Sweet 16 Predictions: Odds, Picks Against Spread for Every Matchup

Sterling XieCorrespondent IIMarch 24, 2014

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 28:  Luke Hancock #11 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball while defended by Julius Randle #30 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the game at Rupp Arena on December 28, 2013 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

If the first week of the NCAA tournament is a celebration for the Cinderellas, then the second week is when the Goliaths of the college basketball world begin asserting their dominance.

While underdogs like No. 11 seeds Dayton and Tennessee are still alive, they are no longer the tournament's focal point. Rather, with premier matchups on the dock or on the near horizon, next weekend provides an opportunity for the top championship contenders to shine.

 

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To get an early gauge on national perception, here are the early lines for every matchup below, as well as predictions on who will cover those spreads:

Sweet Sixteen Lines
GameLinePick vs. Spread
Florida vs. UCLAFLA -5.5FLA
Stanford vs. DaytonSTA -2.5DAY
Wisconsin vs. BaylorWIS -4.5WIS
Arizona vs. San Diego St.N/AN/A
Iowa St. vs. UConnPKISU
Virginia vs. Michigan St.MSU -1MSU
Michigan vs. TennesseeMICH -2MICH
Louisville vs. KentuckyLOU -5KEN
VegasInsider.com

Let's zoom in on a few of those tougher-to-call contests and dissect who might have the upper hand.

 

Michigan State (-1) over Virginia

SPOKANE, WA - MARCH 22:  Adreian Payne #5 Denzel Valentine #45 Travis Trice #20 Gary Harris #14 and Branden Dawson #22 of the Michigan State Spartans look on against the Harvard Crimson in the second half during the Third Round of the 2014 NCAA Basketball
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

That the fourth-seeded Spartans are actually slight favorites over top-seeded Virginia is a reflection of the perception that Michigan State has been the East Region's favorite all along. Interestingly, despite the likelihood of the Big Ten champs being favored, the numbers actually give a noticeable edge to Virginia:

The Cavaliers' biggest advantage is their defense, which ranked fifth in adjusted defensive rating during the regular season. Since a shaky first half against Coastal Carolina, Virginia has been on absolute lockdown mode, and hot shooting from Joe Harris and Anthony Gill has sustained the offense.

For the Spartans, their offense-by-committee approach is a crucial advantage in cracking the Virginia defense. The X-factor could be forward Brenden Dawson, who scored a season-high 26 points against Harvard in the round of 32.

Ultimately, Michigan State's balanced offensive approach offers numerous methods of attack, from both the perimeter and the interior. It's hard to imagine one of Adreian Payne, Gary Harris or Keith Appling not stepping up and carrying the Spartans into the Elite Eight.

 

Kentucky (+5) over Louisville

LEXINGTON, KY - DECEMBER 28:  Russ Smith #2 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball while defended by Aaron Harrison #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the game at Rupp Arena on December 28, 2013 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Ima
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Kentucky was arguably the most disappointing team of the regular season but has finally demonstrated the expected form that made it the top-ranked team in the preseason polls. Now, facing in-state rival Louisville, the Wildcats have a bit of history on their side:

Of course, the more relevant history is the earlier meeting between the two teams this season, which the Wildcats won, 73-66, at Rupp Arena. The Harrison twins combined for 28 points in that contest, and coming off a huge combined 39-point showing against Wichita State, the two are hot coming into the Sweet 16.

Russ Smith remains the engine that drives Louisville. It's an encouraging sign that despite two woeful shooting performances from the senior guard, the Cardinals have received clutch performances from the likes of Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell and Chris Jones to keep the offense afloat.

Kentucky's frontcourt size is a huge advantage for the Wildcats, and if Harrell picks up any foul trouble, the Cards could struggle on the boards. Unless Smith can turn in a huge game, this line feels a couple points too high.

 

Florida (-5.5) over UCLA

Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

The top overall seed Florida looked dominant and efficient in the first weekend. While the South Region was subject to arguably more chaos than any other quadrant of the bracket, the Gators never faced significant adversity in their two wins and now stand as overwhelming favorites:

If UCLA is to have a chance at the upset, its hot shooting must continue. The Bruins shot 54 percent from the field in dispatching trendy bracket buster Stephen F. Austin, and Jordan Adams has shot a combined 15-of-24 on field-goal attempts over the first two contests.

For Florida, the key will be its backcourt defense. UCLA has a dangerous trio of guards in Adams, Kyle Anderson and Norman Powell who can bust a game open from beyond the arc. Scottie Wilbekin is one of the nation's premier on-ball defenders, and the Gators' willingness to shift between man and zone gives them a multiplicity that UCLA could find difficult to handle.

Even though this is one of the highest lines of the week, the Gators are on a roll that has them looking like the championship favorites. It would be a shock if the Bruins were to come close to ending that momentum.