Sweet 16 Primer
March 20, 2018
By Brian Edwards
Tournament Betting Results
Sixteen teams survived the first weekend and advanced to the Sweet 16. Fifty-two schools have been sent home, including a pair of No. 1 seeds in Xavier and Virginia.
UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed since the NCAA Tournament expanded the field to 64 in 1985. There had been close calls before. Of course, Georgetown had the most famous close call in 1989 when it escaped Princeton’s scrappy effort thanks to an Alonzo Mourning blocked shot of a potential game-winning shot before the buzzer.
That same ’89 Tournament saw East Tennessee State race out to a 17-point first-half lead over Billy Tubbs’s top-seeded Oklahoma Sooners. The Buccaneers still had a nine-point advantage with 6:14 remaining, but OU rallied to win 72-71 at Memorial Gymnasium in Nashville.
Michigan State needed overtime to beat Murray State at the 1990 Tournament, Purdue only beat Western Carolina by two in 1996, Albany led UConn 50-38 at the under-12 timeout in ’06 and Cliff Ellis’s Coastal Carolina squad built a double-digit first half lead over Virginia, only to see its five-point advantage at intermission evaporate when UVA took the lead for good with 8:34 left and eventually won a 70-59 decision.
But UMBC wouldn’t let the top-seeded Cavaliers off the hook Friday night in Charlotte. The Retrievers took it to Tony Bennett’s team in a 74-54 win as 20.5-point underdogs. They surged ahead for good by starting the second half with a 17-3 run, and UVA never even cut the deficit to single digits.
UMBC’s stunning run came to an end Sunday when Kansas State playing without its best player Dean Wade, won a 50-43 decision as a 10-point favorite. The Wildcats advanced to face Kentucky at Philips Arena in Thursday’s South Region semifinals in Atlanta.
UK blasted Buffalo 95-75 in the Round of 32 at Taco Bell Arena in Boise, ID. John Calipari’s club easily covered the number as 5.5-point favorites versus the Bulls, who had throttled Arizona by an 89-68 count as nine-point underdogs 48 hours earlier. Buffalo hooked up money-line supporters with a +425 return in the win over Sean Miller’s team.
As of Tuesday morning, most books had Kentucky listed as a six-point favorite with a total of 138.5. Big Blue Nation might not have been happy about being sent to Boise, but it is no doubt thrilled to return to ‘Catlanta, the site of so many of its successful runs to SEC Tournament titles.
Wade, who averages 16.7 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.5 steals and 0.9 blocked shots per game, is listed as a ‘questionable’ with a foot injury. Meanwhile, UK’s Jarred Vanderbilt (5.9 PPG, 7.9 RPG) is also ‘questionable’ with an ankle injury that kept him out of the wins over Davidson and Buffalo in Boise.
This game will tip 30 minutes after the conclusion of Nevada vs. Loyola-Chicago. The Wolf Pack were favored by 1.5 points over the Ramblers, as of Tuesday morning. The total was 143.5 points.
Loyola-Chicago beat Miami on a buzzer beater from Donte Ingram, who lifted his team to a 64-62 victory with his smooth southpaw stroke from about 25-28 feet out beyond the top of the key. Two days later, third-seeded Tennessee went ahead of the Ramblers on Grant Williams’s three-point play the hard way with 10.5 seconds left.
Again, the Ramblers found themselves down 62-61 in the closing moments. And Loyola-Chicago would prevail again, this time on Clayton Custer’s mid-range jumper that got a friendly roll with 3.6 seconds remaining. With zero timeouts remaining, UT had to be happy with the shot it got, a relatively clean look from Jordan Bone at the top of the key for the win at the buzzer. It was off the mark, giving the Ramblers their first Sweet 16 trip since 1985.
Nevada had to pull out similar heroics to survive and advance to just the school’s second Sweet 16 appearance. Eric Musselman’s team recovered from a 14-point deficit to force overtime in its opener against Texas. With the Wolf Pack trailing by one, Jordan Caroline’s putback attempt in the closing seconds of regulation earned Longhorns’ star center Mo Bamba and his fifth foul.
Caroline missed the first free throw but made the second to force the extra session. Then Caleb Martin went to work in the extra session, scoring nine of his 18 points to propel his team to an 87-83 win.
In the Round of 32, second-seeded Cincinnati raced out to a 10-0 start on Nevada. Mick Cronin’s team led 44-32 at halftime and extended that lead to 22 by the under-12 timeout. Sitting on Nevada tickets at +9 and on the money line for a +375 payout, I decided to get in the shower before heading to the sports bar for the next set of games.
To my surprise and joy, Nevada had quickly gone on a 16-0 run and trimmed the deficit to single digits by the time I was out. Hello! At that point, I was just hoping for the spread cover. The Wolf Pack, however, had more in mind such as pulling off the second-biggest comeback in Tournament history behind only BYU’s rally from a 25-point deficit to beat Iona in the 2012 First Four.
Aided by Cronin’s decision to leave Jarrod Cumberland in after he was whistled for his fourth foul with more than 5.5 minutes remaining, Musselman’s team would do just that. Cumberland would commit a silly fifth foul by reaching in 65 feet from the basket with Nevada already in the double bonus.
Nevada would take its first and only lead with 10 seconds left on Josh Hall’s short jumper in the lane. Cincinnati was unable to counter, falling short of the Sweet 16 for the sixth straight time in the Tournament.
Sunday was a day that will live in infamy in the agonizing sports history of the city of Cincinnati. Hours after the Bearcats’ epic collapse, top-seeded Xavier would allow a 12-point lead over Florida State to get away with less than 10 minutes left. The Musketeers committed six turnovers at crunch time and the Seminoles rallied to win 75-70 as 5.5-point underdogs, hooking up money-line supporters with a +220 return.
