NCAA Tournament Odds: Early Thoughts For Sweet 16 Betting Lines

Kansas will beat Providence, but by how much?


March 21

After a 7-2-1 betting start to the NCAA Tournament, it’s time to turn the page to the Sweet 16.

Please understand that these lines get decidedly tougher to beat as the field shortens, so I’ll likely have only a few picks for the Thursday and Friday betting slates in the coming days.

Also, Gonzaga is now a +240 favorite at FanDuel Sportsbook to cut down the nets in New Orleans, followed by Arizona and Kansas at +500, then Purdue at +800. And one professional oddsmaker told NESN that Gonzaga would be a 3-point favorite over Kansas in the national championship and -4 against Arizona.

Here are my early leans for round three of the NCAA Tournament:

Arizona (-2, O/U 145) vs. Houston
I really respect Houston’s physical defense, but this feels like a pretty cheap price at Arizona -2. The Wildcats are playing with house money after surviving a scary second-round battle with TCU and I lean to them in this one. It’s far from one of my favorite games to handicap, though.

Villanova (-5, O/U 135) vs. Michigan
Michigan made it through to the Sweet 16 in my bracket, but now the Wolverines face one of the most efficient teams we’ve seen in decades. Not only does Villanova lead the nation in free-throw percentage (82.6%), it rarely turns the basketball over. The underdogs usually run into trouble after opening weekend and I lean to Nova.

Gonzaga (-8.5, O/U 154.5) vs. Arkansas
This is easily the highest total on the board and it honestly might not be high enough. Both teams love to push the pace and they can score inside and outside. The Bulldogs and Razorbacks also love to shoot threes, which either leads to points on the attempts or coming back the other way with layups, dunks or wide-open threes in transition. Lean to the “Over.”

Texas Tech (-1, 136.5) vs. Duke
This one has me in a mental pretzel. It’s very telling that the betting market immediately moved away from Duke early, but it’s also scary as hell to bet against Mike Krzyzewski in his last NCAA Tournament. There has never been a better “referee whisperer” than Coach K even though I think the Red Raiders are a better all-around team. I’m torn for now.

UCLA (-2, O/U 142) vs. North Carolina
Hopefully you got a piece of North Carolina at 25-1 to win the East. This game is a total coin flip and the Tar Heels would be around a 3-point underdog against Purdue if they get by UCLA. I lean to the “Over” 142.5 points because the pace should be tremendous. This has all the makings of a 78-73 final score.

Purdue (-12.5, O/U 136.5) vs. Saint Peter’s
I still can’t believe the Boilermakers outshot Texas 46-12 at the foul line on Sunday night. That’s one of the largest discrepancies we’ve ever seen in the NCAA Tournament and it doesn’t really allow us to properly gauge Purdue. Saint Peter’s is no slouch and if the Peacocks can match the physicality, they’ll have a shot to hang inside this big ol’ number.

Kansas (-7.5, O/U 141.5) vs. Providence
Providence fans were all up in my Twitter mentions after wins over perennial powerhouses South Dakota State and Richmond, but this is clearly an exponentially tougher challenge against No. 1 seed Kansas. The Jayhawks’ offense is firing on all cylinders and I’ll probably lay the points. Ed Cooley did an amazing job this season, but the Friars are about to turn into a pumpkin.

Miami (-2.5, O/U 133.5) vs. Iowa State
It’s a literal coin flip. I wouldn’t bet this game with your money.

Thumbnail photo via Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports Images

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