To say that March Madness has lived up to its name so far would be an understatement. As we hit the Sweet 16 matchups, there have been upsets galore, and more than a few teams are still left who were expected to have bowed out long ago.
Let’s take a dive into the Thursday schedule of the Sweet 16. We will learn how each team got here, what the matchup looks like, and the betting stats to watch as each team battles for a shot at the Elite 8.
|(3) Kansas St.||+2 (-110)||o137.5 (-110)||(7) Michigan St.||March 23, 6:30 PM|
|(4) Connecticut||-3.5 (-110)||o140 (-110)||(8) Arkansas||March 23, 7:15 PM|
|(4) Tennessee||-5.5 (-110)||o130.5 (-110)||(9) Florida Atlantic||March 23, 9:00 PM|
|(2) UCLA||-2 (-110)||o145.5 (-110)||(3) Gonzaga||March 23, 9:45 PM|
(7) Michigan State vs (3) Kansas State (+2, 137.5 o/u)
Time (ET): 6:30 PM
Odds to win tournament: Michigan State (+2000), Kansas State (+2200)
Previous tournament games:
- Round of 64 – MSU 72, USC 62 (Spartans covered as 2.5-point favourites, teams played under 136.5-point total)
- Round of 32 – MSU 69, Marquette 60 (Spartans covered as 3-point underdogs, teams played under 139-point total)
- Round of 64 – KSU 77, Montana St 65 (Wildcats covered as 8.5-point favorites, teams played over 139.5-point total)
- Round of 32 – KSU 75, Kentucky 69 (Wildcats covered as 3-point underdogs, teams played over 142.5-point total)
Both teams have started fast and finished strong as they head into this Sweet 16 matchup. Kansas State is having something of a resurgence season as the program has not traditionally been a strong one within the Big 12. The Wildcats’ top-20 defence has certainly been strong thus far and will need to continue to put in the work against a tough Spartan offence.
Michigan State, meanwhile, has been here before albeit not much in recent memory. The Big Ten powerhouse is back in the Sweet 16, the 15th time coach Tom Izzo has been here during his 28-year tenure. Izzo brings a level of composure and experience that not many head coaches across the country can match.
Michigan State’s defence has been the key for them, holding USC to 62 points and a potent Marquette outfit to just 60 points. The K-State offence has been surprisingly potent to date, particularly Markquis Nowell, who had 27 points in the win over Kentucky in the Round of 32.
Betting stat to know: The over is 4-1 in the Wildcats’ last five games overall and 4-0 in the team’s past four NCAA Tournament games.
Best bet: It’s hard to bet against Izzo, especially with a K-State team that hasn’t been here before. The Spartans -2 is a safe bet as they punch their ticket back to the Elite 8.
(8) Arkansas vs (4) UConn (-3.5, 140 o/u)
Time (ET): 7:15 PM
Odds to win tournament: Arkansas (+3000), UConn (+900)
Previous tournament games:
- Round of 64 – Arkansas 73, Illinois 63 (Razorbacks covered as 1.5-point favourites, teams played under 144-point total)
- Round of 32 – Arkansas 72, Kansas 71 (Razorbacks covered as 3.5-point underdogs, teams played under 144.5-point total)
- Round of 64 – UConn 87, Iona 63 (Huskies covered as 9.5-point favourites, teams went over 141-point total)
- Round of 32 – UConn 70, St. Mary’s 55 (Huskies covered as 4-point favourites, teams pushed 125-point total)
These teams have had very different paths to get here. For UConn, it has been a path of dominance. The Huskies have won both of their previous games by a combined 39 points, never looking like they were threatened at any point. Their early dominance has resulted in them having some of the highest expectations of the remaining teams.
Arkansas, meanwhile, had to climb the mountain to take down one-seed Kansas in the Round of 32. The Razorbacks’ elite, top-15 defene has been a catalyst for their success, holding an explosive Kansas squad to just 71 points.
UConn is balanced and deep, with a potent offence led by Adama Sanogo. Will the Arkansas defence be up to the task again? Or will it finally meet its match?
