After an exciting first weekend of college basketball action, we are down to the final 16 teams in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. March Madness has lived up to its name, with plenty of thrilling upsets and great performances from some of the biggest stars in the nation.
Now, the teams remaining must battle it out this weekend in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight for a coveted trip to the Final Four in Houston.
While some teams like Houston, UCLA and Gonzaga have been here plenty of times before and have the experience needed to advance, others like Princeton, Florida Atlantic and Creighton enter uncharted territory and will be looking to make a statement. As for all of the betting opportunities … we’ve got you covered.
We gathered our betting experts and asked some of the most pressing questions regarding the Sweet 16 matchups to help you make the best wagering decisions ahead of the weekend.
All odds are from Caesars Sportsbook.
1. Looking at the championship futures of the 16 teams remaining, who are you picking now to win it all?
Anita Marks: A healthy Houston team (+360) was my pick pre-tournament. However, I have Creighton coming out of the South Region in 50% of my brackets, and you can get them now at 10-1. Their road to the Final Four is not too difficult and I have them advancing past Princeton and facing their toughest challenges in Alabama and possibly Tennessee in the Final Four. Creighton checks all the boxes. It has very few flaws and dominates on both sides of the court.
Jeff Borzello: Still riding with Alabama like I did pre-tournament, although the Crimson Tide have jumped Houston and are now the betting favorites to win it all. They’re +350 now, but I’ll still take them. Thinking outside the box, I might take a shot on Michigan State at +2500. Because of Tom Izzo and his backcourt of Tyson Walker and A.J. Hoggard, the Spartans would be my pick right now to come out of the East Region.
Dalen Cuff: I was on Alabama pre-tournament and like their path to a final even more now given the chaos in the East Region. So Alabama +350 to win it all looks good to me. I think their biggest hurdle will be Creighton (assuming it gets past Princeton) in the Elite Eight. If you can find a future to reach the final, that also could be a good play because I think they can get there, but the other side of the bracket will provide a heavy challenge regardless of who comes out.
2. Which Sweet 16 games are your favorite plays?
Borzello: Tennessee-FAU under 131. Tennessee has the nation’s best defense, it played at the slowest tempo in the SEC and it seems to have found its footing after some hiccups toward the end of the regular season and the injury to Zakai Zeigler. If the Volunteers are to beat FAU — and I think they will — they’re going to win the tempo battle and make it a physical, half-court game. That inherently lends itself to the under. It’s worth noting Tennessee has won just one game since January in which the two teams combined for more than 131 points — and that was 132 points against Arkansas. I also think Tennessee -5.5 is squarely in play.
Why Fulghum likes the under in Tennessee vs. FAU matchup
Tyler Fulghum expects the Tennesse vs. Florida Atlantic University Sweet 16 matchup to go under the total expected points.
Tyler Fulghum: FAU (+5.5); under 131.5 against Tennessee. First, let’s start with the fact that both of Tennessee’s games in the tournament thus far have come in well under the total. The two games involving the Volunteers have averaged 115.0 PPG. Tennessee failed to cover — and almost lost outright to Louisiana in the first round, then they won impressively and covered against Duke. I’m choosing not to let their most recent performance sway my opinion that they’ve played mediocre basketball for the better part of six weeks now.
Joe Fortenbaugh: UConn (-3.5) over Arkansas. Entering the dance, the Huskies were one of four teams to rank in the top 20 in both adjusted offense and adjusted defense according to KenPom.com. The other three? Houston, Alabama and Texas, all of whom are still alive and thriving. The big problem for the Razorbacks this season has been closing out games, something UConn does exceptionally well after crushing Iona by 26 points in the opening round and then hammering Saint Mary’s by 14 points in the round of 32. Don’t be surprised if UConn works its way into the Final Four.
Marks: UCLA-Gonzaga over 145.5 points. Both teams played their conference tournaments in Las Vegas, so they are comfortable in Sin City. Losing Jaylen Clark will eventually hurt UCLA defensively — and this very well could be the game. The Zags are well coached and will find the gaps and score. Drew Timme should be making a lot of trips to the free throw line, and the Zags rank 75th in defensive efficiency.
