Sweet 16 Predictions: Picking Friday's Games Against the Spread

Tim KeeneyContributor IMarch 29, 2013

LEXINGTON, KY - MARCH 23: Peyton Siva #3 of the Louisville Cardinals gestures as he walks off the court after defeating the Colorado State Rams during the third round of the 2013 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Rupp Arena on March 23, 2013 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Now that your bracket is ripped up and in the garbage, you're going to need another incentive for watching the upcoming Sweet 16 games.

You know, besides the thrilling, potential instant-classic basketball being played.

Well, how about betting some of that hard-earned money on the games? That will surely get you interested—and probably angry—real quickly. 

If that's the sort of thing you might be interested in, here's a look at my picks for Friday's matchups against the spread. 


Louisville (-9.5) over Oregon

The Louisville bandwagon has people pouring out the sides right now, but the Cardinals still didn't get enough praise for their win over Colorado State in the round of 32.

This was a Rams squad that was beef-jerky strong. It rebounded the ball better than anyone in the nation, led the country in amount of noses bloodied and, most importantly for a team facing Louisville, was good at protecting the rock. 

And the Cardinals beat them by 26 points. 

I mean, we all expected Louisville to win, but to completely annihilate a strong, physical, experienced team with a talented point guard? Come on

Now, Oregon is coming off an equally impressive win over Saint Louis, but the Ducks turned the ball over 18 times and continue to rank near the bottom of the barrel in turnover percentage.  

That won't fly against Louisville. 

9.5 points is a lot in a Sweet 16 game, but the Cardinals are embarrassing teams right now. Their defense is like HAVOC on steroids, Russ Smith is producing (efficiently!), Peyton Siva has turned back into March Peyton Siva and the role players are, well, playing their roles. 


Duke (-1.5) over Michigan State

I went back and forth on on this one. 

The Spartans' duo of Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix should give Mason Plumlee all kinds of trouble on the inside, while Gary Harris showed glimpses of lottery-pick potential against Memphis. 

But it's hard to ignore Duke's resume. 

With stretch-4 Ryan Kelly in the lineup, the Blue Devils have lost just one game, all the while beating teams like Louisville, Ohio State, VCU, Temple, Miami and, most recently, an offensively elite Creighton squad by 16. 

No matter what way you want over-analyze the matchup, it comes down to this: There's no way a Sweet 16 matchup between Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski won't come down to the wire.

And when that's the case, I'd much rather gamble on a backcourt—always crucial in these situations—of Seth Curry and Quinn Cook than one consisting of Keith Appling, who has been as unpredictable as a hippopotamus in a McDonald's.  

Take Duke in what is basically a pick-em. 


Michigan over Kansas (-2.5)

The point guard is the most important player on the court, and Michigan just so happens to have the best one in the country in Trey Burke while Kansas has Elijah Johnson, who is inconsistent and not really a true point guard. 

That's not a good start for the Jayhawks. 

Additionally, the momentum is slightly different for both squads. 

The Wolverines dominated both sides of the court against South Dakota State and VCU, getting two massive victories. The Jayhawks had a terrific second half against North Carolina, but the first 60 minutes of the tourney were some of the worst they've played all season.

And they lost to TCU. 

Take the team with the massive advantage in the backcourt, the team with the vital freshmen (Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary) playing at an elite level, the team whose star isn't struggling, the team with more momentum, the team being given points. 


Florida Gulf Coast over Florida (-11.5)

Billy Donovan is a tournament genius. He has a sparkling Big Dance record of 30-10, and had nearly a week to prepare for Florida Gulf Coast, who snuck up on Georgetown, San Diego State and America. 

Moreover, this year's Gator squad tends to win games in blowout fashion. In fact, it hasn't won a game via single digits all season. 

Put it all together, and Florida winning big is probably the intelligent pick here, right?

Oh well.

The Eagles are thrilling. They play at break-neck speeds, throw alley-oops whenever possible (and sometimes whenever not possible) and someone is just always there to go up and get it.

Dunk City is the greatest show on earth right now, and I'm not picking against them (with 11 points on their side), no matter what stupid logic or history tries to tell me. 


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