NCAA Tournament 2012: Sweet 16 Picks Against the Spread

Randy ChambersAnalyst IMarch 21, 2012

NCAA Tournament 2012: Sweet 16 Picks Against the Spread

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    The Sweet 16 is just about 24 hours from tipping off, which means that it's about that time to check out the odds and make those picks. But with the matchups so close and the stats just about even, making picks in these rounds can become a little exhausting.

    That's why I'm here to try and help you feel a little more comfortable about your picks.

    How many double-digit seeds will advance to the Elite Eight? Who will get upset and sent home a bit earlier than they would like? Which teams have the advantage in the one-versus-four matchups? All of those questions and more are answered, as we dive into the Sweet 16 matchups.

    Picking mascots and team colors is over with; this is the time where doing a bit of research pays off and will help you earn the big bucks. Here are predictions against the spread for the Sweet 16 matchups. 

Wisconsin vs. Syracuse

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    Syracuse played much better in the second tournament game against Kansas State, but Wisconsin isn't the same team as the Wildcats. I really don't like the Orange without Fab Melo and think they'll struggle even more against the fantastic defense of the Badgers. Wisconsin turns the ball over less than nine times a game, which is second in the country, so Syracuse won't be able to get out in transition as easily.

    Syracuse is best in transition, but the second they actually have to work on the offensive end and have to settle for long jump shots, they'll end up losing. Wisconsin is that team that should knock the Orange out of this tournament. They don’t turn the ball over, and the 52.9 points allowed is the best in the country.

    The Badgers aren't a high-scoring team, but they won't need a lot of points if they play their defense and don't play sloppy on the offensive end. Syracuse is the favorite in this game, but I really think the Badgers can win this game straight up, so taking added points is just a bonus.

    Badgers are 5-1 against the spread in their last six neutral-site games, and are 4-1 against the spread in their last five NCAA tournament games.

    The Pick: Wisconsin, +3.5

Louisville vs. Michigan State

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    Is this the game were Louisville and their magical season finally comes to an end?

    I think so, and simply because Michigan State is a much more balanced team. They're both great defensively, but the Spartans are the team that averages 72 points per contest. In all nine of the Cardinals' losses, they failed to get even close to that amount of points.

    Michigan State, for the most part, also does a great job of holding onto the ball, which will limit the transition opportunities for the Cardinals. I also don't see who for Louisville will be able to stop senior Draymond Green. He's a big body who is absolutely on a mission during the tournament, and Louisville doesn't have an answer for him in the paint.

    Besides, I'll take the more consistent team over the team that lost by 31 to Providence earlier in the year.

    Spartans are 4-1 against the spread in their last five games overall and are 5-1 against the spread in their last six neutral-site games.

    The Pick: Michigan State, -4.5

Cincinnati vs. Ohio State

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    The Bearcats seem to be that solid team that just keeps on winning, but I think that winning streak comes to an end in this matchup. Ohio State is just too good offensively, allows on average less than 60 points per game and has that dominant post player in Jared Sullinger—not to mention Cincinnati shoots a horrible free-throw percentage at 64 percent and aren't that great offensively.

    With that said, the Bearcats aren't a bad team at all and should be able to use their defense and rebounding to keep the game close. The Buckeyes let a young Gonzaga team stay around for most of the game, so a balanced and battle-tested Cincinnati team should be able to cover.

    The Buckeyes should win the game straight up, but Cincinnati will make you money.

    Bearcats are 8-1 against the spread in their last nine games overall and are 4-1 against the spread in their last five neutral-site games.

    The Pick: Cincinnati, +7.5

Florida vs. Marquette

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    This is one of the more difficult games to pick because I personally like both teams' style of play, and believe they both can continue to make a strong run in the tournament. But one team is going to go home, so I'll end up going with Florida in a close victory.

    The Gators have been shooting lights out lately, and I think that will continue for at least one more game. I'm not sure the Golden Eagles have enough offensive firepower to keep up with a team that shoots over 38 percent from beyond the arc. Sure, Marquette has NBA talent in Jae Crowder, but underrated player Patric Young should be able to keep him in check and help control the glass for Florida.

