Harvard notched more than a moral victory in this year’s NCAA tournament, but the Crimson’s run still is over after falling 80-73 to fourth-seeded Michigan State on Saturday. While Harvard beat the basketball odds as 8.5-point underdogs, the Spartans move on to the Sweet 16.
Next up for the Spartans is Friday’s tilt at Madison Square Garden (9:57 p.m. ET) against No. 1 Virginia — a battle between the champions of the Big Ten and the ACC. Bovada has the Spartans favored by two points (-115) with a total of 127. Michigan State also is the No. 3 favorite to win the tournament at 11-2. Virginia would pay out nearly twice as much at 10-1.
This looks like another golden opportunity to bet on the underdogs. The farther the tournament goes, the more casual bettors can be expected to open their wallets and support familiar big-name college basketball programs like Michigan State. This is the 12th time in the last 17 years the Spartans have reached the Sweet 16. Virginia, meanwhile, is in the second weekend for the first time since 1995 and has never made it all the way to the championship game.
The advanced statistics certainly appear to be on the side of the Cavaliers. They check in at No. 4 (No. 20 offense, No. 5 defense) on Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency charts, four spots ahead of the Spartans (No. 9 offense, No. 41 defense). Otherwise, this figures to be a very close contest between two teams that have performed very well against the spread this year. Virginia comes into the Sweet 16 with a record of 19-11-2 against the spread on the season and 6-2-1 against the spread in its past nine games. Michigan State is 20-12-3 against the spread on the season and 5-3-1 against the spread over the same span.
Another thing about Friday’s game might give Michigan State supporters pause: The Spartans are only 2-10 lifetime at Madison Square Garden and 2-6 under head coach Tom Izzo. However, this is the first NCAA tournament game at the Garden in 53 years, and the Spartans have been known to rise to the occasion. It should be an instant classic no matter who prevails.
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