March Madness 2011: Picks and Predictions Against the Spread for the Sweet 16
The NCAA Tournament is down to 16 teams, all fighting for the National Championships.
The teams remaining vary from big favorites to surprising underdogs, proving once again that anything can happen during March Madness. There have been so many shocking upsets in the first three rounds that a double-digit seed will go to the Elite Eight.
There is a good chance that many brackets have busted, due to the plentiful upsets. This leaves the college basketball fan with second chance bracket contests or to lay a little money on the remaining games to add to the excitement.
To assist in a winning endeavor, here are all eight games with a breakdown, picks and predictions against the spread.
No. 3 Connecticut Huskies vs. No. 2 San Diego State Aztecs
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Latest Sweet Sixteen Odds: Connecticut -1 over San Diego Sate
The Connecticut Huskies are arguably the hottest team in the country. They ran through the Big East by winning five games in five nights to win the conference championship and have easily defeated their first two opponents to advance in the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies will not get an intriguing battle in the second round as they battle the No. 2 Seed, the San Diego Aztecs.
The Aztecs have a very good team and should have a home court advantage with the venue of Anaheim, CA. D.J. Gay leads the point and will get the difficult assignment of guarding UConn superstar, Kemba Walker. Chase Tapley and Billy White will also take turns guarding the superstar. There is an injury question surrounding Walker, as he fell hard on his wrist in the game against Cincinnati. Although he continued to play, this could become a factor if it bothers him.
Stopping Walker is the ultimate goal for any of the Huskies' opponents, but he had a poor performance against Cincinnati, and the Huskies still won going away. The offense may be run by Walker, but this team is evolving and has more than one threat on the floor.
If the Aztecs have an edge, it’s in their athletic front court that is difficult to match up with. Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas should have little opposition down low, and that will help in cleaning the glass and second-chance baskets.
The Aztecs are 20-8-1 against the spread in their last 29 games against a team with a winning record, and the Huskies are 6-14 ATS in their last 20 games as a favorite of 0.5-6.5. The run stops here for the Huskies. The Aztecs will use their frontcourt size and the home court edge to get to the Elite Eight.
Sweet Sixteen Pick: San Diego State (+1)
No. 3 BYU Cougars vs. No. 2 Florida Gators
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Latest Sweet Sixteen Odds: Florida -2.5 over BYU
The BYU Cougars are making some noise in the tournament as they have breezed through their first two games on the back of Jimmer Fredette's point production.
Fredette has become this year’s poster boy for March Madness and will be the main man to watch when the Cougars battle the Florida Gators. This game is covered with a complete breakdown in my previous article.
The Sweet 16 spread on this game is low; this game has the potential to be close, but it won’t happen.
Jimmer and the Cougars will face their toughest defense team this year. Fredette will have his points, but the Cougars will have to try and find a way to win a game when they are not shooting lights out.
The Cougars knocked the Gators out of the tournament in 2010, and many of the same players are back for this game. The Gators will not take the Cougars lightly and will bring their “A” game as they seek revenge.
Chandler Parsons leads a front line with a size advantage that will wear down this Cougars team. Sophomore shooting guard Erving Walker can take over from the perimeter to open up the inside for the Gators as they advance to the Elite Eight.
From a wagering standpoint, the Cougars have been a bad bet in recent years. The Cougars are 1-5 against the spread in their last six NCAA Tournament games as an underdog, and the Gators are 5-1 ATS in their last six NCAA Tournament games overall.
The run for Jimmer and the Cougars is over as the Gators win with size inside.
Sweet Sixteen Pick: Gators (-2.5)
No. 5 Arizona vs. No. 1 Duke
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Latest Sweet Sixteen Odds: Duke -9 over Arizona
The latest odds may seem a bit high, as Duke has had a bit of a struggle advancing and the Arizona Wildcats are off a huge upset over the Texas Longhorns.
Arizona standout Derrick Williams is the best player on the team and arguably one of the best players in the country. Duke will attempt to shut him down, but it’s highly unlikely as Williams seems to play at a different level. The Wildcats will need a big game from Williams and some help from his other teammates if they hope to beat a No. 1 seed.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski is one of the best college basketball coaches to ever play the game, and his skills are on display again in the tournament. Kyrie Irving was put back into the lineup when the tournament started so he could find his basketball legs once again. Coach K knew his team could survive through the first two rounds while Irving shook off the rust. Now at 100 percent, Irving will become a solid contributor in one of the best backcourts in college basketball.
Don’t let the big number fool you. Arizona should have lost the last game against Texas, but bad game management by the Longhorns let it slip away. Duke was warming up for a game just like this one.
The Wildcats are just 3-7 against the spread in the last ten games overall, as they are a bad bet for Wildcat backers. The Blue Devils are 15-7 against the number in their last 22 non-conference games, and they move on to the Elite Eight with a blowout win over Arizona.
Sweet Sixteen Pick: Duke (-9 )
No. 8 Butler vs. No. 4 Wisconsin
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Latest Sweet Sixteen Odds: Wisconsin -4 over Butler
The Butler Bulldogs are at it again. After playing Cinderella a year ago, many assumed that Butler would fade away after losing players to the NBA.
Matt Howard is the on-court leader for the Bulldogs, and he had the free throws that ultimately eliminated the No. 1 seeded Pittsburgh Panthers. After a win over the Panthers, the Bulldogs will not be intimidated against the Wisconsin Badgers.