Leonard Hamilton’s FSU team is off to Staples Center in Los Angeles where it will square off against Gonzaga. As of early Tuesday morning, most books had the Bulldogs installed as 5.5-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 153.5 or 154. The ‘Noles were +210 on the money line.
Gonzaga needed a game-winning trey from freshman Zach Norvell just to sneak past UNC Greensboro in the opening round. Mark Few’s squad moved past Ohio State thanks to Norvell’s first career double-double. He had career-high in points (28) and rebounds (12) in the win over the Buckeyes, who failed to cover as four-point underdogs in the 90-84 loss.
The other West Region semifinal in L.A. pits Texas A&M vs. Michigan. The Wolverines needed freshman Jordan Poole’s game-winning 3-ball at the horn from deep on the right wing to beat Houston, 64-63. The Cougars, who failed to put the game away when Devin Davis missed 3-of-4 free throws at winning time, nonetheless covered the spread as 3.5-point underdogs.
Michigan, my pick to cut the nets down in 13 days, had beaten Montana and covered the number on Thursday night. The Aggies trailed for most of the first 25-30 minutes of its opener Friday vs. Providence, yet they advanced and covered in their 73-69 win over the Friars as three-point ‘chalk.’
Billy Kennedy’s team didn’t trail much in Sunday’s showdown against the defending national champion, North Carolina. Texas A&M surged to a 14-point lead by intermission and never let up, winning in dominant fashion by an 86-65 score as a seven-point underdog. The Aggies hooked up money-line backers with a +300 payout.
As of Tuesday morning, most spots had the Wolverines favored by three with a total of 134.5 points.
Let’s move to Friday’s games now. No. 1 seed Kansas is set to tangle with fifth-seeded Clemson in Omaha at the Midwest Region semifinals. As of Tuesday morning, the Jayhawks were favored by 4.5 points with a total of 143. The Tigers were +170 on the money line.
Clemson absolutely smashed Auburn 84-53 as a 1.5-point underdog after building a 43-19 halftime lead thanks to a 17-0 roll. Meanwhile, KU advanced with wins over Penn and Seton Hall. The Pirates hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to capture a backdoor cover as 4.5-point ‘dogs in the 83-79 win.
The other Midwest Region game features Duke vs. Syracuse. In my Bracket Analysis column last week, I pointed out how Jim Boeheim was in my top five of coaches I trust in March. Since then, the ‘Cuse has ripped off three consecutive wins with the combination of the Orange and the ‘under’ cashing in all three games.
This certainly isn’t a Syracuse team as talented as many others in the past, but it does have great length to execute Boeheim’s zone and stymie opposing shooters. I’ve been saying for more than a month that I simply couldn’t see Michigan State’s season ended on a happy not despite its abundance of talent. This notion came true when the Orange sent the Spartans packing in a 55-53 win as a 10-point underdog. The ‘Cuse cashed money-line tickets in the +475 neighborhood.
Duke throttled Atlantic-10 regular-season champ Rhode Island in the Round of 32. As of early Tuesday morning, most books had the Blue Devils listed as 11.5-point favorites with a total of 133. The Orange was +550 on the money line.
Villanova is set to take on former Big East rival West Virginia in Boston. As of early Tuesday, most books had the Wildcats listed as 5.5-point ‘chalk’ with a total of 154.5.
Jay Wright’s team wouldn’t have lost to any team in America on Saturday in Pittsburgh. ‘Nova erupted with a staggering performance early in the second half, rapidly turning a two-point game into a complete runaway vs. red-hot Alabama.
West Virginia senior point guard Jevon Carter was probably the Tournament’s best player in the first weekend. Carter had 21 points, eight assists, six steals and five rebounds in an 85-68 opening-round win over Murray State as a 10-point favorite. He also shut down the Racers’ leading scorer, Jonathan Stark (22.0 PPG), who made 1-of-12 field-goal attempts and scored only nine points.
Then in the Round of 32 vs. in-state adversary Marshall, Carter produced 28 points, five assists, five steals and four boards. In addition, he shut down another high-scoring guard. This time it was Jon Elmore, who was averaging 23 points, seven assists and six rebounds per contests. Elmore torched Wichita State for 27 points in the opening round, but he committed eight turnovers and went 4-of-12 from the field in the blowout loss to WVU.
The other game in Boston will pit Texas Tech up against Purdue. The Boilermakers lost 7’2” star center Isaac Haas to a broken elbow in the opener, yet they still advanced past Butler 76-73 thanks to a clutch trey by Dakota Mathias in the final minute.
As of early Tuesday, Purdue was listed as a 1.5-point favorite with a total of 137.5. The Red Raiders beat Florida 69-66 as 1.5-point favorites thanks to brilliant performances from Keenan Evans and Zhaire Smith. Evans hit the go-ahead 3-ball with just over two minutes remaining vs. UF. He scored 33 of his 45 points for the weekend in the second halves of wins over the Gators and Stephen F. Austin. The Red Raiders are back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since Bobby Knight’s team lost to WVU in ’05.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
-- Penny Hardaway will be announced as the new head coach at Memphis at a press conference on Tuesday.
-- Danny Hurley is reportedly mulling offers from both UConn and Pitt. The Rhode Island head coach was scheduled to meet with URI athletic director Thorr Bjorn on Tuesday.
-- The Wesgate Las Vegas SuperBook’s adjusted future odds look like this:
West Virginia 15/1
Texas A&M 25/1
Texas Tech 25/1
Kansas State 50/1
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.
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