The first weekend of the 2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament once again provided all of the intrigue and madness that fans have come to expect from this time of year. Top seeds were upset, games came down to the wire, and brackets everywhere were busted.
It was a great first few days but the best part of the tournament is yet to come and it all begins with the Sweet 16, which takes place Thursday, March 23rd and Friday, March 24th. Part one of our Sweet 16 preview looks at Thursday’s games among the West and Midwest regions. Here we have a betting guide with predictions and picks.
All of the remaining teams booked their tickets to the round of 16 after hard and well fought performances in the first two rounds. Some got here as they were expected to, as No. 1 seeds Gonzaga, UNC and Kansas all advanced as did No. 2 seeds, Arizona and Kentucky. Others, like No. 11 Xavier and No. 8 Wisconsin, surprised getting past the higher seeds in their regions.
Overall, the Sweet 16 isn’t ridiculously upset-laden, but the potential for more shockers exists in several of the matchups. It’s that time of year and it’s true what they say. Anything can happen in March.
(MIDWEST) No. 3 Oregon vs No. 7 Michigan (3/23 – 7:09 PM ET on CBS): The Midwest region kicks off with Oregon, fresh off surviving a would-be upset at the hands of No. 13 Rhode Island. They are taking on Michigan, who has been one of the sharper teams of the tournament and is coming off their own upset taking down No. 2 Louisville. This one is expected to be close with Bovada Sportsbook placing the spread at just 1.5 in favor of the lower-seeded Michigan and the total at 148. The Big 10 Champions have been playing well, scoring both in the paint and beyond the arc, which has been their bread-and-butter this year. Oregon meanwhile has had its struggles, expectantly, only barely advancing to the round of 16 without injured big man Chris Boucher. For this reason, take Michigan and the points to continue their somewhat improbable run to the Elite 8. Take the over on 148 points as well.
(WEST) No. 1 Gonzaga vs No. 4 West Virginia (3/23 – 7:39 PM ET on TBS): This is one of those chalk matchups as both Gonzaga and West Virginia made it out of the pretty tame West region as expected. The Bulldogs were tested by No. 8 Northwestern in the second round and West Virginia had a close call against No. 13 Bucknell in round one, but neither team was really in too much danger of advancing to the Sweet 16. Gonzaga was considered the weakest No. 1 seed prior to the tournament and their cracks, especially on defense have shown in the first two runs. West Virginia’s unique style of play has paid off. The team is a three point underdog, but they’ve got a legitimate shot to advance. Take West Virginia to overcome the spread and take the over on 148.
(MIDWEST) No. 1 Kansas vs No. 4 Purdue (3/23 – 9:39 PM ET on CBS): The other chalk matchup of Thursday night features arguably the best No. 1 seed in the field in Kansas, taking on Purdue, which has picked up some nice wins as well. Kansas has been bolstered by tournament MVP type performances from Josh Jackson (pictured), who is averaging 20 points, including breaking out for 38 in the first round blowout of UC Davis. Kansas is the only one-seed not to really be tested yet and thanks to Jackson, are the scariest group left in the tournament. Purdue, coming off just a four-point in over No. 5 Iowa State, will have a tough task on its hands if it hopes to take down the Jayhawks. Take Kansas (-5.5pts) and the points to topple Purdue, and pick the total to go over 157 with the online bookies.
(WEST) No. 2 Arizona vs No. 11 Xavier (3/23 – 10:09 PM ET on TBS): This is probably the most interesting matchup of the Sweet 16 as Arizona takes on the Cinderella story of Xavier. The Wildcats took care of business in the first two rounds of the tournament, holding off No. 7 St. Mary’s to advance to this round. Xavier had a harder road, but it was one they made look easy. The Muskateers bested No. 6 Maryland by 11 points in the first round and absolutely shellacked No. 3 Florida State by 25 points in the second round. They are one of the hottest teams right now and Trevon Bluiett is playing some of his best basketball. That being said, Arizona is a great team and their path to the Elite 8 seems pretty solid at this point. Take Arizona to win but put your money on Xavier to cover the 7.5 spread favored to the Wildcats. Take the under on 145 as well.
- You can bet on all these betting predictions and picks with Bovada. Check back tomorrow where we will preview Friday’s Sweet 16 matchups for the East and South regions.
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.