March Madness betting, odds: Drake is 1st auto bid you should note for your bracket
The Missouri Valley Conference champion gets ignored sometimes in the buzz leading up to the NCAA men's tournament selection show. The MWC crowns its champion about a week and a half before the NCAA tournament starts. Attention moves to a couple dozen other teams that get automatic bids.
But don't forget about Drake when you're filling out your brackets and making your bets at BetMGM.
Four bids were awarded over the weekend. Drake is the one team you need to keep in the back of your mind.
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The Bulldogs looked fantastic in dismantling Bradley, a 25-9 team that was the No. 1 seed in the MVC tournament. They were up double digits shortly after the tip and won, 77-51. They get the auto bid from the conference.
At the moment, Bracket Matrix (a collection of mock brackets around the internet) has Drake as a No. 12 seed. So does Yahoo Sports' Michael Lazarus on his Big Board. That adds to the intrigue.
Drake looks great winning MVC
We all know the history of No. 12 seeds winning in the NCAA tournament. It has happened at least once in 31 of the last 36 years. Last year we had Richmond over Iowa and New Mexico State over UConn. A No. 12 over a No. 5 has happened 52 times since the tournament expanded in 1985.
Even if Drake moves down to a No. 13 seed, don't discount their chances of a straight-up win in the first round.
Sunday's win showed a bit of everything Drake does well. The Bulldogs shoot it well, including behind the 3-point line. They are a very good free throw shooting team. They don't turn it over. They won't get many offensive rebounds, but they are solid in most other ways on offense. The Bulldogs brought just about everyone back from last season; it's an old team and one that played well in conference play. Drake's only loss since Jan. 18 was in the regular-season finale at Bradley, and it avenged that and then some in the conference championship game.
It's a good profile for a first-round darling.
5 teams in the field
The other three teams that already won their conference tournament and have the auto bid: Southeast Missouri State, UNC Asheville and Kennesaw State. Fairleigh Dickinson is already in because Merrimack, the No. 1 seed FDU will meet in the NEC final, is ineligible since they're still within four years of transitioning from Division II to Division I (yes, the reclassification rule is pretty dumb when you think about it).
SEMO, UNC Asheville and FDU are projected to be No. 16 seeds right now. While they could still be good bets against the spread (UNC Asheville in particular looked like a team that could hang for a while with a No. 1 seed), they're unlikely to pull off a Maryland-Baltimore County and win straight up. Kennesaw State is projected as a No. 14 seed, which would make it tough for the Owls to win, but they are a very good 3-point shooting team. That gives them a chance.
Drake could win a game, and maybe more. Drake doesn't have a great NCAA tournament history. The Bulldogs' lost by 16 to USC in the first round during their last trip in 2021. They haven't won a tournament game since 1971. They lost an absolute classic to Western Kentucky at the buzzer in 2008; that was the Bulldogs' first NCAA bid since 1971. But this season's team has the ingredients to win and that matters a lot more than history from many years ago.
There will be many more teams punching a ticket to the NCAA tournament this week, and a few that will be identified as good teams to bet on in their first-round matchup. Just make sure to keep Drake on your list too.