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The first half of the brackets was a wild ride! There were upsets all over the place and the favorite to win it all, Kansas was dumped by a Cinderella 9 seed. So what happens next? Does the tournament break down with some more upsets or do the top seeded teams rise to the occasion and start playing well? I am going to breakdown the Sweet Sixteen and cover the match ups, who I think will advance and who is the best bet in the sweet 16.
#9 Northern Iowa vs. #5 Michigan St
Northern Iowa did the impossible and they beat the #1 seed Kansas. Can they keep going past Michigan St? If you don’t know who Ali Farokhmanesh is, you do now as he dismantled Kansas and put in the kill shot with second to go in the game. He will have to try and work his magic against Michigan St and they will be without Kalin Lucas. The last time the Spartans were without him they went 0-3. Northern Iowa advances and the Cinderella story continues.
Play: Northern Iowa +1.5
#6 Tennessee vs #2 Ohio St
Ohio St has to be thrilled with the fact that both Kansas and Georgetown were knocked out of the brackets, but they can’t look past the Vols. The Vols have not run into the type of team that they will face when they go up against Ohio St. The Volunteers are 7-19-1 ATS in their last 27 games following a ATS win and 0-3-1 ATS in their last 4 neutral site games as an underdog. Ohio St is driven by Evan Turner one of the best players in basketball and the Buckeye’s move on to the Elite eight.
Play: Ohio St -4
#1 Syracuse vs. #5 Butler
They were counted out when this tournament started by Syracuse may be playing better basketball than anyone in the tournament right now. Arinze Onuaku will most likely be rested for this game against Butler but that won’t matter. The Orange is poised and ready to go. One-seed faves of less than 11 points off back to back ATS wins are 10-2 ATS. Butler is 0-3 SU and 1-2 ATS in the Sweet 16. Take the Orange to cover and advance.
Play: Syracuse -6.5
#6 Xavier vs #2 Kansas St
Kansas St is one of the better teams left in the tournament and although I love to see an upset it would be an absolute shame if they did not match up against Syracuse in the elite eight. This would just end up being good basketball. Two-seeds are 12-5 ATS vs. opponents off a SU dog win and that looks good for Kansas St. I like Xavier but underdogs who scored less than 85 points last game are 2-7 ATS and they fall here. No upsets in the west.
Play: Kansas -5
#12 Cornell vs #1 Kentucky
This may be one of the better meetings of the tournament. Both of these teams are playing very good basketball and have had easy runs to the sweet 16. Cornell has shown that they are a very good underdog as the Big Red is 38-17-1 ATS in their last 56 games as an underdog and they are 36-15 ATS in their last 51 non-conference games. Cornell will have a tough time winning this game but this will be a close game. Louis Dale and Ryan Wittman are a solid one-two punch and I can’t pick them to advance here but the points look pretty tempting.
Play Cornell +9
#11 Washington vs. #2 West Virginia
Washington has pulled off a few upsets heading into the sweet 16 and has a solid corps of players in Isaiah Thomas and Quincy Pondexter. The tough part in this game will be the home court advantage that the Mountaineers will have as this game is played in Syracuse. Washington is the next upset in the big dance as they stun the Mountaineers and advance. The Mountaineers are 5-18 ATS in their last 23 games as a favorite of 0.5-6.5 and will not be able to handle Washington. Washington is very confident and they do not see the wins they have had thus far as upsets and they will win here.
Play: Washington +5.5
#1 Duke vs #4 Purdue
When Purdue lost Robbie Hummel for the season the popular pick became Sienna to upset them in round one. When they passed up Sienna, the next best bet was Texas A&M to beat Purdue, but Purdue won another game. Purdue is thriving off the adversity and will use it again against Duke. They have another advantage against Duke, size. Duke has struggled with big, physical guards. They got manhandled by Georgetown’s physical backcourt of Chris Wright (6-1, 208) and Austin Freeman (6-3, 227). Purdue’s backcourt of Chris Kramer (6-3, 214) and Keaton Grant (6-4, 201) is more physical than the Hoyas. Purdue will use this to your advantage and surprise the Blue Devils and the second #1 seed will fall in the sweet 16.
Play: Purdue +8
#10 St. Mary’s takes on #3 Baylor
Baylor was a popular pick to get to the final four and they have not disappointed. St. Mary’s has been impressive with wins against Richmond and Villanova and the big man down low, Omar Sanhan dominated against Villanova but Baylor will have some answers against him. Underdogs off back to back dog wins are 2-9 ATS and the clock will strike midnight for St. Mary’s. The Bears are 19-7 ATS in their last 26 neutral site games and they cover the small number and advance.
Play: Baylor -4
Check Out March Madness Central for the latest picks tips and predictions!
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