If the remaining four Sweet 16 games are anything like the first four, basketball fans should be excited. Last night we were treated to three games that were decided by a combined six points. In each of those games, the trailing team had one or two opportunities to either tie or take the lead, but their shots just wouldn't drop. The fourth game was a blowout, but it was a treat to watch Kansas dismantle Purdue. They looked sharp and produced several highlights worthy of ESPN.
However, I would be lying if I said I didn't expect tonight to produce even better finishes. The UCLA/Kentucky game needs no introduction, and the North Carolina Tar Heels can put up 100 on any given night. We've yet to see an actual buzzer-beating, game-winning shot, but I think tonight's the night. That's my first prediction.
The second quartet of Sweet 16 games is set to tip off tonight at approximately 7:09 p.m. EST at the FedEx Forum in Memphis. The opening game features the No. 4 Butler Bulldogs taking on the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels. As of right now, the Tar Heels are tabbed as seven-point favorites and the total sits at 153. The Tar Heels can put up points in a hurry, and any extended runs they go on will make it very tough for an offensively-challenged team like Butler to keep up with.
The second game on the card takes us to the Mecca of basketball, Madison Square Garden, where the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks will look to shock the world for the second game in a row and take down the No. 3 seed Baylor Bears. Tip for this game is at 7:40 p.m. EST. This game pits two solid defensive teams and features one of the best all-around players in the country, Sindarius Thornwell. It will be interesting to how the Bears try to contain him.
The marquee game of the night is scheduled to tip off just after 9:30 p.m. EST and features the No. 3 UCLA Bruins taking on the No. 2 seeded Kentucky Wildcats. This game has all the ingredients to be an instant classic, and the basketball world will be watching. UCLA is a 1.5-point favorite and the total sits at 165.5.The final game of the Sweet 16 sees No. 8 Wisconsin taking on No. 3 Florida. The Gators are one-point favorites.
For those bettors who are torn on what to expect in these four games, I have a simple solution for you. Avoid picking a side or total and focus on the props. There are several options to choose from, and I am here to guide you in the right direction. As always, odds are courtesy of Bovada .
Wisconsin Badgers vs. Florida Gators
Wisconsin Badgers Team Total - "Over" 65 (-115), "Under" 65 (-115)
This game has the lowest posted total on today's board, but there are several sneaky reasons why I believe this game has a chance to creep over the 131.5 mark. For starters, both teams have explosive playmakers that can not only knock down the open shot but attack the rim and draw contact which result in and-ones or two free throws. Both teams are also relatively healthy, which was cause for concern toward the back end of the regular season. And lastly, I don't think the "under" trend from last night's action will hold serve once again.
Wisconsin comes into this game after topping the No. 1 overall seed Villanova Wildcats in the round of 32. They believe that they got the short straw after being dealt the No. 8 seed and placed in the East Region of the bracket. They are playing like they have something to prove, and every single member of this well-balanced attack is contributing to the cause. They are led by senior guard Bronson Koenig, who averages a team-best 14.5 points per game and set a school record with 100 made three-pointers. But he is not alone. Sophomore forward Ethan Happ averages 13.8 points per game and a team-best 9.1 rebounds, while his frontcourt partner in crime, Nigel Hayes, chips in with 13.8 and 6.6, respectively.
Florida comes into this game on the heels of a completely suffocating defensive performance against Virginia where they limited the Cavaliers to just 39 points on 30 percent shooting (1-for-15 from three). As impressive as that is, the Cavaliers definitely can't compare offensively to the Badgers, thus the public perception that is sky-high on the Gators right now.
The Badgers trio of Koenig, Hayes and Happ will do just enough to get this
team total over the number. As I stated earlier, if you are torn on who you
think will win (like I am), prop bets are usually the best way to play the
Pick: Wisconsin "Over" 65 Team Total Points (-115)
UCLA Bruins vs. Kentucky Wildcats
UCLA Bruins Team Total "Over" 84 (-115), "Under" 84 (-115)
I may be completely off track here, but hear me out. I believe all the good bettors have the uncanny ability to remember every detail of a wager they placed, whether it won or lost, on a random night in a terrible conference. To me, that's a skill that can be beneficial in the long run.
Back in December, a young, raw, untested UCLA squad made the trek from the cozy confines of Los Angeles to Lexington, Kentucky, to take on a similar young and raw Kentucky team. The result was a UCLA win - 97-92- and it snapped Kentucky's 40+ game home winning streak. While John Calipari may not be the betting type, I'd be willing to wager that every single one of his players know the importance of this game and that their effort in the prior meeting was completely unacceptable. In that game, Kentucky was run off the court and the score didn't do UCLA's performance justice.
That will absolutely not happen again on this Wildcats team. That I am certain of.
Everyone expect this to be a high-scoring, track-meet style game, but I think it'll be make headlines for being the complete opposite. Both teams have a roster filled with enough talent to put up a ton of points, but I believe that cancels each other out. Instead, both teams will be looking to come out aggressive on the defensive half to establish some sort of defensive presence. Several of the Kentucky players know that their performances in the first meeting were very poor, so they will be eager and anxious to make amends.
If Kentucky can keep Lonzo Ball in check and force someone else to make plays and score the basketball, Kentucky will be in a prime position to extract some revenge. Furthermore, if Ball is shut down, the onus will fall on freshman T.J. Leaf's shoulders to replicate his 17 points, 13 rebound performance in the first meeting. I find it hard to believe he will have similar success.
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