Sweet 16 Odds: Underdog Betting Value for March Madness
by Trevor Whenham - 3/24/2015
I'm a sucker for an underdog in most circumstances when it comes to betting. In the opening round of the NCAA tournament this year that certainly wasn't a bad obsession to have. Underdogs went 10-6 ATS on Thursday and 9-7 ATS on Friday. That's 19-13 on the two days - very nicely profitable. It only makes sense, then, that we should be on the lookout for Sweet 16 underdog value. Here are three underdogs that stand out as interesting ( Odds are from Sportsbook.ag):
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N.C. State (+2) vs. Louisville (Friday, 7:40 p.m. ET): Louisville played one of the best games any team has played all tournament when they beat up Northern Iowa in their second game. It was an impressive effort on both ends of the court. This is a very good defensive team, so that part of their success doesn't come as a surprise. They have not been nearly as strong offensively this year, though, and that remains a concern. This team is far from the best that Rick Pitino has brought to the tournament, and they have really struggled to be consistent - they have had five losses in their last 12 games. In short, we can't necessarily trust Louisville to come out strong here just because they played about as well as they can last time. Now, N.C. State isn't exactly a dominant team this year, either. They have a win at Louisville to their credit already this year, so they have the potential to manage this situation. They are coming off a win against No. 1 Villanova - albeit a No. 1 that was overrated and far from terrifying. Add it all up, and it's not hard to make the case that the wrong team is favored. In fact, if you took away the names and reputations and presented these two teams blind to bettors, you would very likely see the Wolfpack favored. That means that there is some value on the underdog here.
Oklahoma (+2.5) vs. Michigan State (Friday, 10:10 p.m. ET): Here is another situation in which a team's brand name and reputation has shifted the odds off of where they should probably be. Michigan State has been very strong in March under Tom Izzo, and their success here is further proof of what they are capable of when it matters most. The fact is, though, that this team is far from the best Spartan squad we have seen. What have they really done so far? They beat a Georgia team that doesn't really impress or intimidate anyone and then beat the most flawed of the No. 2 seeds in Virginia. This team had three losses in their seven games before the tournament, so they aren't exactly on a roll. They are not deep, and the talent is inconsistent. Hard to imagine them as a favorite against a higher seed, isn't it? Oklahoma is being hurt because they aren't as high-profile as the Spartans and because the Big 12 has not been exactly strong in the tournament this year. They are well-coached, though, and they have been somewhat stronger down the stretch than Michigan State. Their last win was quite impressive. Dayton is a tough team, and they had a big advantage playing close to home in Columbus. The crowd was hostile against Oklahoma, but they kept their composure, overcame some aggressive moves from the Flyers, and won. It was a nice effort, and one that deserves more respect than this line gives them. There is some value here.
Utah (+5.5) vs. Duke (Friday, 9:50 pm ET): This is the least attractive of the three games listed here, but there is still some value to be had. Duke is the superior team without question. Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow have been exceptional so far. The Blue Devils have very little depth, though - much less than you would expect from such an elite team - and that could create concerns if Utah can frustrate them early and cause foul issues. The Utes are not at all consistent - they hadn't won two in a row in a month before the tournament started. Delon Wright is a good player and a better leader, though, and he leads a feisty squad. They are a team with absolutely nothing to lose, and that could make them dangerous. They are just 1-4 against ranked squads this year, but one of those losses was by just six points, and two were by fewer than that, so they are capable of playing tight against top teams. I don't expect them to win this one, but the line is big enough that you could make an argument for the Utes to keep it close.
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