Finding a trend for the 2014 NCAA tournament is like trying to find meaning in a Michael Bay movie. These things don't exist because there is just random variance, which is seen when looking at a bracket today.
That's what makes the job of an oddsmaker so difficult, not to mention fascinating to look at in a deeper context.
With the Sweet 16 field set, it's time to start looking at who the people setting the lines favor and which teams in the biggest games are going to punch tickets to the Elite Eight.
Sweet 16 Schedule & Odds
|Date||Regional Semifinals||Time (ET)||TV||Odds|
|March 27||South—No. 10 Stanford vs. No. 11 Dayton||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Stanford (-2.5)|
|March 27||West—No. 2 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Baylor||7:47 p.m.||TBS||Wisconsin (-4)|
|March 27||South—No. 1 Florida vs. No. 4 UCLA||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Florida (-5.5)|
|March 27||West—No. 1 Arizona vs. No. 4 San Diego State||10:17 p.m.||TBS||Arizona (-6)|
|March 28||Midwest—No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 11 Tennessee||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Michigan (-2)|
|March 28||East—No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Connecticut||7:27 p.m.||TBS||Pick 'Em|
|March 28||Midwest—No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Louisville (-5)|
|March 28||East—No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State||9:57 p.m.||TBS||Michigan State (-1)|
Odds courtesy of VegasInsider.com
East Region: No. 3 Iowa State vs. No. 7 Connecticut
Considering the way both Iowa State and Connecticut looked in the round of 32, this matchup could take place in the Final Four and no one would think it strange.
Instead we get a Sweet 16 treat with the Cyclones bringing their fast-paced offense into Madison Square Garden against Shabazz Napier and the hungry Huskies.
The assumption was that Iowa State's offense would suffer without star player Georges Niang, who suffered a broken foot in the second round against North Carolina Central, but as ESPN Stats and Information pointed out, DeAndre Kane was more than happy to pick up the slack.
DeAndre Kane 24 pts,10 rbds, 7 assists (3rd to do that in Tournament game since 2000- Draymond Green and Dwyane Wade) pic.twitter.com/jJiQcUYbZ4— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 24, 2014
On the other side, UConn has its own injury concerns. Napier's leg was wrapped up following the Huskies' win over Villanova, according to Don Amore of the Hartford Courant.
Napier had 25 points in 25 mins. Right shin is wrapped. #uconnmen— Dom Amore (@AmoreCourant) March 23, 2014
Hopefully Napier plays at close to full strength, because it would be a crime to see these two teams lock horns with the stigma of an injury to one of the best players in the nation hanging over the game.
This is the most difficult Sweet 16 game to predict because Iowa State's offense is different without Niang. We know the Cyclones put up a ton of points in the regular season (82.9 per game, sixth in the nation).
On the other side, Connecticut's defense is one of the best units in the country. The Huskies ranked 37th overall, allowing 63.7 points per game, and 25th in defensive efficiency.
A healthy Napier makes the Huskies dangerous. Even without him, Iowa State's defensive limitations and UConn's stingy D give the Huskies the edge.
Prediction: Connecticut 74, Iowa State 68
Midwest Region: No. 4 Louisville vs. No. 8 Kentucky
This will be 4th meeting of John Calipari and Rick Pitino as head coaches in the tournament. Pitino has won 2 of the previous 3— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 24, 2014
The Cardinals were a team that got a lot of love from fans and analysts after seeds were announced for being too low as a No. 4, but so far they haven't played like a better team.
Which Sweet 16 game will have the most lopsided margin of defeat?
Pitino's bunch struggled against Manhattan in the second round and looked sluggish offensively, except for Luke Hancock, in defeating St. Louis.
Kentucky, on the other hand, seems to have hit its stride at just the right time. The Wildcats' victory over Wichita State was a thrilling, back-and-forth affair that was ultimately won because of the brilliant coaching by Calipari.
It also helped that the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, played out of their minds with 39 combined points.
Before the season started, Kentucky's freshman class was touted as one of the best in history, possibly eclipsing Michigan's Fab Five in terms of raw talent.
But the Wildcats never fully gelled in the regular season, losing 10 games and looking at times like a team loaded with freshmen. The Wichita State game was a huge turning point for the group, proving they could face a great team and not wither under the pressure after falling behind.
Pitino is going to coach the heck out of this game, we know that. He's got a fantastic team to work with, but the talent is with Kentucky.
Prediction: Kentucky 71, Louisville 69
East Region: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State
The matchup everyone wanted to see in the East Region, top-seeded Virginia gets to prove that it wasn't just the best team in a mediocre ACC by going up against a Michigan State squad that eight out of 10 CBS Sports experts predicted to make the Final Four.
Even the oddsmakers aren't giving Virginia respect in this game, despite the Cavaliers' destruction of Memphis in the round of 32, giving the Spartans a one-point advantage heading into the Sweet 16 clash.
Laura Keeley of the Raleigh News & Observer wrote that everything the ACC did during the regular season now rests on the shoulders of Virginia because everyone else has been eliminated.
The ACC is cognizant of that fact, too, which is why Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski took to stumping for the league in recent weeks. Fairly or not, leagues tend to be judged for their postseason participation and success. For the ACC, Virginia stands alone.
Another reason for Virginia being disrespected by analysts and prognosticators is the obscure nature of the program. No one expected the Cavaliers to be as good as they have been this season, leading to the inevitable doubts about when the other shoe will drop.
But it hasn't happened yet. Michigan State is used to being in this position. Tom Izzo is one of the great coaches in history, has made it to the Sweet 16 three straight years and 11 times since 1998.
The Spartans hit their peak in the Big Ten tournament and haven't slowed down since, led by Adreian Payne's 41 points against Delaware, and avoided the sharpshooting ways of Harvard in the round of 32.
Matt Norlander of CBS Sports believes Michigan State will defeat Virginia by at least 10 points.
This will rankle Virginia fans, but it has nothing to do with their team. I think Tony Bennett has started a course that will bring him to just about every NCAA Tournament over the next decade. I simply believe MSU's going to get through this game by matching up with Virginia at every position. I think it has the point guard in Keith Appling, and the backup point guard in Travis Trice, to match UVA's pack-line defense.
Even though that seems like a gross underestimation of Virginia's ability, the Spartans will win the game. It will just be much closer than Norlander projects because the Cavaliers' defense isn't going to let the Spartans pull away.
Prediction: Michigan State 66, Virginia 61
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