The Sweet 16-Betting and Capping the 2009 March Madness Tournament

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The Sweet 16-Betting and Capping the 2009 March Madness Tournament

The field of 65 has been narrowed to 16 as bettors look forward to eight regional semifinal games on Thursday and Friday. For the fifth consecutive season, all four No. 1 seeds advanced beyond the first weekend.

The Big East lived up to its reputation as the nation’s best conference by sending five schools to the Sweet 16. On the flip side, the ACC was a disappointment with only a pair of teams remaining. The Big 12 has three teams still ticking.

North Carolina, which covered the spread in back-to-back wins over Radford and LSU, remains the plus-250 ‘chalk’ to cut the nets down in Detroit at BetSportsWeb.com (risk $100 to win $250).

The Tar Heels got all they wanted from LSU but thanks to 23 points from Ty Lawson in his return from a three-game absence, UNC moved on to face Gonzaga.

As of Tuesday afternoon, BetSportsWeb had North Carolina as an eight-and-a-half-point favorite with a total of 162 ½. Roy Williams and Co. will be looking to avenge an 82-74 loss to the ‘Zags at Madison Square Garden two seasons ago.

Mark Few’s team has only been an underdog once this season, winning outright in overtime at Tennessee as a four-point ‘dog. As for UNC, it owns an abysmal 1-5 spread record in six games as a single-digit favorite.

“Without Lawson at full strength, North Carolina had looked vulnerable, especially in the loss to FSU in the ACC Tournament,” VegasInsider.com handicapper Bill Marzano said.

Marzano, who had a 9-4 record in Saturday and Sunday’s second-round games, added, “But Lawson was the catalyst in the second half against LSU and with him back in the lineup, UNC is once again the team to beat.”

The ‘over’ is 18-14 overall for UNC, 16-14 overall for Gonzaga. The Bulldogs have seen the ‘over’ hit at an 8-2 clip in their last 10 games, but this is the highest total they have had all season. Gonzaga hasn’t had any totals in the 160s and the ‘under’ went 2-1 in its two games with tallies in the 150s.

The other South region game in Memphis will pit Syracuse against Oklahoma. The Sooners were one-point favorites at BetSportsWeb.com as of Tuesday.

Jim Boeheim’s team is on fire with nine wins in its last 10 games both straight up and against the spread.

The ‘Cuse looked outstanding in easy wins over Stephen F. Austin and Arizona St. this past weekend. Meanwhile, Jeff Capel’s squad snapped out of a 1-5 ATS slide to take the money in a pair of victories over Morgan St. and Michigan.

If you’re thinking Blake Griffin can pull a Danny Manning circa 1988 and lead OU to the national championship, you can still make an attractive future wager on the Sooners for a plus-2000 return (risk $100 to win $2,000). The Orange are plus-1800 at BetSportsWeb.

“I think the OU-Syracuse winner has a legit shot at winning it all,” Marzano said. “Both still have extremely attractive odds and if there’s a future wager to make right now, it’s definitely on one of these schools. Griffin is nasty and can carry Oklahoma, while the ‘Cuse has offensive weapons galore and Big East moxy.”

Check out the NCAA Men’s Basketball Lines at BetSportsWeb.

Connecticut might have been the most impressive No. 1 seed in the first two rounds. The Huskies spanked Chattanooga and Texas A&M by 82 combined points. They will now square off against Purdue on Thursday in Glendale.

BetSportsWeb has UConn at plus-500 for future wagers and favored by six and a half over the Boilermakers. Matt Painter’s team has compiled a 3-2 ATS record in five games as an underdog this year.

Purdue has the second-longest odds to win it all, as bettors can back it for a plus-5200 return (risk $100 to win $5,200).

The UConn-Purdue winner will face the Missouri-Memphis winner. For the Battle of the Tigers, Memphis is a four-and-a-half-point favorite with a total of 141. I love the ‘over’ in this spot, as both teams like to get up and down.

Mike Anderson’s squad likes to press for 40 minutes and John Calipari’s bunch will look to attack the pressure defense to score. Gamblers will get the frenetic pace they’re looking for and the only way it’ll stay ‘under’ is if both teams shoot a terrible percentage.

Louisville’s future odds have been adjusted to plus-440 after the top-seeded Cardinals slipped past a game Siena squad in a 79-72 second-round triumph. Rick Pitino’s team is listed as a nine-point ‘chalk’ for Friday’s game vs. Arizona in Indianapolis.

The Wildcats are the lone double-digit seed left following wins over Utah and Cleveland St. They have the longest odds to win it all (plus-5600) and are plus-415 to beat the Cardinals outright.

If Louisville advances, it will face the Kansas-Michigan St. winner. The Spartans are two-point favorites against the defending champs. The Jayhawks will be looking to avenge a 75-62 loss in East Lansing on Jan. 10.

If there was a top seed that struggled the first weekend, it was certainly Pittsburgh. The Panthers failed to cover the spread in wins over East Tennessee St. and Oklahoma St. In fact, ETSU had gamblers thinking about its upset win over Arizona in 1992 that was sparked by Keith “Mister” Jennings.

However, Sam Young and DeJuan Blair were too much at crunch time, helping Jamie Dixon’s team pull away from the Bucs in the last two minutes. The Cowboys provided the Steel City with plenty of anxious moments on Sunday, too.

Oklahoma St. and Pitt went toe to toe for 38 minutes before the Panthers eventually collected an 84-76 win. Pitt will now take on Xavier on Thursday in Boston. BetSportsWeb has the Panthers listed as seven-point favorites against Sean Miller’s team.

Miller, who was an All Big East player at Pitt from 1987-1992, will be facing his alma mater. The Muskateers, who are plus-4500 to win it all, advanced with wins both SU and ATS over Portland St. and Wisconsin. Pitt’s future number has been moved to plus-475 (risk $100 to win $475).

The Pitt-Xavier winner will face the Villanova-Duke winner. The Blue Devils are 2 ½-point favorites against the Wildcats, who had to rally from a 14-point second-half deficit to beat American in the first round. After that scare, ‘Nova demolished UCLA in Saturday’s second-round showdown.

Duke survived a nail-biter against Texas to get out of the first weekend of the Big Dance for the first time since 2006. The Blue Devils, who have plus-1300 odds to win their fourth national title under Mike Krzyzewski, have won nine of their last 10 games.

Bet NCAA Basketball Lines at BetSportsWeb.com.

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