The NCAA tournament is a gambler's dream, with non-stop action for the first and second rounds, futures bets, bracket pools and everything in between.
Yahoo Sports' Scott Pianowski and Frank Schwab perused the BetMGM odds and will break down each region from a betting perspective. Here's a look at the South region, which has Baylor as the No. 1 seed:
Should we pencil Baylor into the Final Four?
FS: I like Baylor but they don't have an easy road. Ohio State showed in the Big Ten title game against Illinois that it can hang with anyone. If it's not Ohio State in the Elite 8, maybe it's Arkansas. The Razorbacks have been a very good team since the calendar turned to February. I think the size of North Carolina and Purdue could give Baylor issues. Baylor is the best team in the region obviously, but I wouldn't be rushing to bet them to make the Final Four at short odds. They'll be tested.
SP: I think Baylor's legit but it relies so much on that dreamy outside shooting. The Bears don't want to play North Carolina in Round 2; I generally think of Roy Williams having teams that are balanced or better on offense, but this team is long, athletic, and better on defense. The Heels are also relentless on the offensive glass; those are the plays that beat down your soul.
I wish I trusted Ohio State an eyelash more on defense. This team has such a ticker, man. It showed up in the Big Ten tournament after an odd swoon at the end of the regular season, and the comeback against Illinois was something. Duane Washington could play for my team anytime. The Buckeyes have a nice blend of scoring, inside, outside, up-tempo, half-court. I'll have them winning multiple games for sure.
I'm assuming every non-Villanova grad is going to have Winthrop, with or without the six points. I'll probably have Texas Tech going two rounds.
What's your favorite bet for the first round?
FS: As a Wisconsin alum I'm not excited to say this, but North Carolina -2 is the line that jumped out at me. Wisconsin hasn't had a two-game winning streak since Jan. 20 and lost five of its last six in the regular season. The only positive thing anyone can say about the Badgers is they played a tough schedule, but that's empty when you don't win any of those tough games. North Carolina isn't great but they were playing better late and I'd be stunned if they don't cruise in the first round. You might want to look into alternative spreads because I can see UNC winning by double digits.
SP: I'm going to jump on the Heels before that number goes up. I'm also going to take Texas Tech and swallow the 5 points (these are not Pat Knight's Red Raiders). Tech is relentless on defense, while Utah State is another team with a turnover problem. You love teams that can generate easy points through its defense. And I'll be on Winthrop with the points and on the moneyline, Winthrop will be America's sleeper — I'm expecting the world to collectively say "man, the Big East was a mess this year" about a week from now. Villanova is shorthanded and for the first time in forever, Jay Wright doesn't have a pat hand.
FS: I like Winthrop too. Also will be taking them with points and on the moneyline, which you'll hear me say about the 12 seed in each region. My initial reaction to the Texas Tech line was that I might grab Utah State and the points, so at least we disagree on something.
Will any of the top-four seeds lose before the Sweet 16?
FS: I don't know that North Texas can beat Purdue, but I'll probably be getting crazy and putting Winthrop into the Sweet 16 of my bracket. Purdue doesn't excite me. I know Trevion Williams is a fantastic player, but it's just a solid, low-ceiling team that seems ripe for an upset. I have a lot more faith in Arkansas, Ohio State and of course Baylor. Though I am prepared to take North Carolina and the points in the second round because that's not a great matchup for Baylor.
SP: Texas Tech is actually shorter to win the region than Arkansas, Purdue, or Villanova. The Razorbacks could easily be underdogs in the 3-6 game, if first-round form holds. Respectful of your Arkansas conviction, I don't like the potential matchup against the Red Raiders defense on a short turnaround. I'll call for that specific seeding upset, though it might not be one in the spread.
Do you have a favorite bet to win the region?
FS: Arkansas at +800 really stands out to me. The Razorbacks are 12-2 since the start of February with some impressive performances. Their only losses are an 81-77 road loss to Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State and a 78-71 loss to a talented LSU team at the SEC tournament. I also thought I'd be a little more interested by North Carolina, but the +1200 odds don't move me to bet the Heels. Baylor is very good but the draw is tougher than you'd like for a -135 favorite, and that opens the door for some value elsewhere. If "Baylor vs. the field" is offered in the South, I'd take the field. I'll probably be looking to make up some ground in my pools by picking someone other than Baylor to win the South.
SP: I can't play Baylor at that chalky a price, and I agree with you on UNC — because they're such a public team, I suspect you have to pay a tax in the futures market. Ohio State isn't a gigantic overlay at +400, but there's enough value to justify a punch. If Texas Tech were priced as a typical No. 6 seed, they'd also get on my slip.
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