The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament saw its share of upsets, but as the Sweet 16 tips off, there are still plenty of great basketball teams remaining in the field and great games for us to place wagers.
Thursday – March 24
No. 4 Arkansas vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (-8.5)
Yes, the top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs were pushed to the brink by Memphis and actually trailed at halftime before a furious second-half comeback. But they did make that comeback, and they are simply going to be too much for Arkansas.
The Razorbacks don’t have the same athleticism that Memphis does, and the going in this round is going to be easier for Gonzaga because of it. Look for the No. 1 seed to cover the spread and advance.
No. 11 Michigan (+5) vs. No. 2 Villanova
In San Antonio, four years after Villanova beat Michigan there to claim the National Championship, these two teams are back, meeting for just the fourth time in history.
Villanova got over on Michigan then, and they are likely to do it again on Thursday. But the one-time sixth-ranked Wolverines are enjoying their role as underdogs, and they will keep this game close. The Wildcats experience wins in the end but look for Michigan to play tough and cover.
Friday – March 25
No. 15 St. Peter’s (+12.5) vs. No. 3 Purdue
Would it be crazy to bet on St. Peter’s to beat Purdue outright and make it to the Elite Eight?
Yes. Yes, that would be crazy. But what isn’t crazy is to think that Cinderella, after knocking off Kentucky and Murray St., can play the Boilermakers tough.
The game is in Philadelphia, just down the road from the St. Peter’s campus, and thousands of fans who had never heard of St. Peter’s a week ago will be in the arena and pulling for the Peacocks.
Purdue is too much, and the Cinderella story ends, but it will be a good game, and St. Peter’s has an excellent chance to cover.
No. 11 Iowa State (+2.5) vs. No. 10 Miami
A year ago, Iowa State had just two wins and were completely shut out in Big 12 play. Now they have the fifth-best defense in the country, allowing just 88.5 points per 100 possessions, and they force turnovers at the fourth-best rate in the country.
Miami has three good scoring guards in Charlie Moore, Kameron McGusty, and Isaiah Wong, but the Hurricane defense is abysmal.
They give up an FG rate of 52.9%, which ranks 298th in the country. That Miami deficiency, combined with Iowa State’s great defense, will help the Cyclones cover this spread and possibly win outright.
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