Sweet 16 Betting Odds: Underdog Value
by Trevor Whenham - 3/20/2012
And then there were 16. The field for Thursday and Friday’s Sweet 16 is set. For the first time ever it includes four representatives from one state — Ohio, in this case. It is also the first time in more than 60 years that there have been no teams in the pacific or mountain time zones. Sadly, my beloved Michigan Wolverines decided to play as badly as they can play in their opener and they aren’t included, either.
While the opening rounds weren’t kind to No. 2 seeds, we find the No. 1 teams all still alive, and mostly looking good. It’s also a generally top-heavy Sweet 16 field, though there are some nice underdogs to make things interesting. Here’s a look at potential Sweet 16 underdog value.
What you’ll notice as I break it down is how competitive the remaining field is. There is only one team — Indiana — that I don’t give a big chance of winning their game, and that’s only because Kentucky is so good. Beyond that the outcomes are all in play. (All odds are from 5Dimes):
The very good
Florida (+2) vs. Marquette
I can’t take anything away from what Marquette has accomplished so far, but I still have a hard time believing in them.
The Big East has been solid-but-not-dominant this year, and Marquette wasn’t the best of the group. They have played two relatively easy games.
Florida has been better than both of their opponents, but they have absolutely crushed them — winning by an average of 30 points. If Florida plays with the same intensity and focus here then they will win.
Xavier (+6) vs. Baylor
This is a study in contrasts. Xavier knows how to play like a totally selfless team, and it has led them — incredibly — to their fourth Sweet 16 in five years. Baylor is stunningly talented, but much of the time they look like five guys playing one-on-one on the same court.
There is a lot of talent on the Bears to overcome, but Xavier’s approach could certainly help its cause.
Ohio (+10) vs. North Carolina
North Carolina has been very good, and is obviously far more talented. The broken wrist suffered by point guard Kendall Marshall, though, is a crippling blow since he has been the best player so far on the team in this tournament.
Ohio has had fantastic play led by D.J. Cooper and they have nothing to lose.
If the Tar Heels feel sorry for themselves even a little then this one could get interesting. Either way, I think this spread is too big without Marshall, and even completely healthy I thought North Carolina was the most vulnerable top seed.
Wisconsin (+4) vs. Syracuse
The Big Ten has been very solid in this tournament. Wisconsin is tough and relentless. Syracuse has to deal with the loss of Melo, and that makes them a softer team.
The Orange have the talent edge, but Wisconsin is well-seasoned after surviving the brutal Big Ten, and will be ready for a fight.
The pretty good
N.C. State (+8) vs. Kansas
Kansas has a big talent edge, and on paper they should consider themselves lucky that things have turned out this way.
N.C. State is playing incredibly well right now, though, and showing what can happen when a team is well-coached. They believe in themselves and have bought in completely. It isn’t always easy for a team to carry their momentum forward from one weekend to the next, but if they can then they are tough.
Kansas had a real scare against Purdue, and N.C. State is similarly gritty and committed, so this one could be interesting.
Cincinnati (+8) vs. Ohio State
The Buckeyes are a good team playing well. They should win.
I was high on the Bearcats heading into the Big East tournament, though, and I have only been more impressed each time they have played since. They are a tough, deep team that plays very well together. They are willing to fight, and they can change tempo and looks mid-game as well as anyone.
Ohio State should win, but Cincinnati is a team that could be tricky.
Louisville (+4.5) vs. Michigan State
I have been very impressed with Louisville. I’ve long been a Rick Pitino fan, but the last few years have conditioned me to be disappointed and pessimistic at tournament time. This team rolled through the Big East Tournament looking very good, and was even better in their first two games against very tough opponents in Davidson and especially New Mexico. They are a team that would not at all be out of place in the Final Four.
The only problem they have, though, is that Michigan State has been fantastic, and Draymond Green has been the best player in the tournament so far. Against any other team except Kentucky I would be all over Louisville, but here I am forced to be cautious.
The not so good
Indiana (+9) vs. Kentucky
Indiana has struggled with consistency, and hasn’t shown to be at the level of the most elite teams they have faced. Kentucky is just such a good team, and they haven’t even shown a hint of vulnerability so far.
With all due respect to the Hoosiers and this classic rivalry, I just don’t think that it’s a contest.
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