Marks: UConn (-3.5) over Arkansas. The Huskies are 3-1 ATS while averaging 79 PPG. Adama Sanogo is unstoppable, averaging 17 points and 12 rebounds alone. UConn has the length, athleticism and depth to dominate. It ranks in the top 20 in both defensive and offensive efficiency.
Erin Dolan: Tennessee 1H and ML (-135). Tennessee is ranked ninth in adjusted offensive efficiency and first in adjusted defensive efficiency. While Florida Atlantic ranks in the top 50 in both of those categories, the Vols are just the better team. The Owls beat No. 8 Memphis and No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson (thanks to Purdue) to get to the Sweet 16. This is another level of competition, as Tennessee just took down Duke. In order to get a better price, I am taking them to win the first half and the game outright.
Borzello: Creighton -9.5. Princeton is the Cinderella entering the Sweet 16, the 15-seed that every non-Omaha resident in America will be supporting. That said, I think the Tigers’ run ends against the Bluejays. Princeton was surprisingly effective at keeping Arizona out of transition and then had a ton of offensive success against Missouri, getting the Tigers in rotation and knocking down 12 3-pointers. But Creighton had the best defense in the Big East and is very comfortable in a half-court game.
Why Joe Fortenbaugh is taking Kansas State in the Sweet 16
Joe Fortenbaugh breaks down the Michigan State-Kansas State Sweet 16 matchup and explains why he is taking the Wildcats plus the points.
Cuff: Kansas State ML (+115) over Michigan State. It’s an upset according to oddsmakers, but not by Kenpom. In my estimation, this game is a brand-name-favorite situation, just like Kentucky was. The Tom Izzo success in the tournament narrative is real; his teams have performed very well. But I think the Wildcats are undervalued here. They have more talent and can generate offense more easily.
Cuff: I really like Miami +7 against Houston. The Canes almost always have four guys on the floor who can create their own shot or one for a teammate. That is truly unique in college basketball. Houston is elite defensively, but the Canes will provide a good test. The battle will be on the boards. Houston is fourth in offensive rebound percentage, so Miami will have to clean the glass just like they did against Indiana. Also, Norchad Omier, who had eight offensive rebounds against IU, could be a problem for Houston, which struggles on the defensive glass (151st in defensive rebound percentage).
3. There are plenty of Cinderella teams left. Which betting upset are you targeting?
Why Stanford Steve is picking Miami over Houston
Steve Coughlin explains why bettors should take Miami over Houston in the Sweet 16.
Borzello: Miami +7. A fifth-seeded Miami Hurricanes team isn’t exactly a Cinderella, but getting seven points feels like a lot. I expect this game to be closer than expected, especially if Miami rebounds the way it did against Indiana on Sunday. Houston is elite defensively, but the Cougars’ three losses this season have been against teams that get to the free throw line at one end and keep them to one shot at the other end. Miami has multiple players who can get their own shots and draw contact.
Fulghum: Like Jeff, I like Miami, and as mentioned above, I am firmly on FAU to knock off Tennessee as well.
Cuff: Styles make fights — it’s trite but true. Gonzaga wants to push the pace and make it pretty, while UCLA wants to walk it up and grind you down on defense. UCLA’s David Singleton suffered an injury against Northwestern, but he isn’t expected to miss this game against the Zags. I think the absence of Jaylen Clark is really felt in this game. I think it’s a one-possession game, but the Zags have defended much better as of late. I’m taking Gonzaga ML (+115) over UCLA.
4. Anything else you are looking to bet before Thursday’s action tips off?
Borzello: Michigan State +300 to reach the Final Four. I thought these odds might be a little better for a 7-seed, but I like it anyway. As mentioned earlier, I have the Spartans getting to Houston. I love their guards, I love Tom Izzo, they’re favored over Kansas State — and against Tennessee (or FAU) in the Elite Eight, it’s hard to ignore Izzo’s 24-7 record in the second game of an NCAA tournament weekend with only one day to prepare. History is also on Michigan State’s side. In the past two regionals held at Madison Square Garden, the 7-seed reached the Final Four: UConn in 2014, South Carolina in 2017.