The NCAA Tournament has climbed to the most exciting part of the competition. What it means is that by this Sunday, March 26, we’ll know who’s playing in Phoenix at the 2017 Final Four. Sweet 16 games take place this Thursday, March 23, and this Friday, March 24. Check out a preview, along with a pick, for every one of this Thursday’s and Friday’s Sweet 16 games! Here is our March Madness 2017 Sweet 16 preview.
March Madness 2017 Sweet 16 Preview
Thursday, March 23
7 Michigan -1.5 vs 3 Oregon +1.5
The lower seed, Michigan, is the favorite in this battle in the Midwest Region on Thursday. The game tips-off at 7:09 pm ET. It’s hard to go against the Wolverines.
Michigan came back from being down as much as 7 point to beat Louisville straight up 73 to 69 as a 3-point dog. The Wolverines were terrific in the game. They shot a ridiculous 49.1% from the field and a good 35.3% from three. 6’ 11” forward Moritz Wagner was particularly effective. He scored 26 points and grabbed 3 boards.
Wagner could be effective versus Oregon because Chris Boucher is out with injury. The Ducks beat Rhode Island 75 to 72. Oregon had to work for the win. The Ducks’ biggest failure was allowing the Rams to shoot over 50% from the field.
Still, I like Oregon to win this game. I think Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks, the Ducks’ 2 best players, are going to be too much for the Wolverines to deal with. I’m going with Oregon.
4 Purdue +5 vs 1 Kansas -5
To me, the winner of this game comes down to which sets of guards play best. And, that’s why I like Kansas. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy for the Jayhawks. But, I do think they win and cover the spread.
Here’s the thing, Purdue relies heavily on forwards Vince Edwards and Caleb Swanigan. Edwards has a combined 42 points, 7 assists, and 15 boards in the Boilermakers 80 to 70 win over Vermont in Round 2, and their 80 to 76 win over Iowa State in Round 2. Swanigan, the 6’ 9” forward, has a combined 36 points, 11 assists, and 26 boards.
Relying on Swanigan and Edwards won’t cut it against the Jayhawks. Landen Lucas is 6’ 10”. Josh Jackson is a 6’ 8” guard. Plus, Purdue’s guards can’t stick with either Frank Mason or De’Vonte Graham. I think Kansas has a decided match up advantage in this one.
4 West Virginia +3 vs 1 Gonzaga -3
I’m surprised that, so far, 61% of college basketball handicappers are willing to give West Virginia 3 points in the Mountaineers battle against the Zags. In Round 2, Gonzaga held a 38 to 20 halftime lead over Northwestern. They beat the Wildcats 79 to 73. Northwestern held Gonzaga to 25% from three.
West Virginia’s defense is much better than Northwestern’s. The Mountaineers provided one of the best performances of any team so far in the 2017 NCAA Tournament when they beat Notre Dame 83 to 71. The Mountaineers forced Notre Dame into 13 turnovers.
I just don’t see how Gonzaga wins this game straight up. Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins is one of the best tournament coaches in the nation. He built Cincinnati’s program. The Mountaineers made it all the way to the Big 12 Tournament Championship.
Plus, let’s be honest, the best team Gonzaga played all season long was Arizona without Alonzo Trier. West Virginia played against Kansas, Iowa State, and Baylor.
11 Xavier +7.5 vs 2 Arizona -7.5
I think that Xavier should put up a spirited fight. The Musketeers looked fantastic when dominating Florida State 91 to 66. But, Florida State may have been overrated. Every team in the ACC may have been overrated. The ACC sent 1 team to the Sweet 16, North Carolina.
The Pac 12, the conference that Arizona plays in, has sent 3 teams to the Sweet 16: Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon. A fourth team, USC was on the cusp of upsetting Baylor this past weekend.
What I mean by writing about the Pac 12 versus the ACC, is that it’s doubtful Xavier holds Arizona to 19% from three the way that they held the Seminoles to 19% in their big win over Florida State.
Arizona can play any style of game Xavier wants to play. I think the West Coast Wildcats cover the spread versus the Musketeers on Thursday night.
Friday, March 24
4 Butler +7.5 vs 1 North Carolina -7.5
The Butler Bulldogs have surprised me this NCAA Tournament. They’ve surprised me so much that I’m picking them to beat North Carolina straight up. Butler beating Winthrop 76 to 64 wasn’t the game that made me gaga over the Bulldogs.
Beating Middle Tennessee State 74 to 65? That was impressive. Middle Tennessee State shot 48.3% from the field and 53.8% from three in their 81 to 72 win over Minnesota in Round 1. Butler held Middle Tennessee State to 43.9% from the field and 21.1% from three.
Teams that played in the ACC have been overrated all season long. North Carolina almost blew it against Arkansas in Round 2. Butler’s defense should frustrate the Tar Heels to no end. I think Butler beats the Heels straight up.
3 UCLA -1 vs 2 Kentucky +1
Who was more impressive? UCLA in their 79 to 67 win over Cincinnati in Round 2? Or, Kentucky in their 65 to 62 win over Wichita State?
I’m with Kentucky. The Wildcats blocked 2 three-point attempts from Wichita State, one of the best teams in the nation, that would have tied the game and sent it into overtime. Kentucky was also behind Wichita State a couple of times in their Round 2 win.
UCLA played well. But, what really happened is that Cincinnati couldn’t stop top freshman Lonzo Ball. Ball scored 18 points, dished 9 assists, and grabbed 7 boards. Even if Ball is the best player on the court versus Kentucky, he’s not going to post those numbers.
The Wildcats allow 71.3 points per game. When Ball and UCLA beat Kentucky 97 to 92 this past Dec. 3, the Wildcats weren’t nearly as effective on defense as they are now. I think Kentucky wins by at least 4 to 6 points.
7 South Carolina +3 vs 3 Baylor -3
The Gamecocks had 5 players score in double-figures versus Duke. That’s why South Carolina beat the Blue Devils 88 to 81. The Gamecocks’ offense is what’s been impressive. Versus Marquette, the Gamecocks went 36 of 68 from the field for 52.9%. They beat the Golden Eagles 93 to 73. Against Duke, South Carolina went 27 out of 63. The Gamecocks held Duke to only 53 shots from the field.
The numbers could flip against Baylor, a team that, like Arizona, can play any style required to win. I was chilly on Baylor before the tournament started. I’m not chilly on Baylor going into the Sweet 16. I think Baylor beats South Carolina and covers ATS on March 24.
Baylor can match South Carolina up front. Almost as important is how Baylor can match South Carolina when it comes to the Gamecocks’ speedy guards. If South Carolina wants to run, Baylor will do that. If the Gamecocks want to play slow, Baylor can play that way as well.
8 Wisconsin +2 vs 4 Florida -2
Wisconsin versus Florida might be the most competitive game of the entire Sweet 16. It should be played at a molasses like pace because Wisconsin allows 61.8 points per game while Florida allows 65.7 points per game.
Not that it matters. Just because a lot of points aren’t scored it doesn’t mean that it’s not an exciting basketball game, right? In this case, real excitement’s going to come from those who thought Wisconsin would get to the Elite 8.
Florida held Virginia to 39 points in their terrific 66 to 39 Round 2 win. The Gators won’t hold Wisconsin to only 39 points. Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig are playing too well for that to happen.
I like the Badgers straight up as a dog.