NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Handicapping: How Large Dogs have Fared
by Nicholas Tolomeo - 3/27/2013
Cinderella stories are usually the highlight of the NCAA Tournament. Unfortunately, looking at recent history, the Sweet 16 is usually when the clock strikes midnight and these mid-major “Cinderfellas” turn into pumpkins rather than Elite 8 contenders.
There are exceptions like Butler from a few years back and VCU making a run to the Final Four two years ago, but, more often than not, these mid-major schools do it as either high seeds or by virtue of an easier path.
When these Cinderellas find themselves up against the blue bloods of college basketball and as heavy underdogs, they rarely advance to the next round, and from a look at recent history, they rarely cover the point spread, either.
Since 2007, Sweet 16 underdogs of eight points or more are 1-13 SU. The magic from the first weekend generally wears off on feel-good stories like No. 13 Ohio in 2012, No. 12 Richmond in 2011 and No. 12 Cornell in 2012. It is much tougher to sneak up on a team with four days’ notice as opposed to 24-hour notice.
Looking back at the last six tournaments, the only underdog of eight points or more to advance to the Elite Eight was hardly a Cinderella. No. 1 Duke was a 9.5-point favorite against No. 5 Arizona in 2011. After leady by six at halftime, Duke had its doors blown off in the second half as Arizona won, 93-77.
Not only do the heavy underdogs rarely win in the Sweet 16, but they struggle mightily against the spread. Sweet 16 favorites of eight points or more are 9-5 ATS since 2007. The point spread wins are usually pretty quick and decisive too. The favorites of eight points or more are 10-4 ATS on the first half line since 2007.
All of this does not bode well for No. 12 Oregon and No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast on Friday night. No. 1 Louisville is a 10-point favorite against the Ducks while No. 3 Florida is a 12.5-point favorite against the Eagles. No other favorite is giving more than six points this year in the Sweet 16.
Florida Gulf Coast is the biggest Sweet 16 underdog since No. 12 Western Kentucky was +13 against No. 1 UCLA in 2008. UCLA won 88-78 but failed to cover.
Here is a look back at the largest Sweet 16 mismatches over the past seven years.
No. 1 Kentucky (-10) defeats No. 4 Indiana, 102-90
No. 1 North Carolina (-10.5) defeats No. 13 Ohio, 73-65 (OT)
No. 1 Duke (-9.5) loses to No. 5 Arizona, 93-77
No. 1 Kansas (-10) defeats No. 12 Richmond, 77-57
No. 2 Ohio State (-8) defeats No. 6 Cincinnati, 81-66
No. 2 Kansas (-8.5) defeats No. 11 N.C. State, 60-57
No. 1 Duke (-8) defeats No. 4 Purdue, 70-57
No. 1 Kentucky (-8) defeats No. 12 Cornell, 62-45
No. 1 Louisville (-9.5) defeats No. 12 Arizona, 103-64
No. 1 North Carolina (-8) defeats No. 4 Washington State, 68-47
No. 1 UCLA (-13) defeats No. 12 Western Kentucky, 88-78
No. 1 Kansas (-12.5) defeats No. 12 Villanova, 72-57
No. 1 Florida (-9.5) defeats No. 5 Butler, 65-57
No. 1 North Carolina (-8.5) defeats No. 5 USC, 74-64
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