Sweet 16 2014: Bracket's Best Odds for Next Round of NCAA Tournament

Richard LangfordCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2014

FILE -- At left is a March 28, 2009, file photo showing Kentucky Basketball coach John Calipari during a news conference in Lexington, Ky. At right is an April 1, 2009, file photo showing Louisville coach Rick Pitino during a news conference in Indianapolis. On the day John Calipari's former team was stripped of its Final Four run, the Kentucky coach drew a standing ovation at the state fair. Rick Pitino, a week removed from admitting a sexual encounter in a restaurant six years ago, has the support of Louisville administrators and fans. One thing you can say about people in the state of Kentucky _ they're loyal to their teams. (AP Photo/File)
Anonymous/Associated Press

Despite there being three double-digit seeds and a No. 8 seed in the Sweet 16, not one spread for Thursday and Friday's action is greater than six points.

We are headed for another wild round of college basketball with the possibility of multiple upsets. There is no such thing as a sure bet in this Sweet 16.

Still, there are several plays that can be made with confidence.

Have a look at the schedule and spreads for the upcoming round, and then I'll point out the three most exploitable spreads for the round.  

 

All Your Bracket Essentials

 

 

West: Baylor +3 vs. Wisconsin 

Prior to the tournament, I had Baylor penned in as the winner of the West. Arizona's strong performance as the No. 1 seed has me a little nervous about that pick, but Baylor has looked as strong as I expected. 

The Bears beat a battle-tested Nebraska team by 14 in the second round and then humiliated No. 3 seed Creighton, 85-55. 

The Bears were dominant on offense and defense in that one. Jeff Potrykus in the Journal Sentinel passed along this quote from CBS analyst Clark Kellogg on the Bears' strong performance: "The zone defense has really picked up, and offensively they have found a rhythm."

Meanwhile, the Badgers needed a second-half comeback to beat No. 7 seed Oregon in order to advance to the Sweet 16. 

The Bears' zone defense is performing at such a high level it was able to shut down a Creighton offense with shooters like Doug McDermott and Ethan Wragge. 

The Bears will be able to frustrate Wisconsin's offense and then use their balanced offensive attack to come out on top. 

Prediction: Baylor 74, Wisconsin 67

 

Midwest: Louisville -5 vs. Kentucky

This in-state rivalry is going to take center stage in the Sweet 16, and there are ample reasons to like the underdogs in this matchup. 

Kentucky played fantastic while downing No. 1 seed Wichita State. The Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, were outstanding in the backcourt, and Julius Randle was dominant down low. 

On top of that, Kentucky beat Louisville, 73-66, on Dec. 28. 

Still, the defending champions are the smart play here. For starters, head coach Rick Pitino is a remarkable 11-0 in the Sweet 16. 

Pitino will use that experience to help the Cardinals perform at their best, which they have yet to do this tournament. While beating St. Louis by 14 last round, the Cardinals still had 19 turnovers. 

After that game, Pitino, as quoted by CBS Sports' Chip Patterson, said his squad was "the prettiest team in an ugly game."

Against Kentucky, Louisville will use its experience and defensive pressure to force the inconsistent Wildcats into a poor game. 

Randle and center Willie Cauley-Stein provide a strong inside presence for Kentucky, but Montrezl Harrell and Stephan Van Treese will allow Louisville to still find success on the boards and limit Kentucky's inside scoring. 

That will put too much pressure on the twins in the backcourt. This will wear Kentucky down and pave the way for a Louisville victory. 

Prediction: Louisville 69, Kentucky 60

 

East: Michigan State -2 vs. Virginia  

This is going to be a great game. All the evidence we need of that is in the fact that the No. 1 seed is the underdog. 

I really like this Virginia team. The Cavaliers bring excellent defense and a steady and consistent approach. This is not a good matchup for the Cavaliers, however. 

With point guards Keith Appling and Travis Trice, the Spartans have the floor leaders to not wilt in the face of Virginia's pressure. That will allow the Spartans to flex their interior muscle with Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson to take over. The pair is averaging a combined 14.5 rebounds and 44.5 points per game.

BTN.com's Brent Yarina helped point out their success: 

Virginia has talent down low with Mike Tobey and Akil Mitchell, but that duo won't be able to beat the Spartans' pair for a whole game. 

The ACC has underperformed in this tournament, and Virginia's 16-2 conference record is not quite as impressive as it once was. 

Give me coach Tom Izzo and this talented team, and I'm comfortable giving up two points. 

Prediction: Michigan State 74, Virginia 67