NCAA tournament in each ofMark Turgeon's first three seasons before coming out with a vengeance in 2014-15. FreshmanMelo Trimble's been a godsend, Dez Wells is finally getting a chance to shine on the national stage after toiling in the early-Turgeon years andJake Layman's just tough enough to pass for an interesting swing player.That said, Valparaiso will probably have success shutting Maryland's offense down. The Terps have struggled mightily at times to get baskets when they need them, most recently in the second half of their Big Ten tournament loss to Michigan State.An additional stat worth noting: Maryland was the nation's second-luckiest team, per KenPom metrics. Before its loss to the Spartans, Maryland had compiled an 8-0 record in games decided by five or fewer points. There's a very good argument to be made that there is a swift mean regression coming for this team.West RegionNo. 11 Mississippi (+120) over No. 6 XavierWe saw the blueprint Tuesday night. Ole Miss has the ability to thrash teams offensively, using heady ball movement and three-point shooting to its advantage.Stefan Moodyis now someone the nation's heard of after blitzing opposing teams all season with his scoring prowess. Jarvis Summersand Ladarius Whiteare prone to crazy shot attempts, but there are few better second and third bananas at the ball in the basket when they're on. The Rebels entered Thursday with the 18th-best offensive efficiency in the country and a quick pace that makes them incredibly difficult to play.Xavier's a good basketball team that plays both ends of the floor, but it isn't discernibly better than Ole Miss. On a neutral floor, I'd venture to guess these teams would evenly split or be separated by only a single game over a best-of-seven series. The Musketeers subsist on team basketball, with six of their players averaging at least eight points per game.But there isn't that one player who can go basket for basket with Moody down the stretch of a close game. East RegionNo. 10 Georgia (+200) over No. 7 Michigan StateBecause we've still got a first-round game to deal with in this region, it's hard to make much of a prediction here. I'd probably like Boise State a bit more to take down Providence, but Dayton is no slouch. Without the numbers from the oddsmakers, though, we have to roll the dice on another double-digit seed in the East.This comes down to whether you think we're giving Michigan State too much credit for the past while ignoring its present. Tom Izzo is a March maven. He's lost just one opening-round game since 2007 and has made a habit out of getting his teams to peak at the right time. Each of the last three years has seen him take the Spartans to the second weekend.At issue is how few of those players are back in the saddle this season. Gone are team leaders Keith Appling, Adreian Payne and Gary Harris. In their place are some fine leftovers inTravis Trice,Denzel ValentineandBranden Dawson, but these are the same players who struggled to contend all regular season.It's easy to forget this is the same Spartans team that lost to Texas Southern, Nebraska and Minnesota this season. Georgia has some bad losses on its resume, and the numbers say Michigan State has a solid chance of making a run into the second weekend again. But it's not out of the realm of possibility to see the Bulldogs be a bracket buster.South RegionStephen F. Austin (+240) to Beat UtahTwo words: Remember last year' Well, they're back. And they're better this time. Look out, Utah.Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on TwitterAll odds via Oddsshark
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