Sweet Sixteen preview and best bets

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

By Phil Simon
First Round NCAA Tournament Preview and Best Bets

On to the Sweet 16! That’s what the top three seeds in each region said after advancing past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament. There were no major upsets in the first two rounds with No. 12 Oregon the worst-seeded team to reach the regional semifinals. Duke, the No. 1 overall seed, escaped the upset bid of Central Florida and advanced to face ACC rival Virginia Tech in one of four Friday games. The Dookies and Virginia Cavaliers both opened as the biggest favorites in the Sweet 16 giving 7.5-points to their opponent. Five teams from the ACC are still alive, though at least one will go home. And there’s still a chance we could have an all-ACC Final Four.

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Sweet 16 – Thursday, March 21

No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 1 Gonzaga ( -6.5, 147.5 ), 7:09 p.m. ET (CBS)

The only No. 1 seed not from the ACC has a score to settle with its opponent. In this round last year, the Noles beat the Zags to advance to the Elite 8, denying the Bulldogs a chance for a second straight trip to the Final Four. The Zags didn’t have Brandon Clarke last year and the San Jose State transfer showed how good he is against Baylor, just in case you had doubts. Clarke dropped 36 on the Bears and his defense shattered the spirit of Baylor. Clarke blocked five shots and added eight rebounds to go along with 15 of 18 shooting. Rui Hachimura had only six points and the Zags still won by 12. They are scary good and will administer some payback for last season. But the Bulldogs win because they are a better team.

Sweet 16 Score Prediction: Gonzaga 83, Florida State 69

No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 1 Virginia ( -7.5, 119 ), 9:59 p.m. ET (TBS)

The total for this one is the lowest on the Sweet 16 board, and for good reason. Both teams are stingy on the defensive side and points will be at a premium. The Ducks figured things out midway through the year and are probably the hottest team in college hoops right now having won 10 games in a row. Their athleticism will give the Cavs fits and they have length on the wings to hinder UVA’s three-point shooters. This may look like the easiest matchup on paper, but the Ducks are rolling and they will pull off another upset to advance to the Elite 8.

Sweet 16 Score Prediction: Oregon 64, Virginia 59

Basketball Sports Betting

No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 2 Tennesse ( -1, 146.5 ), 7:29 p.m. ET (TBS)

Two power conference well represented in the Sweet 16 will have their teams square off against each other. The Vols narrowly got by Colgate in the first round and needed overtime to take out another Big Ten foe Iowa in the second. They now must stop Carsen Edwards and the Boilermakers to reach the Elite 8. Edwards broke out of a shooting slump to score 42 points in the Boilers rout of Villanova, guaranteeing a new national champion. And that could very easily be Purdue with its devastating inside-outside game with Edwards and Matt Haarms.

Sweet 16 Score Prediction: Purdue 75, Tennessee 72

No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 2 Michigan ( -2, 126.5 ), 9:39 p.m. ET (CBS)

Teams that scratched and clawed their way to the Sweet 16 will face each other in what is sure to be a backyard brawl. They aren’t pretty, but they are effective, especially on the defensive end. Texas Tech and Michigan rank first and second respectively in adjusted defensive efficiency so it will be difficult to score. The Wolverines have more options with Charles Matthews, Ignas Brazdeikis, Jordan Poole and Zavier Simpson. The X-factor is going to be big man John Teske, who can score down low and protect the rim. Keep the Red Raiders out of the paint and UM’s perimeter defense will blanket the Tech shooters, allowing the Wolverines to score just enough to advance to the next round.

Sweet 16 Score Prediction: Michigan 64, Texas Tech 61

Sweet 16 – Friday, March 29

4 Virginia Tech vs. 1 Duke ( -7.5, 144.5 ), 9:39 p.m. ET (CBS)

The Dookies were that close to not even being here, surviving a scare and two short attempts by Central Florida at the game-winning bucket. They showed poise, however, coming back to get the victory in what Coach K called “a will to win.” These ACC rivals met in February with the Hokies pulling off the upset, 77-72, on their home floor. Zion Williamson wasn’t a part of that game and neither was Tech’s Justin Robinson. With two top players back in action we’ll see which team has the better lineup. Williamson will help get Duke a win, but Tech has played well and Robinson is finding his legs. Along with Kerry Blackshear, they should keep the Hokies close enough to cover the line.

Sweet 16 Score Prediction: Duke 77, Virginia Tech 72

3 LSU vs. 2 Michigan State ( -5.5, 149.5 ), 7:09 p.m. ET (CBS)

With all the turmoil surrounding the program, it’s amazing LSU is even here. They won the SEC regular season but chaos ensued near the end of the season with Will Wade suspended. The Tigers banded together, got Javonte Smart reinstated after a one-game absence and defied the critics by beating Yale and Maryland. There weren’t given much of a chance to escape the first weekend, but here they are. And they are a stronger team because of it. I like Sparty and Cassius Winston is a star, but the Tigers have something going on and Tremont Waters isn’t about to let it stop now.

Sweet 16 Score Prediction: LSU 79, Michigan State 77

5 Auburn vs. 1 North Carolina ( -5, 162 ), 7:29 p.m. ET (TBS)

It’s not often that UNC flies under the radar, but that’s what feels like is happening. With Duke getting most of the attention, the Heels are quietly going about their business and have one of the most potent offenses in the country. They beat Duke twice, granted the Devils didn’t have Zion, and they nearly beat them in the ACC tournament when Williamson did play. The Heels are a motivated group and even the stubborn Auburn Tigers aren’t getting in their way.

Sweet 16 Score Prediction: North Carolina 84, Auburn 75

3 Houston vs. 2 Kentucky ( -2.5, 135.5 ), 9:59 p.m. ET (TBS)

This is a tough matchup for Kentucky, and it’s tougher if PJ Washington is unable to play. Washington missed the first two games of the Tournament and the team is hopeful he can participate this weekend. Without his versatility and team-best points per game average, the Cats locked down defensively to eliminate Wofford in the second-round. That style is just fine with the Cougs, who have one of the best defensive teams in the country. Corey Davis Jr. is a load and the Cats will have a hard time slowing him down, and I like the Cougs to pull off the upset.

Sweet 16 Score Prediction: Houston 64, Kentucky 59

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