Junior guard Ronald Nored vs. Wisconsin junior Jordan Taylor will be one of the many battles to watch when these two teams meet up in this round. Nored has the credentials to guard Taylor as he was named co-Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and is a two-time Horizon All-Defensive Team pick.
Wisconsin big men Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil take pride in stretching the opposing defense by draining three-pointers and opening up the middle, but Butler is okay with this approach. Andrew Smith and Matt Howard can guard the perimeter and can stretch Wisconsin on defense as well.
This is an intriguing matchup and could be very close, which points to a play on the Badgers. All five Wisconsin starters shoot at least 84 percent from the charity stripe, and this could make all the difference down the stretch. This game is a tossup, but I give a slight edge to the Badgers.
Sweet Sixteen Pick: Wisconsin( -4)
No. 12 Richmond vs. No. 1 Kansas
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Latest Sweet Sixteen Odds: Kansas -10.5 over Richmond
Kansas is one of the better teams in the country, but these types of schools are the ones that Kansas seems to struggle with. The game against Northern Iowa still sends chills through Jayhawk nation, and they hope they are not destined for a repeat performance.
Kansas has a two-headed monster with twins Marcus and Markieff Morris who lead the offensive attack. While many predict Kansas will go to the Final Four and even the championship game, few predicted that the Richmond Spiders would go this far.
The Spiders won the Atlantic-10 Conference tournament to get an invite and made the most of it. Guard Mike Anderson is the best player on the team and the leading scorer in the school’s history. The Spiders are a very good defensive team, and Kansas should not try and run against this team. The defense has held seven of its last eight opponents to under 60 points, but none of those teams had the offense that Kansas has.
Kansas can win with a slow, methodical attack fueled by the inside game. That will open this game up for the outside shooters and allow Kansas to open the game up. Richmond has experience, and four out of the five starters are seniors, which will allow them to keep this game close.
The Spiders are 7-0-1 against the spread in their last eight neutral site games as an underdog and the Jayhawks are 2-5-1 ATS in their last eight games overall. Asking for Richmond to pull off an incredible upset may be asking too much, but they are a great bet with the points in this game.
Sweet Sixteen Pick: Richmond (+10.5)
No. 11 Marquette vs. No. 2 North Carolina
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Latest Sweet Sixteen Odds:North Carolina -4.5 over Marquette
North Carolina will match up with one of the few Big East teams remaining as the Tar Heels battle the Golden Eagles.
If you’re looking for a defensive matchup, keep an eye on Marquette’s Jimmy Butler as he will defend the Tar Heels best player, Harrison Barnes. Actually, there will be little defense in this game.
Both teams run up-tempo offenses and like to light up the scoreboard. There is no secret to this game. If Marquette is hitting their three-point shots, they will have a chance to win this game. They take quick shots on transition or the first open shot they see. Darius Johnson-Odom is the leader of this club and will get plenty of looks.
The Tar Heels have the size advantage, but it may not matter as the Golden Eagles will knock down some shots to keep this close. North Carolina has shown the ability to get caught up in a game and have sloppy turnovers, and in this game that will turn into points for the Golden Eagles.
The Golden Eagles are 25-12-1 against the spread in their last 38 games against a team with a winning record and the Tar Heels are 0-4-1 ATS in their last five neutral site games.
The Golden Eagles continue their improbable run and upset the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Sweet Sixteen Pick: Golden Eagles (+4.5)
No. 11 VCU Vs. No. 10 Florida State
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Latest Sweet Sixteen Odds: Florida State -4 over VCU
When it comes to Cinderellas, VCA is the prom queen of the dance. The NCAA Selection committee was bashed for inviting VCU to the big dance, but now it looks as though they made the right choice. The Rams are ripping through the opposition and beating very good teams along the way.
Point guard Joey Rodriguez leads the team on the floor, and they’re a quick team that relies on a pestering defense. In this round. they go up against a Florida State team that has perfected defense.
The Seminoles have the No. 1 defense in the country when it comes to field goal percentage, and it was on display when they shut down the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Superstar Chris Singleton was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and drives the Seminoles in every game.
This game will pit the running offense of the Rams against the smothering defense of the Seminoles.
In this case, defense wins ballgames and midnight has struck for VCU. Florida State wins and advances to the Elite Eight.
Sweet Sixteen Pick: Florida State (-4)
No. 4 Kentucky vs. No. 1 Ohio State
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Latest Sweet Sixteen Odds: Ohio State -5.5 over Kentucky
There is no team playing better in the country right now then Ohio State. They are crushing the competition and posting 90+ points on the board seemingly every night. Will anything be able to stop the best college basketball team in the country? Kentucky hopes it has the answer.
Kentucky’s defense inside with senior Josh Harrellson and Terrence Jones working against Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Dallas Lauderdale will be the weekend's best matchup. This could easily decide the game and will provide the Buckeyes with the toughest matchup to date.
The Wildcats are 5-1 against the spread in their last six non-conference games and the Buckeyes are 5-11 against the spread in their last 16 NCAA Tournament games as a favorite.
Harrellson has stepped up his game, and he will be the number one reason the Buckeyes go home after losing to the Wildcats.
Sweet Sixteen Pick: Kentucky (+5.5)
Matt Regaw is a B/R Featured Columnist and the founder of BookieBlitz.com, your one-stop shop for sports articles, previews and predictions. Feel free to contact Matt at email@example.com.
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