Sports Betting Insights: Betting the Favorites in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16
by Dave Schwab - 3/26/2014
The betting public, as a whole, generally has the tendency to lean towards the favorite in any sporting event, so this week I dug deep into the stats and betting trends to come up with the top favorite to wager on in each of the four regions in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16.
Looking at the results for the first 52 games of this year's tournament, you would find that they are evenly split with both the favorite and the underdog covering against the spread in 26 of the games. Upon further inspection, you would also find that the favorites did cover in 62.5 percent of the games in this past Saturday and Sunday's Round of 32, which could imply that the cream is starting to rise to the top as the tournament wears on.
This is not a strong enough trend to bet the favorites across the board in the eight games on the slate this Thursday and Friday, but when you break down the individual matchups, I did come up with one 'best bet' for each region.
Starting in the South Region, I am going with No. 1 Florida as a 4.5-point favorite over No. 4 UCLA on BetOnline's current board. The Gators failed to cover as 21.5-point favorites against Albany in their tournament opener, but they returned to form in a 61-45 romp over No. 9 Pittsburgh last Saturday as 5.5-point favorites. They are now 6-2 ATS in their last eight games and picking up steam in their march to a national title. Florida is still the most balanced and consistent team in the field of 16, and, despite the fact that UCLA is on a pretty solid roll of its own, the Gators have to horses to pull away down the stretch to win by at least five points.
My top pick in the East Region is No. 4 Michigan State over No. 1 Virginia as a two-point favorite. I have been a big Cavaliers' fan all season long, and they have been extremely kind to bettors with an overall record of 19-11-2 ATS, but they are in over their heads in this matchup. The Spartans have been picking up steam over the past few weeks starting with a 69-55 rout of Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament title game as 3.5-point favorites. The close call against Harvard last Saturday in a seven-point win as an 8.5-point favorite should serve bettors well this Friday night as best team left in the tournament keeps rolling on.
I do not have the confidence that No. 4 Louisville can get past No. 8 Kentucky as a 4.5-point favorite in the second matchup in the Midwest Region on Friday night, so I am going lay the 2.5 points and go with No. 2 Michigan over No. 11Tennessee as my pick. You cannot help but be impressed with the Volunteers' three-game run to the Sweet 16 after they had to get by a tough Iowa team in overtime in a First Four play-in game, but they caught a huge break when Mercer helped clear the path by taking out No. 3 Duke. Michigan is clearly the better overall team in this matchup, and the Wolverines looked pretty darn impressive in their 79-65 victory over Texas as 4.5-point favorites last Saturday. The Vols will be able to keep things interesting but not by fewer than three points.
The final favorite pick could be the toughest with two great matchups on tap in the West Region. I am not overly confident in either play, but I know I do not want to give No. 4 San Diego State 7.5 points against No. 1 Arizona. This means I am going with No. 2 Wisconsin minus the 3.5 points against No. 6 Baylor. The Badgers are still one of the most physical teams left in the Sweet 16, and they also know how to grind out wins in big games. The Bears made it look too easy in a romp over Creighton to earn a spot in this round, which could actually work against them from a competitive standpoint in this matchup. This would be a small play at best as this one could still go either way.
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