Sweet 16 SU Picks

Posted by Peter Boysen on March 20, 2017 in

A week ago, there were 68 teams in contention (hypothetical in some cases, actual in many more) for the NCAA men’s basketball championship. After the First Four last Tuesday and Wednesday, and the rounds of 64 and 32 that took place between Thursday and Sunday, we have 16 teams left. Some are expected (Gonzaga, Kansas, North Carolina are the top seeds that survived), while some are not (11-seed Xavier is still around, and 8-seed Wisconsin dispatched Villanova). As you consider your wagering strategy for the Sweet 16, consider our suggestions for March Madness betting matchup.

Sweet 16 SU Picks

East Region: Wisconsin beats Florida, South Carolina beats Baylor

I’ll be honest — I thought the Gators would have trouble with East Tennessee State in the opening round, since the Gators don’t have dominant big men, while ETSU had one of the better centers in the mid-majors. But Florida went ahead and won by 15, and then they absolutely dismantled a Virginia team that had struggled to score most of the season but had always played solid defense, winning by 26. However, Wisconsin has a lot more clutch shooting than Virginia does, with Bronson Koenig leading the way. That’s how they took down Villanova, combining clutch shooting with just enough solid defense inside to turn away the Wildcats. I see Wisconsin using a similar strategy to beat Florida.

South Carolina has scored 181 points in their two games so far, as they took down Marquette and then two-seed Duke. Baylor can score in bunches as well, but they don’t play much defense at all, as they showed most recently when they let USC come back from an immense deficit in the first half to win. I see South Carolina-Baylor as a barnburner, but I think the Gamecocks get enough stops to send the Bears home.

West Region: West Virginia over Gonzaga, Arizona over Xavier

We’ve seen nothing but the best of “Press Virginia” in the tournament so far. Although Bucknell was able to put up 80 in the first round against West Virginia in what amounted to a track meet, the Mountaineers were able to frustrate Notre Dame in their second round game, forcing a series of turnovers that kept the ball out of Bonzie Colson’s hands and wearing out the Irish backcourt. Gonzaga has a lot of good shooters, led by Nigel Williams-Goss, but I don’t see them dealing well with that swarming Mountaineeer defense.

Xavier has prospered because of their ability to outrebound the opposition. They finally face a foe that can stand toe to toe with them underneath, as Arizona features Lauri Markkanen as just the best of a collection of players who crash the boards with ferocity. The Wildcats also have athleticism on the outside, which means they will use that inside-out game to send the Musketeers home.

South Region: North Carolina over Butler, UCLA over Kentucky

North Carolina remains one of the most complete teams in the tournament. While they have taken defeats at the hands of teams with a higher ceiling, they also don’t have as many flaws, which makes them trouble now that they have a couple of tournament wins under their collective belts. Butler is also a solid team, but the Tar Heels should be able to control the boards and stay even with outside shooting, winning a close game.

Kentucky is a lot like Baylor — they just don’t play defense down the stretch, making them vulnerable to teams that can score. UCLA can score both inside and outside, and I see them taking advantage of one of the younger teams in the tournament as things get near the end. The Wildcats had enough to escape Wichita State, but they won’t beat the Bruins.

Midwest Region: Kansas over Purdue, Michigan over Oregon

The problem for Purdue in this game is that Kansas has the more athletic backcourt — and they also have the size inside to counteract Boilermaker star Caleb Swanigan. Because Kansas can go inside-out with better penetration from the guards than Purdue can, I see the Jayhawks wearing down Purdue as the second half goes on.

Oregon has a number of defensive issues, as they showed against Rhode Island in the second round of the tournament. Michigan has the momentum of a hot winning streak and more offensive weapons than the Rams did, and while Oregon can score at video-game pace, they don’t have the consistency to take down the Wolverines.