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Sweet 16 2015: Odds and Betting Guide for Next Round of NCAA Tournament Bracket

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVMarch 23, 2015

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 21:  Aaron Harrison #2 of the Kentucky Wildcats walks off the court after defeating the Cincinnati Bearcats 64-51 during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 21, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Sweet 16 is finally upon us, which means the 2015 NCAA tournament will restart this weekend with a number of high-profile matchups. But before the next phase of the tournament begins, we get a few days to sort out the madness.

Bracket-makers were sent for a loop throughout the opening three rounds of play with unlikely occurrences, such as No. 11 UCLA making the Sweet 16, but it has only upped the intrigue and storylines worth following. Other than the top two seeds out of the East, Villanova and Virginia, as well as No. 2 Kansas in the Midwest, most of the other title contenders are still left standing. 

But with some unlikely—albeit household—names dropping in to join the party, there remains a possibility for chaos to continue with the best teams facing worthy competition. Here's a complete look at what you need to know for betting on the Sweet 16.

Bracket

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2015 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Odds/Picks
Time (ET)Matchup (Spread)OddsTVPrediction
Thursday, March 26
7:15 p.m.No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 7 Wichita State (-1)WSU 50-61, ND 51-50CBSNotre Dame, 68-63
7:47 p.m.No. 1 Wisconsin (-5.5) vs. No. 4 North CarolinaUW 5-12, UNC 2-1TBSWisconsin, 78-68
9:45 p.m.No. 1 Kentucky (-13) vs. No. 5 West VirginiaUK 1-14, WVU 37-4CBSKentucky, 65-50
10:17 p.m.No. 2 Arizona (-11) vs. No. 6 XavierUA 1-7, XU 107-20TBSArizona, 65-52
Friday, March 27
7:15 p.m.No. 2 Gonzaga (-8.5) vs. No. 11 UCLAGU 10-41, UCLA 17-5CBSGonzaga, 80-77
7:37 p.m.No. 4 Louisville (-2.5) vs. No. 8 N.C. StateUL 20-27, NCST 23-20TBSLouisville, 59-55
9:45 p.m.No. 1 Duke (-5) vs. No. 5 UtahDU 20-42, UT 37-20CBSDuke, 71-60
10:07 p.m.No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 7 Michigan State (-2)MST 10-13, OU 11-10TBSMichigan State, 66-63
Odds Shark

Note: Odds courtesy of Odds Shark, last updated March 23.

Top Matchup: No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 5 West Virginia

The start of the NCAA tournament brought two relatively easy tests for the Kentucky Wildcats, but the level of play amps up considerably right when college basketball's undefeated darling takes the stage in Cleveland for the regional semifinals.

Awaiting the Wildcats are the fifth-seeded West Virginia Mountaineers, who toppled No. 4 Maryland after overcoming an upset test from No. 12 Buffalo just in order to get here. They're one of two Big 12 teams still left standing and possess the type of skill set capable of giving Kentucky trouble.

The Wildcats usually outhustle everyone on defense, but that will be nearly impossible on Thursday night. West Virginia leads the nation in steals, offensive rebounds and steals per game.

The Mountaineers continued their havoc-wreaking ways on the defensive end against Maryland, as per ESPN Stats and Info:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

This is the 16th time this season West Virginia has forced 20 TO in a game. No other team has more than 9 such games vs D-1 teams

Could that pose a daunting problem for Kentucky? Perhaps. With no starters shorter than 6'6" and with as many as three 7-footers on the floor at once, smart ball-handling will be emphasized as well as keeping it away from the trees in the backcourt.

The Wildcats may not have one true floor general on the court, but they have many options in that regard, and Kyle Tucker of The Lexington Courier-Journal noted they combine to take care of the ball well:

Kyle Tucker @KyleTucker_SEC

Kentucky's four guards (twins, Ulis, Booker) have averaged 9.8 assists, 4.2 turnovers combined the last five games. Will WVU press work?

Of course, a daunting press only works so often. It can be undone against smart and careful teams, as the Mountaineers learned amid seven Big 12 losses—all of which came against ranked foes. 

Another big key in West Virginia's chances is the play of 6'1" guard Juwan Staten. West Virginia's leading scorer hasn't completely returned to his regular level of play after missing four games before the Big Dance, but he will need to explode to give the Mountaineers enough of a scoring punch.

Like many West Virginians, Staten is taking an us-against-the-world mentality into Thursday, per The Associated Press' Ralph D. Russo:

Ralph D. Russo @ralphDrussoAP

WVU's Staten: "I'm pretty sure nobody in the world thinks we're going to get past Kentucky besides the 1.2 million that's in West Virginia."

The Mountaineers may not feel all that much different from Kentucky, but they are. It's been proved to be almost impossible to hang with the Wildcats for a reason—their depth and talent level overwhelms almost any roster throughout a 40-minute game.

LOUISVILLE, KY - MARCH 21:  Troy Caupain #10 of the Cincinnati Bearcats drives to the basket against Willie Cauley-Stein #15 of the Kentucky Wildcats during the third round of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at KFC YUM! Center on March 21, 2015
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Teams like Arizona and Wisconsin have been slotted by some as likely to dethrone Kentucky, but those are two of the most stout and sizable rosters in the nation. Devin Williams is West Virginia's most daunting presence, and at 6'9", he's going to get swallowed up by Kentucky's height in the post.

While their press and suffocating defense figure to give Kentucky problems, ESPN's Jeff Goodman doesn't think West Virginia brings enough on the outside or the inside:

Jeff Goodman @GoodmanESPN

I'd be shocked if West Virginia gives Kentucky any sort of legitimate challenge. Just don't shoot it well enough -- and not enough length.

None of these young Kentucky players were around back in 2010 when the Mountaineers upset the Wildcats in shocking fashion to move on to the Final Four, but John Calipari will have no problem getting his team's attention about the test that West Virginia will bring to the table. Drawing from that could have the Wildcats even more amped up to play, but playing for your season—oh, and history—is enough motivation as it is.

Turning around to face a press-happy team like West Virginia on one day of preparation would be more daunting, but the Wildcats will be ready for what the Mountaineers throw at them with a couple of days to scheme. 

Calipari is just 2-8 against Bob Huggins for their careers, but he's never had a team quite like this one.

Prediction: Kentucky 65, West Virginia 50

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