The first week of the NCAA Tournament has come and gone, which means college basketball has whittled its 68 primary postseason teams down to a final 16.
Some of the remaining teams, like UCLA and Gonzaga, were expected. March Madness college basketball odds said as much.
Others, like Princeton, are total shocks.
Regardless of expectations, this week provides a clean slate for gamblers who are parsing the Sweet 16 odds and looking to establish positions in the NCAA Tournament second-week betting markets.
That’s where I come in.
Sweet 16 Best Bets
With many bettors now reloading for another frantic 96 hours of high-stakes college basketball odds, I’m returning to my Sweet 16 predictions to offer some additional analysis on which sides could be profitable on Thursday and Friday.
Sweet 16 Odds: Michigan State vs. Kansas State (+1.5)
I almost choked on the water I was drinking when I first saw this line get posted. I know Michigan State coach Tom Izzo has a reputation for winning in March, but this line disrespects Kansas State.
In my opinion, the Wildcats are the superior team, and I would need an explicit reason not to bet on them under these circumstances.
Generally speaking, I like betting on lower-seeded favorites and parallel situations across multiple sports. In this case, I have to assume the general public’s MSU proclivity is based on Izzo’s historical success, not present-day basketball.
That said, this is a great job of oddsmakers reading the market correctly and understanding the appetite to bet on Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament. BetMGM is taking a near-perfect 50/50 ticket split on both sides of this game, which is generally the kind of action that the sportsbook wants.
It’s a masterful job of pricing a market. It doesn’t change the fact that Kansas State as a dog is total lunacy, from a betting perspective, but it’s a great read on pricing nonetheless.
Play: Kansas State +1.5
Sweet 16 Odds: Florida Atlantic vs. Tennessee (-5.5)
The Vols had to survive a late rally from Louisiana in the first half, then win a slugfest with Duke on Saturday to make the Sweet 16.
But Rick Barnes’ ailing squad did make the second week of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019, defying many (including my own) public expectations of an early disappointment.
Now, Tennessee will face off against one of the most dangerous No. 9 seeds I can recall: Florida Atlantic. Importantly, the Owls are now catching a key number of points (+5.5) for any college basketball game, let alone a tournament game.
The market may judge FAU as a team that advanced on the back of a historic No. 1 seed upset; the reality is that FAU is one of the 16 best teams in college basketball, and would have stood a great chance to unseat Purdue itself, had Fairleigh Dickinson not beat it to the punch.
I like FAU to beat Tennessee outright at +210, but I’ll take the 5.5 points in the ATS market as well.
Play: FAU +5.5
Sweet 16 Odds: Gonzaga vs. UCLA (-2.5)
One of my biggest pre-tournament reads was that No. 2 seed UCLA was a good bet to make the Final Four at +300. Their odds were shorter than Kansas, even though the Jayhawks were defending national champions and dealt a No. 1 seed by the committee.
The first week of games has done nothing to convince me that I was wrong to feel that way. Kansas lost in the second round; UCLA survived a second half run by Northwestern before ultimately winning by five. It throttled UNC-Asheville in the first round, 86-53.
UCLA’s upcoming Sweet 16 game against Gonzaga opened as a pick ‘em, which was another surprise for me. But again, the oddsmakers appear to have a good feel for where the betting market is at. At the BetMGM online sportsbook, more than 60% of the market handle is on the Bulldogs, who are currently catching 2.5 points.
I feel that Gonzaga has become overrated this year and is not the better team in this game. I trust my initial read on UCLA. At this small spread cost, I have no reason to do anything other than keep laying it with the Bruins.
Play: UCLA -2.5
Sweet 16 Odds: Miami vs. Houston (-7.5)
Marcus Sasser claims to be back and 100% healthy for Houston. Just to make sure, though, he’s getting nearly a week of rest between Houston’s second-round game and their upcoming Friday contest against Miami.
If Sasser is indeed ready to go, as he appeared to be in Saturday’s game against Auburn, there shouldn’t be much debate about what the right side of this game is. Houston is head and shoulders above Miami and should cover a number like 7.5, even in a tournament setting.
If anything, Houston’s sluggish tournament start and Sasser’s short-term health issues have created an opening to come in and buy low on Houston.
Play: Houston -7.5
Final Four Odds
Alabama (-135) and Houston (-125) are currently the only odds-on favorites to make the Final Four. Everyone else is still fighting uphill, according to the college basketball betting odds presently available at the BetMGM online sportsbook.
That said, some teams – like Tennessee (+115) – have (allegedly) easier paths than others.
Sweet 16 Predictions: More NCAA Tournament Analysis
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