The first weekend of the 2014 NCAA tournament is in the books, and now we must patiently wait for the next batch of games to start, beginning with the initial day of Sweet 16 play on Thursday.
Before that round gets underway, it's important for serious gamblers and casual fans alike to take a look at each of the matchups and assess which teams have the best chance to advance to the Elite Eight.
Whether you are looking to plop down a massive wager at a sportsbook or just make a friendly bet amongst friends, keep reading to find out the latest odds and predictions for the outcome of each Sweet 16 matchup.
|2014 NCAA Tournament - Sweet 16 Schedule and Picks|
|Date||Regional Semifinals||Time (ET)||TV||Odds||Predicted Winner|
|Thu, March 27||(11) Dayton vs. (10) Stanford||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Stanford -3||Stanford|
|Thu, March 27||(6) Baylor vs. (2) Wisconsin||7:47 p.m.||TBS||Wisconsin -3||Baylor|
|Thu, March 27||(4) UCLA vs. (1) Florida||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Florida -4||Florida|
|Thu, March 27||(4) San Diego State vs. (1) Arizona||10:17 p.m.||TBS||Arizona -6.5||Arizona|
|Fri, March 28||(11) Tennessee vs. (2) Michigan||7:15 p.m.||CBS||Michigan -2||Michigan|
|Fri, March 28||(7) Connecticut vs. (3) Iowa State||7:27 p.m.||TBS||Iowa State -1||Iowa State|
|Fri, March 28||(8) Kentucky vs. (4) Louisville||9:45 p.m.||CBS||Louisville -5||Louisville|
|Fri, March 28||(4) Michigan State vs. (1) Virginia||9:57 p.m.||TBS||Michigan State -1.5||Michigan State|
|ScoresAndOdds.com and ESPN|
All Your Bracket Essentials
Matchup to Watch: (6) Baylor vs. (2) Wisconsin
The Baylor Bears are one of the more intriguing teams in this tournament, but their run to the Sweet 16 should not come as a major surprise to anyone following this program over the past few weeks.
The team overcame a 2-8 start in Big 12 play, making an 11-2 push that included a run to the conference championship game prior to the tournament. Now the Bears are back on track, having beaten No. 11 seed Nebraska and No. 3 seed Creighton in back-to-back games during the opening rounds.
It sets up an exciting matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers, who have overcome plenty of adversity during March Madness. The No. 2 seed in the Western region dominated American by 40 points to open the tourney but had to fight back from 12 points down at the half against Oregon in the third round.
We are now left with two battle-tested squads that match up well against one another. Baylor busted out a zone defensive look that completely confused the Bluejays this past weekend, limiting the nation’s most efficient offense to its second-worst scoring performance of the season.
Wisconsin will have to do its best to get past a tough group of elite athletes with incredible range and length, but it definitely proved it is capable of doing exactly that against the Ducks.
Three-point shooting will likely decide this game, especially if the Bears stay as hot as they were on Sunday. The Waco-based program shot 77.8 percent from beyond the arc in a 30-point victory over Creighton largely thanks to senior sniper Brady Heslip.
Heslip, who many may remember knocking down nine treys against Colorado during the Bears’ Elite Eight run in 2012, has been downright dominant from three-point land during his time with Baylor and turned in his finest season yet. He’s connecting on 46.8 percent of his shots from long range, which is surprisingly a better percentage than on his field-goal tries (45.7 percent).
The guard posted his excitement about his return to the Sweet 16 on Twitter:
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman jokingly remarked that Heslip can “shoot a little bit”:
Zack Miller of Rivals pointed out that the Baylor offense revolves around getting Heslip clear looks and posting up the 7’1” Isaiah Austin and 6’9” Cory Jefferson:
While that may be true, Austin noted that his team is only as good as each of the players on the floor, as he explained after the win against the Bluejays to Jeff Potrykus of the Journal Sentinel: "It's a team sport and all five people played hard. We were running out contesting shots and making everything difficult for everybody."
If Heslip is on, Austin is dominating the paint and the rest of the team is as locked in as it was in the opening rounds, the Bears will be dancing to the Elite Eight.
Prediction: Baylor 68 – Wisconsin 65