The first round of the NCAA Tournament was pretty kind to us. We pushed on Arkansas’ team total to start, but rattled off four wins in the last six picks. Not too shabby. Now we’re onto the Sweet 16.
I’ve circled two more underdogs and a double-digit favorite that are all worth a wager.
Let’s go to work.
Syracuse vs. Houston (-6.5, 140.5)
Make it 3-for-3 on Cuse. I’ve been on ‘em since the Round of 64 and there’s absolutely no turning back now.
Buddy Boeheim is one of the shining stars of this tournament and he’s the leader of an Orange offense that people are finally respecting. Syracuse is a Top-20 team in offensive efficiency and they’re amazing at the free-throw line at 78 percent. They’re executing at a very high level and their shooters are shooting with lots of confidence.
And then there’s the 2-3 zone, that ol’ boring scheme that head coach Jim Boeheim has run for four decades. This Syracuse defense isn’t even close to being one of Boeheim’s best, but the size and rotational fundamentals still give opponents fits. You literally can’t prepare for it.
If Houston shows out and hits 13 3-pointers, you tip your cap and move on. But I’m betting on Buddy Boeheim getting it done one more time. Give me the hotter team and more experienced coach catching all those points.
Villanova vs. Baylor (-7.5, 141)
Speaking of points, we’ve got some extra wiggle room with Villanova.
Oddsmakers opened this game Baylor -6 and sharp and square action have moved it all the way up to 7.5. There will likely be buyback as we get closer to tip-off, so I would strike now while you still get a bloated number.
Villanova’s offense, efficient as ever, hasn’t really missed a beat without the injured Collin Gillespie. The Wildcats frequently have four players on the floor that can knock down a mid-range jumper, which makes it impossible to double-team anybody.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is the best player on the floor and I’m not just saying that because he has a hyphen in his last name. He is smooth as butter from 15 feet and in, and his footwork has improved drastically over the course of the season.
Much like taking points with Boeheim, I love getting points with a coach like Jay Wright in the NCAA Tournament. I trust him to make the necessary adjustments to ensure that the Wildcats hang inside the number.
Oral Roberts vs. Arkansas (-11.5, 158.5)
Be wary of those big underdogs in the Sweet 16.
There’s a reason teams like Oral Roberts and Creighton are catching double digits. The Golden Eagles have had a very nice tournament run, but this is likely a game where they find themselves down 15 points and either sink or swim from there. I’ll side with the former.
Oral Roberts loves to run but, Arkansas is ORU on steroids. The Razorbacks play even faster and are very, very good at turning you over. I’m a little nervous about how well the Eagles shoot the three-ball, but I’ll counter those nerves with the realization the Hogs are Top 10 in defensive efficiency. And they pressure the hell out of the basketball.
When these two teams met back in December in Fayetteville, Arkansas was a 19-point favorite. Now the line is -11 or -11.5?! Obviously, you can’t make Arkansas -19 on a neutral court in the NCAA Tournament, but home court ain’t that expensive. Not even close.
I was surprised this sucker wasn’t -13.5 or -14, so count me in at -11.5.
RECORD: (27-15, +10.5)
TOURNAMENT: (4-2-1, +1.8)