Sweet 16 Betting: Ranking the Best Games
by Trevor Whenham - 3/25/2013
I don’t know about you, but after four great days of basketball I am suffering some serious withdrawal. Come Thursday, though, we’ll see the start of eight more glorious games. The Sweet 16 is always good, but as both a fan and a bettor I find this collection of games particularly compelling. Here is how I ranked the eight games in terms of their betting intrigue:
Kansas vs. Michigan
I could be biased as a Michigan fan, but even without that this is the game to see — and to bet on. Michigan was lousy down the stretch and in the Big Ten Tournament, but they recaptured their swagger in a big way in the opening weekend of this tournament and were the best team in action on the weekend. They put South Dakota State in their place and dismantled a VCU team that some people were picking as a Final Four contender. Kansas is a top seed, but they only played like it for the last 20 of the 80 minutes they have played so far. Both teams, if they play at their best, are more than good enough to win this one, and this matchup is just much too good to happen this early. Potent offense against smothering defense. Jeff Withey is the best big man in the tournament. His counterpart, Mitch McGary, is perhaps the revelation of the tournament. This is a war that could go either way. And with a point spread of just 1.5 points in favor of Kansas, you can’t really blame the point spread for getting in the way of betting on either squad.
Michigan State vs. Duke
Coach K is pretty good at coaching in this tournament. So is that Izzo guy. They both have their teams clicking along. Duke has been excellent in the tournament, and the Blue Devils really opened eyes by getting very physical early to scare Creighton off their game. Michigan State has been even better and is playing stifling defense that will terrify Duke. It’s a great matchup, and with Duke favored by two it’s a very fair line as well.
Oregon vs. Louisville
Dana Altman has done a remarkable job coaching Oregon this year. His team is a 12 seed, but that seeding was so laughably ridiculous that very few people are looking at this one as nearly the mismatch that the seeds would suggest it is. Their problem is that they are up against Louisville. The Cardinals were the top seed and favorite coming in, and they haven’t shown a crack in the armor so far. Is Louisville going to make a huge statement again? Or does red hot Oregon have some magic left? The 10-point spread is big enough to tempt underdog bettors, but the favorites get as much respect as any team here — deservedly. Great handicapping puzzle.
Syracuse vs. Indiana
Good teams in an old school matchup of eternal basketball powers — what’s not to like? Jim Boeheim could retire after this year, so there is added intrigue in this one. Indiana has the two best players on the court, but Syracuse is athletic and dangerous — especially on defense. The spread is strong, and every time you look at the game you find new depth and another angle.
Arizona vs. Ohio State
Arizona has probably had the easiest path to this point of any team, but they have totally dominated and are playing their best ball of the year — finally. Ohio State hasn’t been dominant, but they have faced tough competition and have done what is needed. Most people would agree that Ohio State has been the better team all year and probably is now, too. Anyone who watches basketball a lot, though, could make all sorts of arguments for Arizona. At a spread of 3.5 points in favor of Ohio State, it’s a game that could go either way for bettors. No one said that this was going to be easy, and all five games we have looked at so far are very challenging.
Marquette vs. Miami
This is where things get less interesting. Fans will say that Marquette’s narrow wins are a sign of their toughness. I think it reflects their sloppiness that they are finding themselves in these spots in the first place. They were widely viewed as the most over-seeded team in the tournament coming in, and in my eyes they have only reinforced that take. Miami has been very good and is ready to take this team apart. Games are far less interesting when the best team is obvious, and the 5.5-point spread isn’t big enough to make Marquette truly attractive. This game does nothing to captivate.
La Salle vs. Wichita State
Great stories on both sides, and I couldn’t be more impressed by what both teams have been able to do. They deserve to be here, and one of them will definitely deserve to move on. As a fan I look forward to it. As a bettor, though, this is a nightmare. Neither team was expected to be here, so we have no way of knowing how they will respond to it. They could continue to shine, or they could do what many Cinderellas have done and forget how to play in their time off. It’s all speculation, and I absolutely hate speculation when it comes to betting.
Florida Gulf Coast vs. Florida
Great story — the best of the tournament so far. I can’t wait to see more fearless slamming and jamming. They are up against the most efficient overall team in the tournament, though, and Billy Donovan has more than enough time to prepare for this one. I’ll be hoping for another miracle, but the realist in me just can’t put my money behind that pursuit.
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