Up until this point I have spent most of my time writing about and focusing on the brackets heading into the Sweet 16. As the games draw nearer, though, it's time to shift focus a bit and look at what in many ways is a lot more interesting - the spreads. For the most part the spreads in the Sweet 16 are fair - at least some version of what I would expect them to be. There are three, though, that stand out from the crowd. Two of the three offer more value than the rest, while the third is almost impossible to play in my eyes. Here's a look at the best and worst Sweet 16 wagers as we focus on March Madness betting ( Odds are from BetOnline)
Wisconsin (+1) vs. Notre Dame (Friday, 7:25 p.m. ET): I would have happily given up a few points to take Wisconsin in this one, so I am decidedly thrilled to take them and a point here. Notre Dame had to work too hard to beat a bad Michigan team in their opener, and they needed an assist from the officials to get past Stephen F. Austin. They have not been tested by top opponents and are lucky to be alive given what they have faced. They are benefitting from their draw, and that ends with a more challenging matchup. In Pitt and especially Xavier, Wisconsin has faced much better opposition - much better than Notre Dame in the case of Xavier - and they have looked solid in the wins. They aren't the same team they were the last two years, but they have the experience of those two deep runs to rely on here. The Badgers are well positioned to deliver some value here.
Duke (+3) vs. Oregon (Thursday, 10:05 p.m. ET): I don't want to take away too much from Oregon - they are a No. 1 seed, and it's hard to have too much of an issue with that in this season. There are two big reasons to go with Duke in this one, though. First, the conferences. The ACC has proven this year just how tough they are as a conference - five of 16 teams in the Sweet 16 is incredible. The Pac-12, meanwhile, has been a total disaster in the tournament, and they did that after being RPI darlings heading into the tournament. A team can obviously rise above their conference - Florida and Kentucky have both shown it out of the SEC in the last decade. In many ways, though, you are only as good as the teams you have beaten, and the conference wins Oregon got have lost some shine, while Duke's losses are looking stronger. Second, the coaches. Dana Altman is in the tournament for his 11th time - seven at Creighton and now his fourth at Oregon. This is his second trip to the Sweet 16, and he has never gone further. His career tournament record is 8-10. Coach K just won his 90th tournament game. Just think about that for a second - the most you can win in a single year is six. Coming into this tournament he had been in the Final Four as many times as Altman had been in the tournament. He has won it five times. The most recent was last year, so it's not like he has lost his touch with age, either. You give a guy like him an opponent like Altman and five days to get ready for him and it's hardly a fair fight. This is not the best Duke team ever, but they aren't playing the best No. 1 ever, either. I'll take the points here happily.
Virginia (-5) vs. Iowa State (Friday, 7:10 p.m. ET): I just don't see any reason at all to bet on this game. Virginia is the better team, but they are giving up five points, and that is a lot in this clash of styles. Iowa State isn't as good as they have been at times, but what we do know about them is that they can score a lot of points - their offense has consistently been Top 15 nationally. They have basically no defense, though - which isn't the concern it could be because Virginia views offense as optional in a lot of their games. They do have a very strong defense, though - among the best in the country. Strength against strength. Weakness against weakness. It's not hard imagining Virginia winning, but can they win by enough to cover this spread? Your guess is as good as mine - and guessing isn't profitable.
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