It's Thursday, and after three full days without mainstream college basketball (sorry NIT, you don't count) it's good to be back with another edition of AT's Betfred Best Bets - Sweet 16 edition!
That's right, after an up-and-down day last Thursday, I bounced back nicely with a solid 3-0 day Sunday. The best part: None of the bets were much of a sweat (at least not relative to the sweat I got at the gym while previewing the day's games).
Anyway, I'm back with a handful of best bets for the Sweet 16.
I'm not picking every game, but will give you my best bets above - with thoughts on all of the remaining games at the bottom.
Here's where you can sign up.
Now, to the bets:
Thursday: No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 3 Kansas State OVER 137.5 - East Regional, 6:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Betting a Michigan State over here has to be hazardous for your health here, right? Especially after they held the explosive Marquette offense to just 60 points last week?
Well, not exactly.
The way I see it, while Kansas State talked a big game after their win over Kentucky, with Jerome Tang saying "We had more dudes than them" that wasn't really the case. That's not a knock on Tang, who's a superstar, but the reality is, they had one dude: Markquis Nowell, who was the best player on the floor against Kentucky.
I'd argue that outside of him, no one played anything close to their potential last Sunday.
So, while Nowell could take half a step back (expecting 27 points and nine assists probably isn't realistic), I do think it's fair to say that K-State can probably get more from Keyontae Johnson (who shot just 5 of 14 from the field) and a bench that contributed seven total points.
Then there's Michigan State, which quietly is a little bit better offensively than you think. This isn't the rugged Michigan State squads of the past, but one that shoots 39 percent from three, and generally has four guys on the court at all times who can hit threes.
My lean would be to take Kansas State plus the points, but I'd rather just roll with the over here.
Thursday: No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 2 UCLA (-1.5) and UNDER 145.5 - West Regional, 9:45 p.m. ET, CBS
UCLA-Gonzaga. Gonzaga-UCLA. Call me crazy, but I feel like I've seen this game before.
Oh, that's right... I HAVE!
Not only did these two plays 17 years ago to the day in the famous "Crying Adam Morrison game" in 2006, but also met in that iconic 2021 Final Four bubble game and last year in the regular season.
So yeah, two programs know each other well.
And most importantly, Mick Cronin knows the blueprint to keep things close against the Zags: Keep them out of transition. Slow the game down. Make them beat you in the halfcourt.
Well, not only did that work in the near 2021 upset, it's basically been the blueprint to beat Gonzaga all year. In a wild stat: In games where Gonzaga scores more than 70 points this season, they are 29-1. In games where they score 70 or fewer, they are 1-4.
Therefore, the game-plan has to be to keep the Zags in the half court and limit possessions, and ironically, that's what UCLA does as well as anyone. They rank in the bottom third of college basketball in pace of play and turn the ball over just 10.1 points per game, the fewest of any Zag opponent all year.
Point being, not only do they know the game-plan, they're the perfect team to execute it.
I'm taking both UCLA (-1.5) and the under of 145.5, with the UNDER my best bet of the Sweet 16.
Friday: No. 5 Miami vs. No. 1 Houston OVER 138.5 - Midwest Regional, 7:15 p.m. ET, CBS
I am far from a mind-reader, but I'm guessing some of you are surprised by this pick: How can I take Houston, one of the elite defensive teams in college hoops to go over in this game?
Well, the answer is simple really.
First, let's go to their opponents.
While Miami is elite offensively, they're far from it on defense, ranking just 211th in field goal percentage defense. Not ideal, but good news for Houston.
At the same time, they are elite offensively, ranking in the top 20 in field goal percentage offense as well as points per game, at over 79 per game.
Point being, they're going to give up a lot of easy baskets, which I think will drag Houston into a little bit of a quicker paced game. Houston would prefer not to go up and down, but has proven an ability to do so, scoring 81 against Auburn the other day.
Houston wins, and my guess is that they cover too.
But I like the over of 138.5 way more than either side here.
Thursday: No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 4 UConn (-4) - West Region, 7:00 p.m. ET, CBS: To me, this is the toughest game on the board to pick, because the two teams play so similarly - tough, physical, beat you up, fearless basketball. Put simply, I'm staying away, but if I had to take a side, it'd be Arkansas plus the points. The Mitchell twins down low could give Adama Sanogo issues (at least relative to what Iona and Saint Mary's did on the opening weekend) and Devo Davis and Jordan Walsh are two elite wing defenders to throw at Jordan Hawkins. Lean Arkansas, but I'm staying away.
Thursday: No. 8 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 4 Tennessee (-5) - East Region, 9:00 p.m. ET, TBS: Wouldn't it be so on brand for Tennessee to pull the shocker against Duke last weekend, and come up short here? Of course, it would - and that's not a criticism, it's what I've heard from Tennessee fans all week. I'm picking Tennessee to win because I think their toughness and physicality to wear down Florida Atlantic eventually, but I wouldn't actually bet on it.
Friday: No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 1 Alabama (-7.5) - South Region, 6:30 p.m. ET, TBS: From the day the bracket came out, I pegged San Diego State as the kind of team that could upset Alabama, and now that the game is here I'm... staying away? Listen, I think the Aztecs, a tough, old, physical team can keep it close. But I've also bet against Alabama a few times this year and it's a horrifying adventure. They've also been dominant in their five postseason games so far.
Friday: No. 15 Princeton vs. No. 6 Creighton (-10) - South Region, 9:00 p.m. ET, TBS: Another game that I just have absolutely, positively no strong opinion on. Creighton should win, but 10 poi
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