2023 NCAA bracket betting, odds: No. 1 seed Kansas has to navigate a tough West region

[Betting breakdowns by region: South | East | Midwest | West]

Kansas beat a lot of good teams this season. That's good for the Jayhawks, because they might have the toughest road to the Final Four among all the No. 1 seeds.

Kansas will presumably beat Howard in the first round, then could have a road that features a dangerous Illinois/Arkansas winner in the second round, a UConn team that spent nearly two months in the top 10 of the AP poll and then either UCLA or Gonzaga in the Elite Eight. If Kansas wins a second straight championship, it will be well earned.

[Free bracket contests for men's & women's tourneys for shot at $25K]

Here's a betting preview of the West region:

BetMGM odds to win region

UCLA +300 to make Final Four, +1200 to win national title

Kansas +350, +800

Gonzaga +400, +1800

UConn +500, +1600

St. Mary's +1000, +4000

TCU +1000, +3500

Arkansas +2000, +5000

Illinois +2500, +8000

Northwestern +4000, +15000

Boise State +5000, +20000

Arizona State +10000, +20000

Nevada +10000, +50000

VCU +10000, +25000

Iona +10000, +50000

Grand Canyon +10000, +100000

UNC Asheville +10000, +100000

Howard (off the board), +100000

Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) leads the Jayhawks into the NCAA tournament. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas forward Jalen Wilson (10) leads the Jayhawks into the NCAA tournament. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)


UCLA (+300): Kansas, the defending champs who led the nation with 17 Quad 1 wins, is not the favorite to make the Final Four out of the West region. UCLA had a great argument for a No. 1 seed after dominating the Pac-12 in the regular season. The question with UCLA is how injuries to Jaylen Clark (out for the season with a torn Achilles) and Adem Bona (missed the Pac-12 championship game with a shoulder injury) will affect the Bruins' ceiling. There's plenty of competition in the region.

Value plays

UConn (+500): There were times, especially early in the season, in which UConn looked like the best team in college basketball. The Huskies ended up ranked No. 5 in KenPom's rankings, meaning they are severely underseeded. UConn drew a No. 4 seed, and the Jayhawks can't be thrilled that the Huskies are their potential Sweet 16 opponent. If you're going to pick a No. 4 seed to the Final Four, this might be the one.

Arkansas (+2000): The Razorbacks have serious talent. Injuries held them back, but freshman star Nick Smith Jr. returned late in the season and had some strong performances. Arkansas is volatile, but they have a ceiling that many No. 8 seeds don't have. They could lose in the first round or make a deep run. There's a wide range of outcomes with the Razorbacks, making it worth their long odds to win the region.

First-round bets

Arkansas (-2.5) over Illinois: Probably obvious, considering the words above on the Razorbacks. Illinois is another boom-or-bust team. But I'm going to be fading the Big Ten whenever possible, and this is a good spot for it.

Auburn (-1.5) over Iowa: Another Big Ten vs. SEC game and I'm fine going with the much better conference. Auburn lost a lot of games from late January on, going a ghastly 4-9 down the stretch. But the only loss to a team outside the top 28 in KenPom was to Vanderbilt on the road, and the Commodores were pretty good late in the season. Auburn just played in a tough league and weren't good enough to beat the top teams. The Tigers will be happy to face a Big Ten team that wasn't playing great late in the season.