March Madness Betting: Best and Worst Sweet 16 Wagers
by Trevor Whenham - 3/24/2015
Betting on the Sweet 16 is tough. Teams are playing well or they wouldn't be there, but the pressure is amplified dramatically, and teams have had more time to prepare than they did for their last game. These contests don't always turn out like we expect them to. That doesn't mean that we shouldn't bet on them, of course - far from it. It just means that you need to make sure that the bets make sense before you make them - like always, but even more so now. As we get ready for the next chapter of March Madness, and therefore March Madness betting, here are the best and worst Sweet 16 wagers as I see them. ( Odds are from Sportsbook.ag):
Oklahoma (+2.5) vs. Michigan State (Friday, 10:10 p.m. ET): I don't really get why Oklahoma, the higher seed, is the underdog here. Michigan State deserves credit for knocking off a No. 2 seed, but Virginia was hardly the most inspiring high seed in the tournament. They are really getting more attention than they probably deserve from the betting public because they are a brand name and because Tom Izzo is so good when the calendar turns to March. This is a long way from Izzo's best team, though, and depth issues are going to catch up to them. Some would argue that Oklahoma was seeded too high and that the Big 12 hasn't exactly dominated in his tournament so far, but they are a solid team that is also very well-coached, and they showed a lot of poise in beating Dayton in front of a very hostile crowd in Columbus. The spread is right, but the wrong team is favored. That means there is some value here.
Wisconsin (-5.5) vs. North Carolina (Thursday, 7:50 p.m. ET): Roy Williams deserves a pile of credit for getting this team to this point. It wasn't his most talented team in the best case, and then there have been distractions galore to overcome. The fact is, though, that they just aren't good enough to advance any further than this against the teams they would have to face. Wisconsin is a very deep and talented team, and they are playing well. They match up well and are going to be more than North Carolina can handle. There is value at this price.
West Virginia (+13.5) vs. Kentucky (Thursday, 9:50 p.m. ET): This is a tough one because I can't make a sound case for betting on either team. Kentucky is going to win, and they won't really struggle to do so in the end. Fourteen points is a lot to win by, though, and Kentucky won't necessarily look to blow out the Mountaineers as long as they are comfortably ahead. West Virginia also is so committed to the press and is sure to ratchet the pressure up to a whole new level in this game since they have nothing to lose. If they are able to frustrate Kentucky for a while then it could take them time to adjust and find their game, and that could keep it closer. It might sound, then, that I am making a case for West Virginia. Against a lot of teams I would be, but Kentucky is so ridiculously deep and talented that betting against them at this point at almost any price doesn't make much sense. I don't really see how you can play this game at this price.
Xavier (+11) vs. Arizona (Thursday, 10:20 p.m. ET): The issues here are pretty much the same as the previous game. Arizona is a very good team - perhaps even the second-best in the tournament. Xavier is facing a huge challenge, and it would be shocking if they could match up well enough to win. They have no shortage of experience, though - incredibly, this is their fifth Sweet 16 appearance in the last eight years. Xavier is creative, and they have nothing to lose. They will be aggressive from the outset. Arizona has a big advantage in size, skill and depth, but if Xavier disrupts them enough they could keep it close. No value at this price.
Notre Dame (+1) vs. Wichita State (Thursday, 7:20 p.m. ET): This is just a very tight game, and a hard one to find anything attractive to bet on. Wichita State was badly under-seeded, and they showed how good they can be by how they dismantled Kansas last time out. They are getting a lot of respect from bettors because of the run they have been on the last three years, and that has a lot to do with why they are favored here. Notre Dame is a very solid team, though, and they have the emotional push of playing for their grieving coach to help them along. You can make a solid case for either team in this one. Toss-up games are very tough to bet - especially at odds this tight.
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