Quite often I have to spend some time in the introduction to an article explaining just what I am going to write about. I am trusting that that isn't the case here - Expert March Madness Betting: Best and Worst Sweet 16 Wagers is about as clear and descriptive as a title can be. For my money this is the most interesting round of the tournament to bet on - the best combination of number of games , quality of teams, and level of public betting interest. So, let's just get at it ( odds are from BetOnline ):
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Michigan ( -1 ) vs. Oregon, Thursday, 7:05 p.m. ET: To really like Oregon at this price I think you would have to accept two narratives - that Michigan is Cinderella team riding the wave of emotion from their plane crash and that Oregon is still basically the same team without Chris Boucher. I reject both. Michigan has been on a real tear since their incident, but that was really only a continuation of what they have done since the start of February. As if often the case with John Beilein-coached teams, this one took a long while to find themselves and get on the same page. Since then, though, they have been much improved defensively and relentless on offense. The emotion of the last couple of weeks hasn't hurt, but it's not the driving force. And Oregon has been a much different defensive team without Boucher. He was a beast who did much more for this team - especially on defense - than the scoresheet always showed. This team is not as scary defensively as they were, and against an offense as efficient as Michigan's that's a problem. Michigan will also have a significant crowd edge in this one. I don't expect a blowout by any means, but this price is short of Michigan's true edge here.
Baylor (-3.5) vs. South Carolina, Friday, 7:25 p.m. ET: South Carolina has played out of their minds so far and deserves nothing but respect for two wins over Marquette and Duke that were both tough but far from a fluke. They deserve to be here. More than any other team still alive, though, they feel like one that isn't going to benefit from the time off. This is a team that lost six of their last nine before the tournament, including a rough loss to an Alabama team that was knocked out of the NIT in the first round. They found something in the opening weekend, and Sindarius Thornwell has been spectacular, but I just don't see them carrying it forward. Baylor is athletic, and they showed real toughness by going small late in the USC game to get back on track. I don't think this price shows the real edge for the Bears.
Wisconsin (+2) vs. Florida, Friday, 9:55 p.m. ET: Wisconsin had some rough games late in the Big Ten season. But then they made the Big Ten Tournament final and knocked off the top seed in the tournament by just plain outplaying them. Their No. 8 seeding was a farce, and they deserve to be here. They are also playing in their fourth straight Sweet 16 - and team leader Nigel Hayes has been in all four. That talent plus that experience doesn't add up to an underdog here. Florida has played no one to get here - and don't try to argue that they beat Virginia, because the Cavaliers are just awful right now. They lost three of their final four heading into this tournament, and have more flaws than I could list. If it's a Big Ten-SEC showdown you can have the SEC any time and I'll be happy. There is strong value in Wisconsin.
UCLA (pick) vs. Kentucky, Friday, 9:35 p.m. ET: Both these teams are young, well-coached, and ridiculously-talented - we are seeing five or six first-rounders in action in one game. At their best their talent is staggering, and either could win it all. When they aren't at their best, though, they could force you to scratch a hole in your head trying to figure out what's going on. They have played once already this year, but it was a long time ago and ultimately didn't prove that much. More than any other game this year, this game is a total coin toss. Betting a coin toss game at pick 'em is just an easy way to lose money long term, and there is no real upside. I can't wait to watch this one, but I have no interest in betting on it.
Gonzaga (-3) vs. West Virginia, Thursday, 7:35 p.m. ET: When a game comes down to whether a somewhat non-standard approach by one teams works or not, I don't want anything to do with betting on it. West Virginia is very talented, but they live or die on their ability to disrupt their opponents with their aggression. It could work and disarm a good opponent - as it did against Notre Dame last time out. Gonzaga is a very talented team, though, and their coach is one of the best. With the time Mark Few has had to prepare for this game, they should be ready. And if the press doesn't work then the Bulldogs will win. But if they can't disrupt what the Mountaineers want to do they will lose. It's that simple, really - and that tough to predict. Again, I look forward to watching this one - at least in the commercials of the other game on at the same time - but I have no interest in betting on it.
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