With the NCAA Tournament set to resume on Thursday for the Sweet 16 round, the past three days with no action has given bettors a chance to reflect on what they have witnessed over the course of the first two rounds.
As usual, the tournament lived up to its "March Madness" nickname and produced some of the biggest upsets and comebacks the NCAA Tournament has ever seen. From Middle Tennessee State knocking off the co-favorite Michigan Spartans, to Wisconsin's winning buzzer beater against Xavier to Texas A&M's biggest last-minute comeback in NCAA Tournament history.
Despite all that hoopla, many believe the tournament officially starts once the Sweet 16 gets underway. There will be fewer mismatches, and generally speaking, the crème of the crop will be participating.
With the three days off, I've taken the time to reseed the remaining 16 teams and give you my take on their likely or unlikely path to Houston. As always, bovada.lv provided me with amazing futures odds, and I would be lying if I said I didn't re-up on one or two teams!
No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (+400)
The Jayhawks did what everyone expected them to do. They laid a whooping on Austin Peay and handily disposed of their second-round opponent, UConn. They are 2-0 ATS this tournament as well and were never threatened. They enter the Sweet 16 without even breaking a sweat. Their average margin of victory is 19 points over the first two games, and they are still the odds-on favorite to win the National Championship. Hard to drop them any lower than No.1 when they do everything they are expected to do.
No. 2 North Carolina (+425)
The Tar Heels enter the Sweet 16 on the back of victories against an upstart Florida Gulf Coast squad and the two-man team of Providence. Both games were close early, but it was smooth sailing after the half-time break on both occasions. The Tar Heels are 1-1 ATS after failing to cover the 22.5-point spread in the opening round of 64. They have won their two games by an average of 17 points, however. With the shocking loss that Michigan State suffered in the opening round, UNC has moved up to second choice on the betting board.
No. 3 Oregon Ducks (+1200)
The Oregon Ducks enter the Sweet 16 after an impressive victory against the reigning A10 Champs from St. Joes. The Ducks prevailed, winning 69-64 but failing to cover the spread. They are currently 1-1 ATS after drilling Holy Cross by 39 points as 22.5-point favorites. It is hard to knock an existing No.1 seed below a No.2 seed. However, with that said, Oregon is shockingly not the favorite to come out of their region. Oregon has the toughest two games remaining, in my opinion, to reach the Final Four. They must navigate Coach K's Duke squad then face either Texas A&M or Oklahoma. The Aggies have all the momentum in the world going for them after erasing a 12-point deficit with 60 seconds left against Northern Iowa. Oklahoma, on the other hand, has Buddy Hield, who is likely going to be the Wooden Award winner this season. Rough current ahead for these Ducks.
No. 4 Virginia Cavaliers (+550)
The Cavaliers are 1-1 ATS this tournament after destroying Hampton and getting by a gritty Butler team in the Round of 32. The Cavaliers pride them self on defense and are the top-ranked team in that discipline, according to KenPom. Their average margin of victory in their first two games is 22 points, which speaks volumes to their half-court defense. In order for the nation to finally pay attention to them, they will need to reach the Final Four at least. With a tough matchup against Iowa State looming and then a matchup with Gonzaga in the Elite Eight, getting to Houston will definitely be earned the hard way. Not enough value for me to grab a piece of.
No. 5 Villanova Wildcats (+1200)
The Wildcats should have been a No.1 seed in this tournament. Their stumble in the Big East Championship Game ultimately led them to the No.2 seed. The Wildcats finally reached the Sweet 16, and for them to settle and think mission accomplished would be foolish. They dismantled Iowa in the Round of 32, and if they keep shooting the ball the way they are, this team has plenty of value to win the championship come April 4. They are 2-0 ATS and are winning by 24.5 points per game. The only problem with the Wildcats is their path to Houston goes through Kansas. Uh Oh.
No. 6 Oklahoma Sooners (+900)
Oh hey, Buddy, fancy seeing you down here at the six spot. I read that OU has the most dangerous starting five left in the tournament. Excuse me? Is that a joke? The Sooners needed a 29-point second-half performance from Hield to finally put away a good VCU team. Where was his supporting cast? Rubbish I say. Sure, the Sooners are entering the Sweet 16 with the nation's best player, but with an SEC matchup on deck against Texas A&M, Buddy might need his supporting cast to show up more than ever. Texas A&M is riding high and would be a tough out for any team.
No. 7 Iowa State Cyclones (+2800)
Before the first round of the tournament even began, the "experts" were talking about Iowa State being a popular team to get upset in the first round. They came out and shot 50 percent overall and 46 percent from 3-point land to blitz Iona in the first half. They were up 13 points at half time and never looked back. Against a very good Little Rock team, they played well and got the job done. Their matchup in the Sweet 16 against Virginia won't be easy, but for fans it has all the makings of a great game. The Cyclone are 2-0 ATS and are currently five-point underdogs.