    Marquette also has a problem with going on a serious scoring drought, where they don't score for long periods of time. Let that happen in this game, and the game will likely be over by halftime. I think this will be a close game, but I'll go with that team that can score at will and has a head coach in Billy Donovan, who's already won a couple of national championships.

    Gators are 5-1 against the spread in their last six NCAA tournament games, and are 4-1 against the spread in their last five neutral-site games.

    The Pick: Florida, +1.5

Xavier vs. Baylor

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    There are many reasons to pick the human highlighters (Baylor) in this game, and that's the team I'm going to go with. The Bears are a very long and athletic team that should cause many problems for a smaller Xavier team.

    The Musketeers turn the ball over 12.5 times a game, allow way too many rebounds for my taste and shoot under 70 percent from the free-throw line. They also rely a ton on their guard play and Tu Holloway to bail them out. Overall, you have to like the Bears in this game considering their size and the Musketeers' lack thereof. Look for the Bears to overwhelm Xavier on the glass and eventually pull away late in the game to cover the spread.

    Bears are 4-0 against the spread in their last four NCAA tournament games as a favorite and are 4-1 against the spread in their last five neutral-site games as a favorite.

    The Pick: Baylor, -6

Ohio vs. North Carolina

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    Ohio will win this game.

    Well, maybe not win, but they should cover the spread at least. The Bobcats play solid defense, only allowing 62.4 points per game, and could get a big break with point guard Kendall Marshall likely out of the game. That forces a big issue with North Carolina and questions about them running the offense—not to mention they turn the ball over 12 times a game and don't shoot well.

    The Tar Heels shoot under 69 percent from the free-throw line and under 35 percent from beyond the arc. Now, Ohio isn't a good rebounding team and don't score a lot, but they do play defense and make over seven three-pointers a game.

    Obviously the Bobcats won't win the game straight up, but with the underdog mentality and much of the crowd behind them, they should be able to keep things a lot closer than expected.

    Bobcats are 9-0 against the spread in their last nine non-conference games and are 4-1 against the spread in their last five NCAA tournament games.

    The Pick: Ohio, +10.5

Indiana vs. Kentucky

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    Kentucky will win this game because they're simply the more talented team, and that alone should carry them in this game. Add on the fact that the Wildcats were beaten by the Hoosiers earlier this year, and you have a revenge factor for the Wildcats (as if they needed any more motivation to win this game).

    The Hoosiers turned the ball over 22 times in the tight victory over VCU. Well, Kentucky is capable of bringing that same pressure, and they also happen to be the 20th highest scoring team in the country (unlike VCU).

    With all that said, I do like Indiana to keep things close and cover the spread. They have the confidence knowing they've already beaten the Wildcats this season, and they shoot the ball extremely well at 55 percent. I expect them to continue to knock down shots and Cody Zeller should help control the glass to keep things close.

    Although, in the end, I see Kentucky making one or two more shots for the straight-up victory.

    Indiana is 8-1 against the spread in their last nine non-conference games and are 5-2 against the spread in their last seven games overall.

    The Pick: Indiana, +9

N.C. State vs. Kansas

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    This is the ultimate upset of the week, as I have the Wolfpack winning this game straight up, but I'll gladly take the eight points given to me. North Carolina State is a very long and athletic team that's capable of scoring and playing great defense, as they hold opponents to under 42 percent shooting.

    Kansas really hasn't impressed me the last couple of games in the tournament, nearly losing to Purdue and allowing Detroit to hang around a lot longer than they should have. The Wolfpack just seem to be that team that has gotten hot at the right time, and I'm finally jumping on the bandwagon. After all, they have beaten Georgetown and Texas and held their own against Duke and North Carolina a couple of times.

    Besides, it wouldn't be March Madness if one double-digit seed didn't reach the Elite Eight, right?

    The Wolfpack are 15-5 against the spread in road games in non-conference games over the last three seasons and are 18-4 against the spread in road games on Friday nights since 1997.

    The Pick: North Carolina State, +8