Sweet 16 Primer
March 25, 2014
By Brian Edwards
As of Monday morning, the LVH Superbook had Florida, Michigan State and Louisville as the +350 co-favorites to cut the nets down in Dallas (risk $100 to win $350). The next-shortest odds belonged to Arizona (4/1), Virginia (10/1), Wisconsin (18/1), Michigan (18/1), Kentucky (18/1), UCLA (25/1), Tennessee (25/1), Baylor (25/1), Iowa State (30/1), UConn (30/1), San Diego State (50/1), Stanford (50/1) and Dayton (75/1).
Billy Donovan's team will play Thursday's late game in Memphis against UCLA. Most books have the Gators installed as 4.5-point favorites. They have eliminated the Bruins, who are +170 on the money line, from the NCAA Tournament three times since 2006.
UCLA has Steve Alford back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since he led Southwest Missouri State this far in the 1999 NCAA Tourney. The Bruins handed Stephen F. Austin its first loss since November 13 when they cruised to a 77-60 win Sunday in San Diego.
Jordan Adams led his team to the spread cover as 9.5-point favorites, scoring a team-high 19 points. Kyle Anderson produced 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists compared to only one turnover. UCLA also took the cash in Friday's win over Tulsa. In fact, Alford's bunch has covered the number in five consecutive games since losing its regular-season finale at Washington State
The other South Region matchup was expected to be a rematch of the 2003 finals with Syracuse and Kansas facing each other. Instead, we've got a showdown between a pair of double-digit seeds in No. 10 Stanford and No. 11 Dayton.
Stanford advanced in its first NCAA appearance during Johnny Dawkins's tenure by knocking off New Mexico, the winner of the Mountain West Conference Tournament, and Kansas, the Big 12's regular-season champion. The Cardinal took early leads over both the Lobos and the Jayhawks, and it secured both victories by making the most plays at crunch time.
Dayton is in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1984 and the school rewarded head coach Archie Miller with an extension through 2018-2019 on Monday. Archie's brother Sean still has his team playing in the West Region, but we'll get to that momentarily.
Dayton's run to Memphis began with a win over in-state rival Ohio State by a 60-59 count as a 6.5-point underdog. Then on Saturday night, the Flyers sent Syracuse home by capturing a 50-49 victory as 8.5-point underdogs. They have won 12 of their last 14 games.
Most books have Stanford listed as a three-point favorite, while bettors can take Dayton to win outright for a +135 payout.
The West Region semifinals will go down in Anaheim. Arizona, the No. 1 seed, will take on San Diego State as a six-point 'chalk.' The Wildcats failed to cover in Friday's win over Weber State, but they blasted Gonzaga 84-61 on Sunday as 7.5-point favorites.
Aaron Gordon was the catalyst against the 'Zags, producing 18 points, six rebounds, six assists and four steals. Nick Johnson finished with 17 points, five board, five assists, four blocked shots and three steals.
San Diego State has won eight of its last nine games while compiling a 7-2 spread record. A quarter-century after leading Michigan to the national title by beating Seton Hall in overtime on the finals in Seattle, Steve Fisher is in contention again.
The Aztecs got a scare from 13th-seeded New Mexico State on Thursday night, but they escaped with a 73-69 non-covering triumph. On Saturday, things were much easier in a 63-44 win over North Dakota State Xavier Thames, who averages a team-high 17.3 points per game for SDS, scored 53 combined points in wins over the Aggies and Bison.
The early West Region game on Thursday will pit second-seeded Wisconsin against sixth-seeded Baylor. Most spots have the Badgers as three-point favorites against the red-hot Bears, who are 12-2 straight up and 10-3-1 ATS.
Scott Drew's squad cruised to a 74-60 win over Nebraska on Friday afternoon and then smashed Creighton 85-55 Sunday as a 3.5-point underdog. Baylor's zone defense held the nation's best 3-point shooting team to just five makes on 22 attempts from downtown.
Brady Heslip and Isaiah Austin shared top-scoring honors with 17 points apiece. Heslip drained 5-of-7 attempts from 3-point range. Cory Jefferson and Kenny Cherry added 14 points apiece. Baylor might not win it all or even get to Dallas, but there's no doubt that the Bears have as much size and talent as any team in the field.
Wisconsin had to play from behind for much of its third-round game against Oregon but in front of a partisan crowd in Milwaukee, Bo Ryan's team rallied to win and cover. The Badgers knocked down their free throws late to win an 85-77 decision as six-point favorites.
Frank Kaminsky scored a team-high 19 points, while senior point guard Traevon Jackson finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
The East Region semifinals will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The early game on Friday night features UConn, the No. 7 seed, against third-seeded Iowa State. The Cyclones are favored by one at most betting shops.
DeAndre Kane found his way through traffic and to the rim for a game-winning layup with 1.6 seconds left to life Fred Hoiberg's team to an 85-83 triumph over North Carolina as a one-point 'chalk.' Kane destroyed the Tar Heels with 24 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists to lead Iowa State to its first Sweet 16 appearance in 14 years.
Iowa State got the win over UNC despite the absence of forward Georges Niang, who had 24 points in Friday's 93-75 win over North Carolina Central but broke his foot late in the second half.
UConn survived a hotly-contested overtime affair against State Joseph's on Thursday night. Then on Saturday, the Huskies eliminated second-seeded Villanova by a 77-65 score as four-point underdogs. Shabazz Napier led the way with 25 points.
The late game in NYC will be between top-seeded Virginia and fourth-seeded Michigan State. The Spartans are favored by 1.5 points at most books.
In the Midwest Region, bitter rivals Louisville and Kentucky will collide in a rematch of a game won by UK at Rupp Arena in December. Most spots have the Cardinals listed as five-point favorites.
Kentucky edged Wichita State in what was probably the best game of Tournament thus far. The Wildcats, who have covered the number in five consecutive games, rallied in the final minutes to nip the previously-unbeaten Shockers, whose potential game-winning shot at the buzzer was off the mark.
Rick Pitino is unbeaten in 10 career Sweet 16 games with a 9-1 spread record.
The other game in Indianapolis is between second-seeded Michigan and 11th-seeded Tennessee. The Volunteers are on fire and got this far with wins and ATS covers over Iowa (at the First Four in Dayton), UMass and Mercer.
Jarnell Stokes has dominated the paint for UT. Stokes had 17 points and 18 boards against Iowa, 26 and 18 vs. UMass and 18 and 13 against Mercer. Josh Richardson has really picked up his play, dropping 26 points on the Bears in Sunday's blowout.
Some offshore shops have posted odds for whom will win Most Outstanding Player in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Florida's Scottie Wilbekin is the 7/1 'chalk,' while U of L's Russ Smith has the second-shortest odds (9/1). The next-shortest odds belong to Michigan State's Adreian Payne (10/1), MSU's Gary Harris (10/1), Arizona's Nick Johnson (12/1), UF's Casey Prather (15/1), UF's Patric Young (15/1).
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