Betting Lines and Expectations for Friday’s Sweet 16 Games

We saw a bit of drama on Thursday…and by drama I mean a miraculous Wisconsin cover. True to form, top seeds held serve, including a mild upset in the mix with Notre Dame dispatching of Wichita St as a 1.5 pt dog.  Favorites ended the evening 2-2 ATS and totals also went 2-2 to the over.  It always feels like we see one major upset in the round of 16. Hopefully for your betting purposes (and mine) it happens on Friday night.

Louisville (13-19-1 ATS) vs North Carolina St (17-11-4 ATS)

Vegas Line: Louisville -2.5 & 129.5

My Line: Louisville -3 & 127

Betting Trends: Louisville 46%/NC State 54%

Offensive Efficiency: Louisville 75/NC State 27

Defensive Efficiency: Louisville 5/NC State 81

What to look for: These two ACC “rivals” met back on February 14th, a game that essentially turned the season around for the Wolfpack.  Before that trip to the KFC Yum Center NCSU was on a 2-8 skid then they upset Louisville as nearly a double digit underdog.  Since then, a lot has changed on both sides, nothing bigger than the Cardinals’ dismissal of Chris Jones, who poured in 20 into the losing effort.  Terry Rozier & Wayne Blackshear have been forced to step up and will need to if they’re to match the production of Cat Barber and Trevor Lacey this evening.

Trending: Louisville is 17-7 ATS in the month of March the last years (2-3 ATS this year). Cardinals are also in the midst of a 3-7 ATS stretch.

What will happen: Louisville ranks in the top 40 nationally in just about every key defensive metric. Their #5 overall defensive efficiency ranking is not a fluke and is something Coach Pitino knows he can hang his hat on.  The bigger question for this game is, will Louisville be able to score enough to knock off the upset minded Wolfpack?  For me, coaching gives the Cardinals a slight edge while guard play squarely favors the Wolfpack.  I’ve attacked the side trying to make a case for both teams and can’t figure out for the life of me who wins this game.  However, I think for the Ville to compete it all starts with defense and that leads me to the only bet worth making on this ACC showdown…

Betting lean: Under (looking for 131)

Michigan St (ATS) vs Oklahoma (ATS)

Vegas Line: Michigan St -2 & 136

My Line: Oklahoma -1 & 134

Betting Trends: Michigan St 76%/Oklahoma 24%

Offensive Efficiency: Michigan St 15/Oklahoma 45

Defensive Efficiency: Michigan St 46/Oklahoma 6

What to look for: A matchup of college basketball coaching legends. Ok, well maybe Kruger isn’t quite there yet never having won a national title, but this will be the 37th program he’s taken to the sweet 16 (or so it feels like). Let it be known we miss him on the sidelines here in Las Vegas.  It’s a little surprising to see MSU more efficient on the offensive end this year than defending their own basket but one constant remains: they’re still elite at keeping their opponent from getting to the offensive glass.  State will need the veteran leadership from Valentine, Trice, and Dawson to contend with the dynamic scoring duo of Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins, a tandem that take over 50% of the Sooners’ shots.

Trending: Tom Izzo (Michigan St) is 23-8 ATS the 1st half of NCAA tournament games (2-0 ATS this year)

What will happen: Michigan St better hope this game doesn’t turn into a free throw shooting contest, a statistical category where they rank 339th. Oklahoma doesn’t get enough credit for how good they are on the defensive end, checking in at 11th nationally when it comes to 2 pt FG efficiency and 12th in total FG efficiency defense.  This is a prime example of where recency bias impacts the number, forcing oddsmakers to make March Izzo a short favorite.  While the numbers say its OU or pass here I have a weird little voice in my head (actually a few) telling me to steer clear of backing the Sooners despite their being the value side.  Again, another contest worth eyeballing rather than betting before it tips off.

Betting lean: Pass

Gonzaga (17-14-2 ATS) vs UCLA (19-16 ATS)

Vegas Line: Gonzaga -8.5 & 144.5

My Line: Gonzaga -7 & 141.5

Betting Trends: Gonzaga 61%/UCLA 39%

Offensive Efficiency: Gonzaga 4/UCLA 37

Defensive Efficiency: Gonzaga 34/UCLA 67

What to look for: A rematch of a game that took place back in December that wasn’t really as close as the 87-74 final indicated. Oh how far these teams have traveled (or goaltended) to get into the 2nd weekend of the tournament.  A quick glance at the offensive metrics from Mark Few’s team are simply eye popping, even if they’ve been fattened up on the sisters of the poor in the West Coast Conference.  I mean being #1 in effective FG%, #3 from behind the arc, and #2 inside the arc make you a pretty good offensive basketball team.  They’re also no slouch on D boasting the nation’s 15th best FG defense.  However this UCLA team is a far cry from the edition the Zags buried on December 13th.

Trending: UCLA is 13-2 under the posted the total when listed as an underdog this season.  Bruins are 13-3 ATS playing against a team with a winning record after 15 games.

What will happen: Revenge is a dish best served in March and UCLA has to be salivating at the opportunity to get at Gonzaga for a 2nd time.  I’ll make the case that UCLA’s starting 5 led by Normal Powell, Kevon Looney, and Bryce Alford are actually better than Wiltjer, Wesley, Karnowski, and Pangos.  Now depth, that’s a very different story… meaning the biggest enemy for the Bruins will be potential foul trouble.  I can’t quite put my finger on it since power numbers say there’s not much value in UCLA but I have a hunch we’ll be putting Gonzaga on upset alert with a minute to go, meaning having 4+ possessions in the back pocket is ideal.

Betting lean: UCLA +8.5

Duke (21-14 ATS) vs Utah (21-11-1 ATS)

Vegas Line: Duke -5 & 134.5

My Line: Duke -1.5 & 132

Betting Trends: Duke 77%/Utah 23%

Offensive Efficiency: Duke 2/Utah 17

Defensive Efficiency: Duke 44/Utah 7

What to look for: The ole college basketball blue blood with the #1 overall pick is fighting for a seat at the big kids table with a resurgent Utah program led by a NBA-caliber PG.  This has all the makings of an instant classic on paper. Duke’s #2 ranked offense paired up against Utah’s #7 ranked defense will be worth it’s weight in gold.  Watching Jahlil Okafor against unheralded big man (at least by casual fans) Jakob Poeltl should be outstanding.  If Poeltl can stay out of foul trouble, this will be the most daunting challenge Okafor has faced all year…and yes that includes conference play.

Trending: Utah is 25-12 as an underdog the last 3 years and 46-24 ATS L70 games against teams with a winning record.

What will happen: Again, we see a team whose stock couldn’t be higher headed into the 2nd weekend than the Duke Blue Devils.  I mentioned it Sunday night that books would welcome as much money on Coach K’s boys as they could get.  Low and behold nearly 8 out of every 10 tickets are coming in on the favorite and the line, well she ain’t budging.  Utah doesn’t get enough credit for how efficient they are on both the offensive and defensive end. Delon Wright is a massive difference maker especially in this type of setting.  Power numbers call for a 1 possession game but I’ll go one step further and say the ghost of Rick Majerus lives on — meaning Utah gets one step closer to their 1st Final Four since the Keith Van Horn era with a surprising upset of ACC hoops royalty — in a game where neither team will hit 65.

Betting lean: Utah +5, Utah ML, and U134.5

Written by Clay Travis

OutKick founder, host and author. He's presently banned from appearing on both CNN and ESPN because he’s too honest for both.