It’s time for the Madness to begin. The conference finals have all been played, and though there were a few surprises (who saw Providence beating Creighton in the Big East finals – by a strong 65-58 margin too) the favorites are still rolling forward as the top seeds going into the tournament this week. Here’s a quick look at the top four in each bracket as chosen on Selection Sunday: * The South: 1.) Florida 2.) Kansas 3.) Syracuse 4.) UCLA * The East: 1.) Virginia 2.) Villanova 3.) Iowa State 4.) Michigan State * The West: 1.) Arizona 2.) Wisconsin 3.) Creighton 4.) San Diego State * The Midwest: 1.) Wichita State 2.) Michigan 3.) Duke 4.) Louisville There are plenty of familiar names at the top of the field, and if history has taught us anything, it’s that the odds favor one of these sixteen teams going all the way. Back to back tournament championships have become increasingly rare though, so while Louisville is a -2500 favorite over first round opponent Manhattan (+1400), that’s only going to go down once they face tougher competition in the later rounds. You’ll find equally long odds anywhere else you look: Virginia is a gigantic -8100 over Coastal Carolina (+3400), Arizona is -7000 to Webster State (+3000), and so on. There are a couple of competitive odds in this collective though: San Diego State is -320 and New Mexico State is +260, UCLA is -500 and Tulsa +400, and a similar situation for Iowa State with the same line against North Carolina Central. History also teaches us that upsets happen during March Madness, so it’s not just the long odds that are worth playing – find a close second round game and you may cash in. Second round? That’s right. We have four teams who have gotten into March Madness by the skin of their teeth, but starting Tuesday and continuing Wednesday, they all have to play one extra game as compared to the rest of the field. These are your most competitive games given that they are teams who were “on the bubble” for being picked, and while they face Herculean obstacles for going all the way to the trophy, that leaves them relatively even against each other in standing and skill. Albany, NY is a small favorite at -145 going against Mount St. Mary’s at +125 on Tuesday. Tip off time is 6:40 ET on TruTV. Xavier has the exact same line against North Carolina State, with a 9:10 tip on the same channel. You won’t gain or lose much on a straight bet for these teams, but a parlay could be a good play. In Wednesday’s first round action, Cal Poly is -150 with Texas Southern at +130. Tip off time is 6:40 on the same channel as before. Last but not least at 9:10, Iowa is a VERY small favorite, -130 and Tennessee +110. If I had to put odds on any of these teams being here by the third round, they’d be infinitesimally low – but every year has at least one Cinderella story. As always remember that these previews are for entertainment purposes, and that if you choose to wager on sporting events, please bet only what you can afford. We’ll have another update on March Madness on Wednesday night so stay tuned!