If there's one thing to say about the NCAA tournament, it's that no game is ever lost before the final buzzer sounds.
The structure of these games, with more television timeouts and coaches constantly calling for time when it looks like things are getting out of hand, prevents one team from staying in a rhythm for too long.
It's maddening at times to watch, because you just want to see the teams play, but it makes predicting these games and setting odds nearly impossible. That's not enough to stop us from taking the plunge, so here is a look at the current spreads and deeper analysis on notable matchups.
Sweet 16 Bracket and 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
Picking Key Games Against the Spread
South Region: No. 1 Florida (-5.5) vs. No. 4 UCLA
After a sluggish game against Albany in the round of 64, the Florida Gators looked more like themselves against Pittsburgh.
The Panthers scored just 45 points on 37.3 percent shooting. Florida also got 10 steals in the victory, including at least one from each starter. More impressive than the low shooting percentage and point totals is Pittsburgh managed just six free-throw attempts.
Things get tougher for the Gators now, as UCLA will be the best offense they have played, by far, in the tournament. The Bruins averaged 81.8 points per game in the regular season and have put up 153 in two tournament games.
However, this is not a matchup that has been favorable for the Bruins in recent years. Look at this little note from Josh Goldman of Fox Sports Live after the matchup was set.
Which underdog will have the most impressive win in the Sweet 16?
With all the focus on Florida's defense against UCLA's offense, don't forget the Gators ranked 54th in offensive efficiency this season and the Bruins were 178th in scoring defense.
UCLA did defeat an Arizona team in the Pac-12 tournament that's similar to Florida on the defensive end of the ball and slightly better on offense with 112.3 points per 100 possessions.
The Gators are going to be tested more in this game than in either of their first two tournament matchups, but the Bruins' overall lack of experience puts them at a disadvantage against Billy Donovan's team.
Prediction: Florida 67, UCLA 63
Midwest Region: No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Michigan State (-1)
In what is sure to be the best heavyweight battle of the Sweet 16, Virginia looks to prove it's more than a team that succeeded in a mediocre year for the ACC by going up against the wizard of March, Tom Izzo, and Michigan State.
Considering all the attention Michigan State got before the tournament, it should come as no surprise that Izzo's group is getting an overwhelming majority of support from the bettors.
SportsInsights.com (@SportsInsights) March 24, 2014
Despite being the lower seed, the Spartans should be the favorites entering this game. They are one of the most balanced teams in the country, ranking 21st in offensive efficiency and 51st in defensive efficiency.
More impressive is the way Izzo's team doesn't have to rely on one player to win a game. Adreian Payne had 41 points against Delaware, but gave way to Branden Dawson (26 points) against Harvard.
Virginia had the stingiest defense in college basketball this season, giving up an average of 55.5 points per game. That hasn't changed much so far in the tournament, with Coastal Carolina and Memphis averaging 59.5 points per game.
Both teams are loaded with upperclassmen who won't be intimidated by the bright lights of the Sweet 16.
The difference is Izzo knows how to coach in games like this, having made it to the Sweet 16 12 times since 1998. Virginia's Tony Bennett is coaching his first Sweet 16 game since 2008 with Washington State.
It's going to be a knockdown, drag out fight that the Spartans pull out in thrilling fashion.
Prediction: Michigan State 63, Virginia 60
Note: All stats courtesy of SportsReference.com unless otherwise noted.
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