‘Tis the season of upsets! March Madness has certainly delivered on its promise. Next up is the Round of 32 kicking off Sunday with eight brilliant games. The winners move onto the Sweet 16.
If you hadn’t noticed already, the sportsbooks are killing it this weekend. Undoubtedly, these are the sharpest lines offered this season, and as the tournament progresses, they’ll only get sharper, so it’s imperative we find the value. Ahead are two underdogs, one favorite, and an exciting parlay that’ll pay handsomely if it wins.
Before we dive in, all odds in this article come from our partners at the FanDuel Sportsbook. Right now, new FanDuel Sportsbook users can make their first bet risk-free up to $1,000. If your bet loses, the FanDuel Sportsbook will refund you in site credit. New users can sign up for this incredible offer by clicking this link.
(Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook; subject to change.)
Sunday’s Second Round Games
No. 11 Syracuse vs. No. 3 West Virginia (-4) – 5:15 p.m. ET
Bob Huggins versus Jim Boeheim. Who do you have in that heavyweight battle?
West Virginia comes into Sunday fresh off a first round win over Moorhead State, 84-67. The Mountaineers played one of their best games of the year, shooting 50% from the field and 50% from downtown, quickly taking care of an inferior Moorhead State squad. But their battle with Syracuse on Sunday may be their most brutal battle this year.
The Orange, who limped into the NCAA Tournament, looked anything but battered in their first round game with San Diego State. Led by one of the hottest players in college basketball, Buddy Boeheim (Jim’s son), Syracuse looks like Syracuse again. They may not be as battle-tested as West Virginia, who play in the Big 12, but they proved in their 78-62 win over the Aztecs that they belong.
The main reason for West Virginia’s success has been their efficient offense. They’re ranked 10th in the nation, according to KenPom. Syracuse graded a tick lower, ranking 15th, according to KenPom. While you can always expect a Huggins-coached defense to be strong, the same is true of any Boeheim-coached defense. So, where is the outlier?
Scheme. Syracuse’s unusual 2-3 zone is challenging for any team to adjust to on just a day’s notice. While West Virginia certainly has the coach and talent to figure it out, it will take time, having not played against much of the 2-3 in the Big 12. It’s what makes Syracuse a legitimate threat to upset the Mountaineers Sunday.
So, in the spirit of madness, I’m betting underdogs, but it’s not as bold of a pick as one might think. This is a Jim Boeheim team we’re talking about, one capable of pulling off big upsets as they did against San Diego State on Friday.
The line may be moving in the other direction, but that’s not discouraging me from making this bet. And I’m not just taking the spread, I’m taking the Orange to win outright. Madness.
The Pick: Syracuse (+4) and moneyline (+160)
No. 10 Rutgers vs. No. 2 Houston (-7.5) – 7:10 p.m. ET
Look, I’m just like every one of you reading this article. When I looked at the board, of course, I wanted to get chalky and bet favorites. But chalk isn’t the name of the game. Value is. I love Baylor and Illinois, but they’ve got stiff competition in front of them. You’d typically only lay chalk on the most lopsided lines. Those probably aren’t.
This one is. Houston, a slow tempo offense, amazingly still puts up 78 points per game while only giving up 57.8 points per game. They’re dominant on both ends, shoot threes efficiently, and destroys second-chance points because they’re elite rebounders on the offensive glass. In short, they should take care of Rutgers with ease.
Rutgers isn’t a great 3-point shooting or free throw shooting team, which are two crucial elements to keep pace with Houston’s high-octane offense. That spells horrible news for Rutgers, who don’t have even close to the tight defense needed to force Houston into mistakes. There’s also a significant drop-off in talent when you consider Rutgers is in the bottom half of the country in defensive rebounding (223rd).
Take a look at how Houston ended their 2020-2021 campaign. They won six of their last eight games by 20+ points. When they pull away, they don’t take their foot off the gas. I’m backing Houston and anticipating an easy cover.
The Pick: Houston (-7.5)
No. 12 Oregon State vs. No. 4 Oklahoma State (-6) – 9:40 p.m. ET
I said it in my article a few days ago, and it’s worth repeating: In March, it’s imperative you play the hot hand. Oregon State’s hand is the team version of the Human Torch.
They’ve impressively won seven of their last eight games, easily covering the spread and making quick work of the Tennessee Volunteers in Round one. Anything the Pac 12 tournament champs shoot from beyond the arc seemingly falls through the net, which is crucial for a team built to score more 3’s than their opponents score 2s. The game plans have worked flawlessly thus far.
The Beavers take on an equally hot Oklahoma State squad, otherwise known as sports bettor darlings over the past few weeks. Led by projected NBA first overall pick, Cade Cunningham, the Cowboys are coming off a 69-60 win over Liberty on Friday. Cunningham may be the consensus best player in the country, but he was awful Friday, shooting just 21% from the field. No one should expect a repeat poor performance, though. It’s easy to bet the team with the best player on the court with that in mind.
But you can’t ignore what Oregon State is doing right now. They keep on winning games, and while betting them to win Sunday may be somewhat of a stretch, I’m solely focused on playing the number. Six points are far too much to give.
I’ll be honest – I’ve been waiting for Oregon State to hit their peak, so I cut them loose, but I don’t think it’s come. I’ll gladly take my chances with the points. It hasn’t failed us yet!
The Pick: Oregon State (+6)
Bonus Upset Parlay: I threw one of these out the other day and received positive feedback, so let’s try this again.
2-leg parlay (+719) – $100 to win $719
- Syracuse +160 with
- Oregon State +215
Side note: A reader tailed the “upset parlay” on Friday and used a solid sports betting strategy I didn’t consider, so I thought it’d be great to share. After Oregon State pulled off their huge upset win over Tennessee, the bettor hedged the second leg (bet the other side) to guarantee a profit. If Syracuse comes out with a win on Sunday, instead of letting it ride, consider hedging. Profit is profit!
Best of luck to all!