NCAA Tournament Betting: Breaking Down the Sweet 16
The NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 is set with eight games taking place on Thursday and Friday. The theme of this year’s Sweet 16 is “chalk” as all of this past weekend’s favorites advanced. To put it into perspective, of KenPom’s top 20 heading into the NCAA Tournament, 15 are currently still alive. The lone exception being Oregon which for the last month has certainly played at a top 20 level. Below are some of my thoughts and opinions on each Sweet 16 squad.
Purdue – Saw two different games out of the Boilermakers; a grind-it-out fist fight vs. Old Dominion and an offensive explosion vs. Villanova. Purdue isn’t the only team left capable of winning multiple ways but they appear very comfortable no matter what the “tone” of the game. They are actually very similar to Tennessee in terms of philosophy; come out swinging and see if the opposition responds or runs and hides. Villanova wanted no part of Purdue’s aggressive nature. The Vols will welcome it.
Tennessee – Similar to what Purdue did to Villanova, Tennessee punched Iowa in the mouth early on. The only difference was the Vols not only allowed the Hawkeyes back into the game but nearly lost. I get that it’s tricky playing with a 20-point lead in a game that going in, you expected to be “tournament tight.” But Barnes’ crew has built a reputation of not being able to get out of its own way at times. And the defense, while solid in the first two rounds, still had issues. Amazing stat you just don’t see out of teams still alive this time of year; over Tennessee’s last six games (4-2), they scored AND allowed 469 points.
Oregon – 10 straight wins, 10 straight point spread covers for a team that a month ago sat 6-8 in a piss poor PAC-12. Most impressive feat was not panicking after UC Irvine put up a big run to open the second half. Ducks went 20-of-38 from three in their two tournament wins. Tough to duplicate against Virginia. Not sure if Virginia is a good or a bad matchup. On the surface, two very similar teams with the only difference being that the Cavs do everything a bit better.
Virginia – For a 31-win team, it seems like forever since the Cavs looked the part of a title contender. Florida State manhandled them in the ACC Tournament, Garner Webb scared the shit out of them in the first round, and Oklahoma was able to make a game of it despite making only 19 field goals. Our own Eric Waz made an excellent point on today’s BettorIQ podcast; Virginia is probably happy to see Oregon, a team that plays a similar style that isn’t predicated on pace and scoring spurts. Winner of Purdue and Tennessee a scary matchup.
Florida State – In two games, 17 Seminoles saw 10 minutes or more of playing time. Sending wave after wave of different players and looks would seemingly not be as effective give the time off between the second and third round. But that’s exactly what the Seminoles did to knock off Gonzaga in last year’s Sweet 16. Over the last 10 minutes of the game, FSU outscored the Zags 22-11 and won 75-70.
Gonzaga – Against Duke, Tennessee, and North Carolina — three teams eerily similar to Florida State in terms of size and/or athleticism — the Zags allowed 52 offensive rebounds. Baylor grabbed 12 but couldn’t offset a 4-for-21 showing from deep. The one negative of playing — and dominating the WCC — is that it’s tough to fully prepared to deal with uber-athletic teams. FSU certainly qualifies.
Texas Tech – In past years, Chris Beard would have gone into “four corners” mode with a 20-point second half lead. Instead, Texas Tech kept attacking and never gave Buffalo a reason to think it had a chance. And it’s offense not defense that is going determine the winner of TTU’s matchup vs. Michigan. The way the Red Raiders have looked on the offensive end of late should make Michigan extremely nervous.
Michigan – Not that Florida had a lot of options but attempting 26 threes and two free throws in a 61-possession game is exactly what the Wolverines want you to do. Will Texas Tech get baited into playing that style is the primary handicapping angle.
LSU – Not a bad thing that LSU was in a dogfight in both of its wins. You do worry however about the tactical side of things with Wade gone and a bunch of assistants attempting to look like they know what they are doing. And don’t look at that Maryland box score because one could argue, it was a Terps’ victory (+2 3-point makes, +7 FT attempts, +8 rebounds, +3 blocks).
Michigan State – Sparty has dodged a number of bullets thus far. They were clearly gassed from their Big Ten tourney run and looked shaky as hell against Bradley. And Minnesota’s Jordan Murphy, the one guy you need to be at full strength to battle with all of MSU’s bullies, played four minutes due to injury. Michigan State likely wins the game regardless, but it’s going to get a lot tougher moving forward. And can you envision LSU landing a few big blows early and Izzo and pals packing it in? I can.
Virginia Tech – Saint Louis, Liberty…Duke. Good to see Justin Robinson not only play but have a big impact (13 points, 4 assists). Remember, he DIDN’T play vs. Duke in the first meeting and the pesky Hokies still found a way to win, 77-72. Of course Zion Williamson didn’t play either! Can’t wait to see VT put all five defenders in the paint and force Duke to win via the jump shot.
Duke – Hard to win a National Championship without a least one undeserving victory, right? And what’s crazy is in the win over UCF, Duke shot an abnormally good 10-of-25 from deep. The Blue Devils have now hit 10 or more threes in only six games. Few teams in the country sell out on defending the paint more than the Hokies. You know Buzz is saying something along the lines of, “Let Zion get his 30, force these other clowns to jack threes, and we got a shot.”
Houston – 13-of-48 from three in two games and the Cougars covered both with relative ease. It’s feel like we should be taking this team more seriously, no? All they’ve done over the last two seasons is post a 60-11 straight up record and cover point spreads at a 65% clip.
Kentucky – Cats had better hope PJ Washington is healthy. You hold one of the best 3-point shooters in the country to 0-of-12, shoot 17-of-20 from the free throw line and win both the offensive and defensive glass and yet beat a mid-major by only six. Yes, Wofford is really good, but Houston is better and can make you pay for not having a future first round NBA draft pick.
Auburn – Baylor 78 points on 60 possessions. Wofford 84 points on 70 possessions. Kansas 87 points on 68 possessions. Oklahoma 95 points on 68 possessions. Buffalo 91 points on 74 possessions. Those are some incredibly efficient offensive performances that took place in the first round. Do you know what those teams did as an encore? They combined to score 311 points on 319 possessions in the second round and are all currently at home cleaning out their lockers. The reason I point this out is Auburn’s 89-75 win over Kansas was as good an offensive showing as there’s been all tournament. Just saying.
North Carolina – After a sluggish start in the first half vs. Iona, the Tar Heels have outscored the opposition by 42 points — and it looked like they were sandbagging at times! Can’t get cute with Auburn though who unlike Washington can bang down shots from all over the court. Still think it’s a favorable opponent rather than a Michigan, Texas Tech, or Oregon that will purposely bog down the game.