March Madness 2019: Bracket Predictions, Odds for Thursday's Sweet 16 Schedule

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMarch 28, 2019

Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke (15) stands on the court during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Pepperdine in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
Young Kwak/Associated Press

Thursday's NCAA tournament action will open with 16 teams left in the men's basketball field, but only 12 will still be standing by night's end.

For the clubs fortunate to scratch out a victory, though, they'll be just three wins shy of a national title.

It's mostly a chalky group, with all the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 seeds still dancing. Fourth-seeded Florida State has taken care of business, too, while 12th-seeded Oregon looms as the obvious Cinderella.

Will this be the night when chaos finally rears its disruptive head? Or will this largely predictable tournament continue following that form?

We'll make our predictions on all four contests after laying out the schedule and latest lines from OddsShark.


Thursday's Sweet 16 Schedule, Odds

No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (-7.5), 7:09 p.m. ET on CBS

No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 2 Tennessee (-1.5), 7:29 p.m. ET on TBS

No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 2 Michigan (-1.5), 9:39 p.m. ET on CBS

No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 1 Virginia (-8.5), 9:59 p.m. ET on TBS



Gonzaga Over Florida State

The Bulldogs and Seminoles had so much fun meeting in last year's Sweet 16 of the West Regional, that they decided to do it again.

Only Gonzaga, then a No. 4 seed, is better protected against another upset by Florida State, then a No. 9 seed. The Bulldogs have the best offense in college basketball, per KenPom.com, and probably too much firepower for the 'Noles.

Gonzaga averaged an NCAA-best 88.8 points in the regular season. It ended its first two tournament tilts with outputs of 83 and 87. If those sound like big numbers, that's because they should—especially to Florida State. Leonard Hamilton's club has only cleared 80 points once since the middle of February, and it shot a miserable 38.2 percent in the opening round against Vermont's 88th-ranked defense.

The Zags are dangerous on both ends, and their (likely) NBA lottery-bound power combo of Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke should steer them clear of the Seminoles.

Prediction: Gonzaga 76, Florida State 65


Purdue Over Tennessee

Jessica Hill/Associated Press

As both the seed lines and the spread indicate, this feels like a coin flip.

KenPom says the seeds and spread are shifted the wrong way, though. It's the third-seed Boilermakers, not the second-seeded Volunteers, who have the more favorable ranking, albeit by the slimmest margin possible (ninth to 10th).

Tennessee has started strongly in each of its first two games, but it has relented after intermission. The 15th-seeded Colgate Raiders clawed back from a 14-point deficit to tie the game midway through the second half before the Volunteers escaped with a 77-70 win Friday. Two days later, the 10th-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes climbed out of a 25-point hole before falling 83-77 in overtime.

If Tennessee so much as blinks in this game, that could be all Carsen Edwards needs to give Purdue the game. The ignitable junior guard tallied 68 points and 13 triples over the Boilermakers' first two outings, which they won by an average of 19.5 points. Look for Edwards to be the difference-maker again, with his shooting pushing Purdue to its first Elite Eight appearance since 2000.

Prediction: Purdue 73, Tennessee 69


Texas Tech Over Michigan

If you like defense, this game is as good as it's going to get.

That's not a #hottake either, it's what the numbers tell us. KenPom has Texas Tech and Michigan ranked first and second, respectively, on basketball's less glamorous end. Those rankings have appeared spot on through the opening weekend, too. The most points allowed by either team so far were the 58 Texas Tech surrendered to Buffalo, the 21st-ranked offense in the nation.

This will be close, it will be gritty and it will be all about maximizing possessions, since there won't be many of them.

If it comes down to late-game execution, the Red Raiders should have the upper hand thanks to do-it-all sophomore Jarrett Culver. The Big 12 player of the year and likely NBA draft lottery pick paces the team in points (18.8), rebounds (6.5) and assists (3.8) and comes in having topped 25 points in three of his last four outings.

Michigan's offense is built more around on balance, which is normally a good thing, but it's not so great when this group is desperate for a bucket. As Culver relentlessly attacks late, the Wolverines' lack of a true No. 1 option will prove a fatal flaw.

Prediction: Texas Tech 61, Michigan 57


Virginia Over Oregon

Sean Rayford/Associated Press

Virginia holds the second spot on KenPom's offensive rankings and the third one at the other end. That's a tricky two-way puzzle for any team to solve, let alone the 12th-seeded Ducks, whose 12 losses included defeats by UCLA (twice), USC and Texas Southern.

Granted, those defeats feel like they happened forever ago, as Oregon has reeled off 10 consecutive victories.

Still, the season-long performance paints a full picture of each team's pedigree. And in that light, Virginia is in a different weight class.

The Cavaliers have lost three times all season—and only once to teams that don't have Zion Williamson. Virginia has a likely lottery pick in De'Andre Hunter, another potential first-rounder in Ty Jerome and a steady backcourt force in Kyle Guy. There's too much of a talent gap for Oregon to overcome.

Prediction: Virginia 70, Oregon 61