The Sweet Sixteen is here. We have the West Region and the South Region going at it. Our first round betting preview was okay, we went 3-4. But, full spin zone, we went 3-1 when taking sides, so that's what we'll be doing here.
We will preview all four games, with three official picks - and I will also share my lean in Arkansas-Gonzaga, even though I won't be officially betting it. I will also be giving out some player props that are now available on DraftKings.
We don’t have much time to waste and I’m writing this with an injured wrist. So the words will be fewer, but we will get straight to the point. Our guy Zac did a full power rankings breakdown of the teams remaining, so make sure to check that out.
South Region: No. 11 Michigan vs. No. 2 Villanova (San Antonio, 7:29 ET, TBS)
Spread: Villanova (-5)
This is a rematch of the 2018 national championship game that really did not go Michigan’s way. Two of Villanova’s contributors in that game are still on the roster and will start Thursday night. It’s unlikely Villanova dominates in the same fashion.
Still, the Wildcats have to have the advantage right? Villanova ranks eighth in offensive efficiency nationally. There are times that Michigan is asleep defensively on the perimeter. Devante Jones' health status is questionable in this one. Villanova has some of the best guard play in the country, and if Jones can't go, Michigan is going to start freshman Frankie Collins? To be fair Collins has had a tremendous tournament thus far.
Still, the one thing Michigan has going for them, they will have the most dominant player on the floor in Hunter Dickinson. Dickinson has been on a mission scoring 48 points in the tournament so far. The 7-foot-1 sophomore dwarfs Villanova’s biggest starter, 6-foot-8 Eric Dixon. Dickinson’s hook shot should be available all night long. If Dickinson is doubled, Caleb Houston will need to make open threes.
Put simply, I think there is value betting Michigan as an underdog considering they have the biggest mismatch on the floor. Villanova still needs to shoot 38% from three to win and they have to get to the free throw line. Michigan has been playing like the team that was supposed to be a top ten team in the beginning of the year. I’m willing to take a flier here.
The pick: Michigan +175
Player props to lock in:
* Hunter Dickinson over 18.5 points (-130)
* Collin Gillespie over 2.5 three-pointers made (-130)
* Jermaine Samuels over 6.5 rebounds (-130)
West Region: No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 2 Duke (San Francisco, 9:39 ET, CBS)
Spread: Texas Tech -1
I’ll make this quick: Coach K’s career ends tonight. Duke is the superior team talent wise. But they aren’t the better basketball team. Texas Tech has a bunch of old, tough, gritty basketball players, who are going to bother the hell out of Duke.
Style wise, Texas Tech's bigs can shoot well enough to get Mark Williams out of the paint. Duke has not faced the type of defense Texas
Tech is going to display. The Red Raiders are going to make Duke work for every entry pass, every ball screen cut, contest every pass, shot, and drive. Paolo Banchero is going to have to be the man for Duke. Banchero has averaged 18.5 points and eight rebounds in two tournament games, and they will need all of that and more on Thursday night.
Specifically, I think he will have to become a facilitator and passer, when the defense collapses to him in the middle of the floor. Banchero averaged 3.2 assists on the year. The weak side corner three is typically open against the Red Raiders with no middle defense. The hard part is getting it there. This is where AJ Griffin not being 100 percent healthy is a huge factor. Tech ranks first nationally in defensive efficiency for a reason and they are going to illustrate that on Thursday.
The pick: Texas Tech (-1)
Player props to watch:
* Bryson Williams under 14.5 points (-125)
* Terrance Shannon over 8.5 points (-125)
* Mark Williams under 11.5 points (-110)
* Paolo Banchero over 6.5 rebounds (-130)
* Wendell Moore over 4.5 assists (-105)
West Region: No. 5 Houston vs. No. 1 Arizona (San Antonio, 9:59 ET, TBS)
Spread: Arizona (-1.5)
This is of the most interesting games in the tournament. Houston has cruised to this point, while Arizona had to sweat their second round game against TCU. Ken Pom has Houston as a one point favorite, and overall, all the analytic guys have loved Houston all year.
What is worrisome to Arizona fans, Houston is a better version of TCU. Arizona gave up 20 offensive rebounds to TCU. Houston is the third best offensive rebounding team in the country and the Wildcats 195th in defensive rebounding rate, despite its size. My main concern for Arizona is the turnovers. They have turned the ball over 64 times in the past four games. You can’t make careless mistakes against Houston. The Cougars are so good in the half court. They are going to control the pace and limit Arizona’s transition opportunities through their domination on the offensive glass. Houston leads the country in defensive field goal percentage and Arizona’s offense is very defendable in the half court. They are going to double Christian Koloko on every defensive touch. It’s really going to be up to Kerr Krissa for Arizona to win this game. He is going to be open. Krissa is taking over 10 shots. There are times Krissa can win the game, but he has the potential to shoot them out of it. He went 1-10 against TCU. We are really going to see how that ankle feels.
It’s really hard to prepare for Houston until you see them. It should be a great game overall. Most people have Arizona winning the title. I think there is a decent chance they will fall here. Everyone is picking the Wildcats, but I will take Houston to be contrarian. I know how good Houston is, and I can’t pass up taking them as a dog. Give me the Cougars.
The pick: Houston (+1.5)
Player Props to watch:
* Azuolas Tubelis under 10.5 points (-130)
* Benedict Mathurin over 18.5 points (-110)
* Christian Koloko under 12.5 points (-110)
* Taze Moore over 13.5 points (-125)
* Fabian White under 13.5 points (+100)
* Josh Carlton over 5.5 rebounds (-145)
* Christian Koloko over 1.5 assists (+105) (*my favorite bet of the game)
West Region: No. 4 Arkansas vs. No. Gonzaga (San Francisco, 7:09 p.m. ET, CBS)
Again, I don't feel great about providing an official pick here, and instead simply will share my lean.
With that said, Arkansas is returning to his second consecutive Sweet Sixteen, and Eric Musselman is coaching in the same city where he got his first NBA coaching gig 20-or-so years ago. Arkansas is going to have a much tougher challenge advancing to the Elite Eight than they did last year, when they got No. 15 Oral Roberts in their draw.
This year, they're facing Gonzaga, a grave task for anyone. But especially this Arkansas team. They don’t shoot the ball well (317th from three per Ken Pom). Gonzaga executes on misses better than any other team in the country. Arkansas has a good transition defense, but that doesn’t matter much against the Zags.
The one positive, center Jaylin Williams is one of the best rebounders in the country; he provides a defensive answer for Drew Timme or Chet Holmgren inside. For Arkansas to have a chance, JD Notae may have to go for 30. He is more than capable of exploding. If I had to play it, I would take Gonzaga.
Lean: Gonzaga (-9.5)
Player Props to consider:
* JD Notae over 18.5 points
* Andrew Nembhard over 14.5 pts
* Julian Strawther over 1.5 3’s
* Jaylin Williams over 9.5 rebounds
Follow Austin Montgomery on Twitter @Amontgomerylive
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