College Basketball: Sweet Sixteen Best Bets
The casual fan likes March Madness because, unquestionably more than any other major sports postseason, the odds are at least only stacked manageably against the Davids (as opposed to football and series-based postseasons like baseball and in the NBA). In short, when there's no personal interest, people tend to like to see underdogs win.
That's one more than Rick Pitino
The result of fans getting their way in early rounds is oftentimes the bracket in subsequent rounds will be littered with games of David vs David, and the realization that the "little guy" has a finite shelf life comes too late.
This season has actually played out nicely as we have a mere smattering of double-digit seeded teams (Xavier, NC State, Ohio), but more importantly every Sweet 16 matchup involves a team seeded one, two, or three in its region.
In other words, the odds for a clunker Final Four like we got last year in Houston are very low. And that's a good thing. So for you degenerates out there, let's preview the next two nights, shall we?
THURSDAY, MARCH 22 -- EAST REGIONAL (Boston, MA)
Wisconsin +3 over Syracuse
Contrasting styles is a recurring theme in some of these regional semifinal match ups and this game is one of them. While both teams hang their hat on their defense (Wisconsin first place in Division 1, Syracuse fifth place), Wisconsin goes man to man from beginning to end, and Syracuse has been playing their 2-3 matchup zone since Jim Boeheim wore short pants.
Syracuse is the more, um, athletic of the two teams, while Wisconsin relies more on the three-pointer. The one thing both coaches (Jim Boeheim and Bo Ryan) have in common is that they've tanked this round of the NCAA tournament for the better part of the last decade, with Syarcuse's last Sweet 16 win coming in their title season in 2003 and Wisconsin's last victory in this round coming in 2005. Something has to give, I think this will be the round where the loss of center Fab Melo catches up to the Orangemen.
Cincinnati +7 1/2 over Ohio State
The state of Ohio houses four of the participants in the Sweet 16 round and is guaranteed at least one Elite Eight team as the Ohio State Buckeyes face off against the Cincinnati Bearcats in a matchup that has only occurred one other time since the 1962 championship game. Make no mistake, while both coaches have said and will say all the right things, allegations of dirty recruiting and elusive scheduling tactics make this the one Sweet 16 matchup where there will be some genuine vitriol between the two teams. My word to the wise for Ohio State's Jared Sullinger -- watch out for Cincy's Yancy Gates' right hook...
THURSDAY, MARCH 22 -- WEST REGIONAL (Phoenix, AZ)
Louisville +5 over Michigan State
After starting off slowly at the beginning of the conference season losing four of their first six Big East games, and then hitting a midseason lull by losing another four of six, Rick Pitino has the Cardinals playing their best basketball of the season, having won six straight postseason games. This will be a classic contrast in styles as Louisville will full court press and try to play fast (insert Pitino "15 seconds of glory" joke here), while Tom Izzo's Spartans will try to grind it to a halt and use their superior size. Rick Pitino's 9-0 record in the Sweet Sixteen is enough for me to take the points here.