Sweet 16 Predictions: Five Biggest Questions
by Trevor Whenham - 3/26/2013
As bettors get ready for the next wave of NCAA Tournament games, there are all sorts of questions that bettors need to find answers for. The more right answers, the more money you’ll have in your pocket by Sunday night. Here are five of the biggest questions to ponder along with some Sweet 16 predictions:
Can Cinderella avoid the pumpkin?
As is almost always the case in the Sweet 16, we have a large collection of teams that are supposed to be here and a few that have really crashed the party. Oregon looks the least like a No. 12 seed of any team in history. Their seeding was a total insult for the Pac-12 Champion, and they have proven it. Despite their seeding it’s hard to think of them as a real Cinderella team.
The same can’t be said for Wichita State, and especially La Salle and Florida Gulf Coast, though. If you had any of those teams in your bracket you made bad choices — even though they have paid off this year. Sometimes we see a team start off surprising and then get even more so — like VCU or George Mason did in their Final Four runs. More often, though, teams that look unbeatable in the first weekend crash down to earth. A wide range of factors can conspire to cause this — a step up in competition, more time for opponents to get ready to play, the distractions of being in the spotlight for the first time, and so on. In this case bettors need to figure out what lies ahead for these teams.
In the case of Wichita State and La Salle the decision is delayed for one team since we know one of those unexpected teams is Elite Eight-bound.
Is Louisville mortal?
The Cardinals were favored coming into the tournament and were by far the most popular choice to win it all in brackets. So far they have looked just as good as expected. In their two opening games they have been all but flawless.
They haven’t been tested, but they could have seen their focus falter in the face of relatively easy opponents, and it hasn’t. They were dialed in perfectly during the Big East Tournament as well.
Can they keep it up and cruise all the way to the Final Four and beyond as people expect? Or will they crash back to earth once the opponents get much tougher?
Which Michigan shows up?
The Michigan we saw against VCU would be very tough for any team in this tournament to beat. They were explosive on offense, strong on the boards, and just plain good. They weren’t hitting their three-pointers like they can, either, so they have the potential to be even better.
The team that lost to Penn State late in the season or Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament, though, would struggle to beat any team left in this field. The team seems to have their swagger back, but can we trust them?
To amplify the problems for bettors, Kansas isn’t exactly easy to trust, either. They played as well as a team can in the second half against North Carolina, but they were a long way from inspiring in the first 60 minutes of their tournament. The 20-minute version of this team will be tough to beat. The 60-minute version would be in real trouble.
Can Marquette turn up their game?
No team has been luckier than Marquette. They didn’t deserve to beat Davidson, but the Golden Eagles got lucky with an odd play at the end. They got almost as lucky to beat Butler as well.
They were viewed as a very overrated team by many heading into the tournament, and they have done nothing to dispel those concerns in the tournament so far despite the wins. At this point it seems like a pretty easy choice to bet against them here — especially if they play as sloppy and lazy as they have so far. They’ll need to step up their game a lot to be a serious second-weekend contender.
Can they do it? I’m betting not, but then I didn’t think they would make it this far — or out of the first round, for that matter.
Can the Big Ten continue their strength?
The Big Ten has had a very good tournament so far. Six of seven teams won their opener. Four of the six are still standing. They are the four best teams in the conference, and they have all looked good.
Michigan and Michigan State have been totally dominant. Ohio State and Indiana have faced very tough tests and passed them in impressive fashion in the end.
The teams don’t have to face each other before next weekend, so they could theoretically be the last four teams standing, and that’s not totally impossible to imagine. It could be the Big Ten’s year after a very strong conference season.
The problem, though, is that this conference hasn’t exactly dominated the tournament in recent years. In fact, over the last decade what they have excelled at most is disappointing in the face of big expectations. They haven’t won the tournament since 2000 when Michigan State cut down the nets. They have lost in the finals four times since.
It seems like there will be a couple of teams from the conference in the Final Four. But can we trust them? Or will this be the same old Big Ten all over again?
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