No. 8 Indiana Hoosiers (+1600)
The Hoosiers round out the top half of the Sweet 16 teams thanks in large part to their victory over Kentucky in the Round of 32. Yogi and Co played well and earned a hard-fought victory. They almost put up a century in their opening-round game, and when they are playing at the top of their game they are a tough team to stop. I ranked them ahead of Maryland, who will check in at No.9 because of their records in Big Ten play. The reward for topping Coach Cal and Kentucky? A matchup with Roy Williams and UNC. It's a tough task. However, should they get through the baby-blue, they face a very winnable game against either Notre Dame or Wisconsin. Fingers crossed, Hoosiers fans.
No. 9 Maryland Terrapins (+2800)
The Terps survived a bit of a scare against No.12 South Dakota and No.13 Hawaii in back-to-back rounds. Melo Trimble is the heart and soul of this team and usually shows up when the going gets tough. The supporting cast is somewhat suspect, but dispatching of two top-level mid-major teams on a neutral court is something to be proud of. They will be in tough to get the better of Kansas in the Sweet 16, so at this price I would look elsewhere for value.
No. 10 Gonzaga Bulldogs (+1800)
Many pundits said Gonzaga was on a down year this year after a mediocre regular season. They proceeded to win the West Coast Conference Championship and claim an automatic bid into the big dance. After getting past one of the hottest teams in college basketball in Seton Hall in the first round, they dominated a Pac-12 runner up in Utah. They have two stars who can put points up in bunches in Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis. They have a very winnable game against Syracuse in the Sweet 16, but they will need to hit their jumpers to beat the Orange's zone defense. Should they navigate that, it could be very interesting matchup between them and either Iowa State or Virginia.
No. 11 Duke Blue Devils (+1800)
The Blue Devils have the best coach in college basketball history. Or that's what they tell me. Having a great coach patrol the sidelines is worth a couple of points in itself. They also have one of the smoothest freshman I've seen in a while in Brandon Ingram. Adding Grayson Allen to that mix, as he puts in stellar performances on a game-to-game basis, is a recipe for success in March when guard play usually wins games. They were pushed hard in the first two rounds of the tournament, but Coach K usually has them in a position to succeed. They have to go through Oregon in the Sweet 16, which will test Duke's defensive ability.
No. 12 Miami Hurricanes (+2800)
The Hurricanes barely survived the first round. They were taken right down to the wire from the MAC Champion Buffalo Bulls. That's not exactly something to be proud of. But they won, and that's all that matters in a tournament like this. They followed that up with a dominant opening half against Wichita State and held on the final 20 minutes to win. They have a very good one-two combination with Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan. Tough matchup ahead against Villanova, which I see them losing.
No. 13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+4000)
The Irish shouldn't even be in the Sweet 16. They needed a last-second tip-in to beat Stephen F. Austin. Watching that game, I was desperately rooting for the Lumberjacks to pull off the upset so I could lay money down on them, probably as an underdog in the next round against Wisconsin.
Notre Dame has a very athletic point guard in Demetrius Jackson, who should be able to get the best of any guard Wisconsin throws his way. They also have a matchup advantage on the post with Zach Auguste. They certainly got the luck of the Irish in the last round. And fortunately for those in South Bend, I can see that luck lasting one more game. They get past Wisconsin with ease and set up a rematch of the ACC title game with UNC.
No. 14 Texas A&M Aggies (+2000)
Speaking of teams that shouldn't even be in the Sweet 16… Hello Texas A&M! It only took the biggest comeback in the history of the NCAA for the Aggies to book their ticket to the Sweet 16. What do they have for an encore? Probably not much as I see a major letdown on the horizon. They are the only SEC team remaining and have put up consecutive 92-point performances. They should put up points against Oklahoma, but they will ultimately fall short. Enjoy that 12-point comeback Aggies fans, you probably won't see something like that for a very long time.
No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers (+4000)
Talent wise, Wisconsin doesn't match up to any of the teams above it, except for maybe Texas A&M. They rely on a freshman center - Ethan Happ, and a half decent point guard who will go down in March Madness history in Bronson Koenig. Their game against Pittsburgh in the first round finished 47-43. Is this March or the preseason between two tier-two teams? Ultimate, their matchup with Notre Dame is the worst possible matchup for them. They are unable to consistently put up many points and could get boat-raced out of the gym. Kudos for battling back against Xavier, but the journey ends Friday.
No. 16 Syracuse Orange (+3300)
I wish I could put them higher, but it wouldn't be fair to the other teams. I was on them in both games and absolutely love the 2-3 zone on neutral courts. They dismantled Dayton, although Dayton couldn't throw a grape in the ocean on that day, and beat Middle Tennessee State, who was still on Cloud 9 after upsetting Michigan State. Two solid performances, but they have still yet to play a good team. That all changes when they run into the buzz saw that is Gonzaga. Their best shot at progressing to the Elite Eight is hoping that Gonzaga loses its sight and shoots 20 percent from the floor. Better luck next year, Orange fans.
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