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Top-10 Sweet Sixteen bets

25 March 2013

The first weekend of the NCAA men's basketball tournament is now over, and thousands have left Las Vegas as winners and losers. But there are still two more weekends of college basketball left, and while the chaos of 16 games a day is finished until next year, there are still plenty of betting opportunities left for the tournament.

Here are my top-10 Sweet Sixteen NCAA bets.

10. Syracuse (+5.5) vs. Indiana
Since an embarrassing 61-39 loss to Georgetown to end the regular season, the Orange have gone 5-1 with the only loss coming to Louisville in the Big East championship game. That game was a bit of a blowout, but it came on the heels of an emotional overtime win over the Hoyas. The Orange didn't play particularly well against Cal in the Round of 32, yet still managed to win fairly easily.

Indiana, on the other hand, struggled against Temple, taking its first lead of the second half with just over a minute to play. The Hoosiers are just 5-3 in their last eight games, and I look for this to be a close game.

9. Marquette vs. Miami (-5.5)
While the Hurricanes had a close call against Illinois, they have been hot of late, winning six straight after a two-game skid early in the month. All but two of those wins have been by 10 or more points, and their offense is averaging 73.3 points per game over that time.

Marquette has also been playing well in March, but with the exception of a win against 21st-ranked Notre Dame, the competition hasn't been quite as impressive with close wins over Rutgers and St. Johns in the Big East tournament, and a last-second layup to beat 14th-seeded Davidson in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Look for Miami to jump out to a big early lead in this one and coast to a cover.

8. Arizona vs. Ohio State (-4)
Ohio State needed a questionable call and late three-pointer from Aaron Craft to stay alive against Iowa State, but the Buckeyes are the real deal. They've won 10 straight games, and just two of those games (Sunday's game and a Big 10 tournament win over Michigan State) were decided by less than seven points.

Arizona, meanwhile, has had a fairly easy time in the tournament so far, with big wins over Belmont and Harvard. That said, the Wildcats were just 2-3 in the five games prior to the start of the tournament. Look for Ohio State's defense, which has allowed just 56.7 points per game over the last 10 games, to clamp down on Arizona and salt this one away at the free throw line.

7. La Salle vs. Wichita State (-3)
You don't see a No. 9 seed vs. a 13th-seed in the Sweet Sixteen every year, so it should come as no surprise that one of the teams' mascots is the "Shockers." Wichita State pulled a Gonzaga by beating one of the tournament's top seeds, ironically, Gonzaga, on Saturday, and it was no fluke. La Salle, meanwhile, knocked off fourth-seeded Kansas State in the first round, then beat 12-seed Ole Miss by two on Sunday.

Wichita State has been impressive so far and enters Thursday's game in unfamiliar territory as the higher seed for the first time in the tournament. La Salle has found a way to keep games close so far in the tournament, but I think this game ends up being a disappointment for fans expecting a thriller as Wichita State will win this one big.

6. Oregon (+9.5) vs. Louisville
Twelfth-seeded Oregon has been impressive in the Midwest bracket, beating Oklahoma State and St. Louis by a combined 30 points. Louisville has also been equally impressive, though against much less ballyhooed competition, winning its two tournament games by an average of 28.5 points.

The Cardinals haven't really been tested since a five-point win over Syracuse in early March and have won 12 straight games. It's hard to say a Rick Pitino-coached team is going to come out flat and unprepared, but I do think that Oregon is going to surprise quite a few people and make a game out of this. I'll still pick Louisville to win, but I love getting 9.5 points on the Cinderella story here.

5. Michigan State (+1.5) vs. Duke
After dropping three straight games to top-20 opponents, the Spartans have won five of their last six games, with the only hiccup being a three-point loss to Ohio State in the Big 10 tournament. Michigan State has cruised in the tournament so far and faces its first real test in Duke on Friday.

Duke has had a fairly easy run to the Sweet Sixteen, though neither of their games was a huge blowout. But the Blue Devils have allowed almost 10 points more per game than Michigan State has allowed. I think defense will be key in this game, and it will likely come down to free throws. Both teams shoot above 70 percent from the line, and in a game that could be decided by one point, I'll take the team getting a point and a half.

4. Michigan vs. Kansas (-2)
Kansas has been on a roll since losing three straight games in early February. The Jayhawks have won 12 of their last 13, and other than an embarrassing loss to Baylor where most of the team forgot to show, they've been nearly unstoppable. Only three of the games were competitive (Oklahoma State, Iowa State and North Carolina), and Kansas still managed to win them all.

Michigan, meanwhile, coasted into the Sweet Sixteen, but struggled late in the season, losing two of their last three. One important stat to note is both teams' records against ranked opponents. Kansas is an impressive 5-1, while Michigan stands at just 4-5. I'll take Kansas to cover, especially considering their 73.7 free throw shooting percentage could put Michigan away in the later stages of the game.

3. Florida Gulf Coast vs. Florida (-11.5)
I don't really like giving 11.5 points in a Sweet Sixteen game, but I feel like the jig is finally going to be up for the ultimate Cinderella, Florida Gulf Coast. Prior to FGCU's shocker over Georgetown in its first NCAA tournament game, the team was 0-1 against nationally ranked teams, as they were walloped by Duke early in the season. They've been on a tear to be certain, winning 14 of their last 16, but I just don't think they have the talent to be competitive against a Florida team that isn't going to be taking them lightly. My heart will be rooting for them to win, but my head says take Florida to cover.

2. Michigan State to win the Midwest (7/2)
I've already picked Michigan State to cover vs. Duke, and I like the odds you're getting on the Spartans. Louisville is the most likely to win, but the odds at Bodog Sportsbook and Racebook/Bovada aren't favorable, at just 5/7, and Duke is just 11/4. I'll take Tom Izzo and the Spartans to pull off two straight upsets for a nice payout.

1. Syracuse to win the East (15/4)
Once again, I'm picking an underdog that I picked to cover. To be honest I think Indiana is a 60/40 favorite to win on Thursday, but if Syracuse pulls off the upset, I think the Orange have a decent chance to beat Miami to make it to the Final Four. Yes, a big part of this pick is sentimental, as I grew up two hours north of Syracuse and remain a fan of the team. But at 15/4, you're getting a great price on the Orange to make it to Atlanta.
Top-10 Sweet Sixteen bets is republished from
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.