Betting stat to know: The interesting thing about the Razorbacks is that they’ve shot just 42.4% from the field despite winning both games. They’ll need to be better to beat a complete team like UConn.
Best bet: Adama Sanogo over 16.5 points. He was the driving force in a dominant win over St. Mary’s, and though he’ll likely get a feature look from the Razorback defence, he’s shown to be the key for UConn.
(9) Florida Atlantic vs (4) Tennessee (-5.5, 131.5 o/u)
Time (ET): 9:00 PM
Odds to win tournament: Florida Atlantic (+4000), Tennessee (+1000)
Previous tournament games:
- Round of 64 – FAU 66, Memphis 65 (Owls covered as 1.5-point underdogs, teams played under 153-point total)
- Round of 32 – FAU 78, FDU 70 (Owls didn’t cover as 15.5-point favourites, teams played under 148.5-point total)
- Round of 64 – Tennessee 58, LA-Lafayette 55 (Vols did not cover as 11-point favourites, teams played under 135.5-point total)
- Round of 32 – Tennessee 65, Duke 52 (Vols covered as 5.5-point underdogs, teams played under 128.5-point total)
Will the real Tennessee please stand up? The Vols limped their way into the tournament and had everyone writing them off after a narrow win over LA-Lafayette. They proved the critics wrong by smashing a favoured Duke team to reach the Sweet 16 for the ninth time in school history.
FAU, meanwhile, is something of a Cinderella story despite ending the dream of FDU. FAU’s offence proved to be the key with Johnell Davis putting up 29 points in the Owls’ win. That said, the competition gets a lot stiffer with the Vols.
Tennessee is still one of the most talented teams in the tournament and has the potential to make a deep run. If the Vols are finally figuring things out, it could spell trouble for FAU in the Sweet 16.
Betting stat to know: Tennessee is the second-ranked KenPom team in defensive efficiency and its defence has been crucial in its two wins. After banishing the ACC Tournament champions in Duke, it becomes clear that FAU’s offence will have its hands full handling Tennessee’s suffocating defence.
Best bet: Take the under of 131.5 points. Tennessee has played under the total in both of its games and FAU played under against FDU. The Tennessee defence is elite and has what it takes to keep this a low-scoring affair.
(3) Gonzaga vs (2) UCLA (-2, 145.5 o/u)
Time (ET): 9:45 PM
Odds to win tournament: Gonzaga (+1200), UCLA (+1000)
Previous tournament games:
- Round of 64 – Gonzaga 82, Grand Canyon 70 (Bulldogs didn’t cover as 15-point favourites, teams played under 156-point total)
- Round of 32 – Gonzaga 84, TCU 81 (Bulldogs didn’t cover as 4.5-favourites, teams went over 152.5-point total)
- Round of 64 – UCLA 86, UNC Asheville 53 (Bruins covered as 18-point favourites, teams went over 136-point total)
- Round of 32 – UCLA 68, Northwestern 63 (Bruins did not cover as 8-point favourites, teams went over 127-point total)
The matchup of the evening. Gonzaga has been a force in recent tournaments, but the team could never really figure out how to take the final step and claim a national championship. With fewer expectations, however, this might be the most dangerous Zags team to date, having beaten Grand Canyon and TCU to get here.
UCLA, meanwhile, is one of the favourites to win the tournament now that a pair of one-seeds have been erased. They’ve looked dominant in both victories, winning by a combined total of 38 points. The game against Northwestern wasn’t as close as it looked, with Northwestern making a late push to even get things relatively close.
Betting stat to know: Gonzaga led the nation in effective field goal percentage, coming in at 58.5%. Here’s a second counter stat for you, though: UCLA has held its opponents to just 37.3% field goal shooting through both of its tournament games.
Best bet: Though the UCLA defence has been strong, Gonzaga over 71.5 points is a sound bet to take. The Zags offence has been strong in both wins and even a great defensive team shouldn’t be able to totally lock them down.