Day one of the Sweet 16 produced just as much excitement and drama as the entire tournament has so far. Day two is today (Friday, March 23) and features the stronger half of the bracket in terms of top seeds.
But as March has taught us so far, no one is safe when it comes to the madness of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament.
In day one the upsets picked up in the Sweet 16 right where they had left off in the Round of 32. No. 5 Kentucky fell to No. 9 Kansas State, No. 9 Nevada couldn’t get past the darling Cinderella of No. 11 Loyola (Chicago) and No. 9 Florida State was just too much for No. 4 Gonzaga. The only top-seed to advance was No. 3 Michigan, who made quick work of No. 7 Texas A&M in a 20+ point blowout.
It should be no surprise that the left side of the bracket produced more upsets than top seeds winning given the way the first two rounds went. As mentioned in the piece previewing day one of the Sweet 16, there were a total of 15 upsets in the first two rounds, nine of which came in the South or West regions. The South led the way with six upsets in the first two rounds, becoming the first region in NCAA history to lose all of its top-four seeds prior to the Sweet 16.
You can now add Kentucky, the South’s fifth seed, to the woeful performance of top seeds in the South. Following the nail-biting victory by Loyola (Chicago) earlier in the night, Kansas State’s win over Kentucky guaranteed that a seed no higher than No. 9 would be advancing to the Final Four. The win also marked the first time that a nine-seed would face an eleven, in the Elite 8.
March Madness has certainly not been kind to the South’s lower ranked seeds, both lost. A second nine-seed advanced to end the night as Florida State did some more bracket-busting, building off their second round victory of the West’s No. 1 Xavier, by defeating the region’s No. 4 Gonzaga.
Unlike day one, today’s day two action will feature two No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, all four of which look safe to advance. But, nothing is certain this time of year and with the way the Sweet 16 has begun, it would not be shocking at all to see at least one of the top seeds go down in a blaze of glory.
No. 1 Kansas vs No. 5 Clemson – 7:07 PM on CBS
When the March Madness NCAA tournament began, the common consensus seemed to be that Xavier was the weakest of the No. 1 seeds but that due to the bracket, Kansas was the most vulnerable. That hasn’t changed as with the exception of Syracuse (more on them later), the Midwest has largely avoided upsets.
The region only had the one in the first round thanks to Syracuse, who also provided one of two upsets in the second round. However, the one upset, which determined Kansas’ opponent, was more of a wash as it saw No. 5 Clemson defeat No. 4 Auburn. While the seeding upset wasn’t that much of a shocker, it was the manner in which Clemson completely dismantled their opponents that stood out. The 31-point victory was the largest of the tournament and showed that Clemson is a legitimate threat to Bill Self’s squad. The Jayhawks will essentially have home field advantage as Omaha, while not close to Kansas, is much closer than that of Clemson and the other ACC opponents Kansas would face if they move on to the Elite 8. Kansas will have to get Devonte Graham going, something that hasn’t been the case all tournament long. If they do that, the pairing of Graham and Udoka Azubuike, should be enough to keep Kansas alive.
- As for our betting predictions, Kansas is favored by five points, but they are far from a sure thing. That being said, the combination of home field advantage and two of the nation’s top players should be enough to end Clemson’s road. And while our pick is Kansas and the points, don’t be at all surprised if Auburn joins UMBC and Florida State as No.1 seed killers. Look for a total over 143 as well. Place your bets with Bovada, Bookmaker or 5Dimes.
No. 1 Villanova vs No. 5 West Virginia – 7:27 PM on TBS
There has been one team this tournament that has lived up to its billing as a No. 1 seed and that team is Villanova. Looking for their second title in the past four seasons, Villanova has absolutely looked the part, winning their first two rounds with ease. Both of the Wildcats’ victories have been by over 20 points and in those two games, Villanova has shot with the same efficiency, especially from behind the arc, that won them the championship a few years ago.
Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges have been an unstoppable duo, helping Villanova to 1.40 points per possession when both are on the court together. The scary thing for Villanova’s opponents isn’t even the team’s offense however, which has been absolutely humming. Villanova is also playing fantastic defense, making them the best team left in the field right now. That’s not to say that West Virginia is a slouch, especially given the team’s uncanny ability to apply pressure to even the best teams. West Virginia’s bread-and-butter is in forcing turnovers and if they can do that to Villanova and affect their pace on the floor, the formula for another top upset might be there for the taking.
- There are no sure things when it comes to March Madness but Villanova is about as close to one as you will get. The team has a pattern of losing early as a top-ranked seed but they seem to have gotten past their most troubled areas with their first two round wins. Favored by 5.5 points, our betting pick is to look for the Wildcats to easily cover the spread in victory. Take the under on 152 as well. If you still need a betting account, our list of top recommended American betting sites includes 5Dimes, Bookmaker and Bovada.
No. 2 Duke vs No. 11 Syracuse – 9:37 PM on CBS
The ACC will be on center stage as another tournament favorite Duke, takes on one of this year’s best stories, Syracuse. When the brackets were revealed and the accompanying seeds with them, the selection committee made note that the Orange were the last team admitted into the field. As a result, Syracuse has done something that no other team in the field has at this point, and that’s played three games to reach the Sweet 16. Close victories over Arizona State, TCU and Michigan State, have told the story of a drama-filled tournament for the Orange.
If nothing else, Syracuse has proven they belong, and they will have a chance to continue to make a statement as they face the team that defeated them earlier this season by 16 points. Duke will be a tough opponent as they were in the regular season and the head coaching showdown of Jim Boeheim and Mike Krysewski will no doubt be one for the ages. That being said, the Blue Devils look poised to win another title and Syracuse is likely just a bump in the road.
- There’s a reason the Blue Devils are a Sweet 16 best, 11.5 point favorites over their ACC peers. Duke has been playing great basketball and they have the team to win it all. Syracuse has been a tough matchup though so expect the Orange to keep this one close. For our betting predictions and picks for this Sweet 16 matchup, take Syracuse to cover the spread favored to Duke and expect a total over the 133 projected by the sportsbooks. Place your wagers with a top US-friendly firm, such as Intertops or BetOnline.
No. 2 Purdue vs No. 3 Texas Tech – 9:57 PM on TBS
In a bracket filled with upsets, just one matchup that would be considered chalk, made it through to the Sweet 16 and that’s Purdue vs Texas Tech. Both teams have looked solid in advancing to this point, neither being particularly tested in the early-going.
Texas Tech is led by Keenan Evans, who averaged 22.5 points in both of the Red Raiders’ wins so far. Coupled with the team’s shutdown defense and Tech is a matchup nightmare for anybody they face. Purdue is certainly a strong team in their own right, but what they are able to do will likely depend on the health of Isaac Haas, who missed the team’s second round game against Butler. The Boilermakers got by without him, but Haas is a big loss to a top-20 ranked defense otherwise.
- It wouldn’t be March Madness without at least one upset and the obvious pick seems to be for this game. Don’t be fooled by the 2/3 matchup as without Haas, Purdue isn’t as good as their seed implies. The team is still favored by 1.5 points but look for Tech to pull off the upset in a close contest. Take the over on 137 as well. Bovada Sportsbook is a solid option to place your wagers with.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.