The NCAA Tournament has already reached its Sweet 16 stage, with four teams punching their ticket into the Elite Eight last night.
15 Saint Peter’s is only the third 15-seed to reach the second weekend of play. They are the highest seed still fighting for a chance to advance, while the #1 Kansas Jayhawks will put on for the favorites when they meet the #4 Providence Friars.
Here’s to predicting the Madness of March — these are the best games to bet on Friday night.
Providence +7.5 vs Kansas
That’s right; the top-ranked Jayhawks are set up for failure with such a large spread against one of America’s most consistent teams, the Providence Friars.
Providence posted much better numbers against the spread in multiple areas (total, underdog vs favorite, neutral venues) than Kansas did and also has the benefit of chasing the target instead of being the target, the latter of which doomed them towards the end of the regular season. This Friars team does everything decently to very well and can play in a variety of circumstances.
Kansas is a team predicated around athleticism, but their absence of fundamentals at times could come back to bite them against a well-drilled opponent. Starman Ochai Ogbaji is also averaging six fewer points per game in the tournament than he did in the regular season, which is a major cause for concern.
UNC +2 vs UCLA
Betting on UNC is one of the most terrifying things anyone can do at this stage of the tournament, but their ceiling warrants the risk. The Tar Heels have terrible shot decisions, can go extremely cold, and get into foul trouble, but despite all of that, they have a potent offense, multiple long, athletic guards, and a rebounding and defensive menace in Armando Bacot clogging up the middle.
The book on UNC reads that they almost threw a 25-point lead against Baylor in 10 minutes, but in reality, they had to first get the 25-point lead and then go on to win the game, which they did.
UCLA is back in the sweet 16 for the second straight year but does not have the same aura around it. Guard Johnny Juzang has a bum ankle that has plagued him for a couple of months, and their offense has become too dependent on Tyger Campbell late in the game — not that Campbell has not delivered, but he should not already be having to save the team against inferior opponents.
Forward Cody Riley will have the task of slowing down Bacot, and if his 7.4-point, 3.9-rebound average says anything, it is that he will struggle to do so.
Iowa State vs Miami ML
Iowa State has scored less than 60 points in both of its tournament victories thus far; this is not an aberration either, given that they scored 41 and 36 points in two of their three games prior.
The Cyclones want to get up into their opponents and muddy up the game defensively. They do not provide much of an offensive threat if they are unable to impose their will in this manner.
Miami is much the opposite of Iowa State and has aggressive perimeter defenders that can also play in transition and score in isolation. This game is a mismatch simply because of the variety of win conditions that the hurricanes have, compared to the boom-or-bust nature of ISU’s squad.