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March Madness: Sports betting in focus as the men’s NCAA basketball tournament kicks off

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Yahoo Sports Reporter Henry Bushnell breaks down his bracket picks for the 2022 men's NCAA basketball tournament and the outlook for sports betting during March Madness.

Video Transcript

BRIAN CHEUNG: Well, folks, if you have not entered your brackets for March Madness, you are probably too late because the first game is going to tip off in about 25 minutes. Of course, maybe you can get through the bracket pretty quickly. But regardless, it's probably time to just take a step back and say, all right, what should we expect for the big tournament out of the field of 64? So let's bring in Yahoo Sports reporter Henry Bushnell, who has been covering previous tournaments and will be covering this one as well.

Henry, it's great to have you on the program. Obviously, a lot of hype headed into this season. So many narratives, especially with Duke, the final season for Coach K, a lot of new entrants in the tournament for the first time. Just kind of curious what your expectations are. And I'll kind of preface this by sharing what I think my Final Four is going to be-- very boring picks. I've got the top seeds for every single region here-- Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas, and Baylor. What are your picks for the Final Four? What are your expectations for this year's tourney?

HENRY BUSHNELL: I think it's not a bad year to go with boring picks. I think the list of teams that can win this title is pretty narrow, actually. I'm not going to go quite as boring, though. I'm going to go Gonzaga, just like you, from the top left region. I'm going to go Arizona as well.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Ooh.

HENRY BUSHNELL: I'm going to go with-- I'm going to go with Kentucky, though, in the bottom left region.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Spicy.

HENRY BUSHNELL: And Iowa is my big surprise. I think Iowa has been one of the--

BRIAN CHEUNG: Very spicy.

HENRY BUSHNELL: --best teams in the country over the past month and a half. There's one analytical model that has them as the second best team in the country since the start of February. I think they play really good offense, just, like, really sound offense. They have one of the best players in the whole tournament. And Keegan Murray is a sophomore-- kind of sophomore forward. I think Iowa can pull a surprise in a region that is probably the weakest of the four over at Kansas and Auburn.

BRIAN CHEUNG: That's an interesting pic. We'll have to see about that one. Now, obviously, the big theme here from a finance angle is the sports betting. There have been so many states, new platforms that have gone online since the last round of March Madness last year. The stat is $3.1 billion expected to be bet, 45 million expected to place bets here. How do you think that kind of folds into the hype here? Do you expect people to be tuning in at a higher frequency than they have in previous tournaments, simply because they might have money on the line?

HENRY BUSHNELL: I think it could definitely help. And here's the thing-- March Madness has always been a big betting event. Now it's just so much more out in the open because of the ongoing legalization of everything. And so I think you're going to see it on TV more. You're going to see it in our coverage more, for example. And I think the other aspect of it is that because it's out there, the first round of betting lines, for example, are a great tool to help you pick your bracket and to help you identify first round upsets.

Like, one thing I always like to look at is, I compare the betting line to the difference in the seeds. So if you see a five versus a 12 seed, but the betting line is only two or three points, that's an upset to pick. You'll see with Providence against South Dakota in this early window coming up on Thursday, it's a four seed versus a 13 seed. But Providence, the four seed, is only favored by two or three points. So that's an upset to think about picking in your bracket.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Oh, you know, I actually have some-- that's my upset that I'm calling for the first round. I got South Dakota State. I mean, look, it's a 30 to 4 team, winning by a margin of 13 points on average. What other upsets do you have in this first round, quickly?

HENRY BUSHNELL: Yeah, I really like South Dakota State. They're the best three-point team in the country. I also like Virginia Tech, the 11 seed, to win a couple of games, beat Texas and Purdue and make the sweet 16. I could also see Vermont over Arkansas and maybe even Chattanooga over Illinois.

BRIAN CHEUNG: Well, you know, I've got to say, I'm a Syracuse guy, so I want to short all the ACC teams because they've all stunk this year. But I will keep an eye on Virginia Tech. Henry Bushnell, Yahoo Sports reporter, thanks so much. Have a great tournament. We'll have you on maybe when we get closer to the Final Four to see if we were right.

HENRY BUSHNELL: Thank--