Betting the Midwest Region

Can Oklahoma State and Marcus Smart cover against the Oregon Ducks? AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

Who should be a No. 1 seed? Who's on the bubble? Who got an easy draw? Who was snubbed?

Who cares? It's time to put all that talk from the past month or so behind us. None of those philosophical discussions matter anymore. The teams have to perform in the matchups that have been determined by the selection committee, and we as handicappers/bettors can only concern ourselves with the games in front of us. The NCAA tournament begins in earnest Thursday (OK, there's the First Four on Tuesday and Wednesday night, but we know it really begins with the Thursday matchups that tip off our tournament brackets).

I went 12-8 (60 percent) against the spread the past month in my picks columns on ESPN Insider, but that's ancient history as well, because all anyone will care about these next three weekends is how I fare in the Big Dance. Those who have been following me (or were present during the NFL season) know that I'm an underdog-or-pass bettor. I believe it is important to be selective in your wagering, and I take some heat for passing on so many games. However, I also know that as much as we all try to be disciplined, this is the NCAA tournament, and most of us will end up playing more games than we should.

So, I'm going to pass on passing and make a pick in each game this Thursday and Friday in the Midwest and West Regionals. I'll mark my best bets with an asterisk (*), and those are the ones I'll be betting with my own money here in Vegas. You'll note they're all underdogs, and you can assume that if I'm "picking" a favorite, I'm probably not cracking open my wallet on that pick, but that's just me.

So let's get to the games (and we'll add the three games involving matchups from the First Four when the lines become available and I make my decisions).

Good luck and enjoy the madness.

Betting the NCAA tournament:


MIDWEST REGIONAL (in bracket order)

No. 1 Louisville Cardinals vs. No. 16 North Carolina A&T Aggies

Vegas consensus line: Louisville minus-26.5
PickCenter breakdown

After North Carolina A&T's win Tuesday night, this line was put up Wednesday morning as high as Louisville minus-27 at the Treasure Island sports book. I'm putting the underdog Aggies as my ATS pick but I'm not making it a best bet and won't be playing it myself. If I believed that they could stay close or at least within 10 to 15 points most of the game (and after watching them barely being able to put away lowly Liberty, there was nothing to give me any added confidence), I would bet it. However, most of the time with games like this, the favorite will be up 25 or 30 points and empty their bench and you're basically betting on whether the favorite's backups can run up the score or if the dog can get in the back door (note: this also applies in college football). I prefer to stay away from those coin-flip situations.

The ATS pick: North Carolina A&T

No. 8 Colorado State Rams versus No. 9 Missouri Tigers

Vegas consensus line: Missouri minus-3
PickCenter breakdown

This is just one of two "second-round" games (I'm starting a petition to make this the "first round" again since that's what we all still call it) where the lower seed is favored (No. 11 Minnesota minus-3 versus No. 6 UCLA is the other). This is setting up a lot of "Vegas disagrees with the selection committee" type comments on how the oddsmakers think Missouri is stronger -- but that's only part of it.