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November 23, 2014

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NCAA Tournament by the odds: Vegas picks and preview of the Sweet 16

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim takes part in practice for their second round NCAA Tournament game Wednesday, March 20, 2013 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.

Updated odds to win the NCAA Championship

  • Louisville — 3-to-1
  • Indiana — 9-to-2
  • Florida — 5-to-1
  • Miami — 7-to-1
  • Duke — 8-to-1
  • Ohio State — 8-to-1
  • Kansas — 12-to-1
  • Michigan State — 12-to-1
  • Michigan — 12-to-1
  • Syracuse — 12-to-1
  • Arizona — 25-to-1
  • Wichita State — 30-to-1
  • Marquette — 50-to-1
  • Oregon — 60-to-1
  • La Salle — 75-to-1
  • Florida Gulf Coast — 100-to-1
  • Source: LVH Superbook

The crowds and number of screens on a different channel at sports books are thinned. The number of betting options and synchronized gasps at the end of games is expanded.

It must mean it’s time for the Sweet 16 in Las Vegas. Sports books have cleaned out bettors to this point of the NCAA Tournament, including anyone unfortunate enough to tail the picks on this blog.

I’ve gone a disastrous 23-28-2 against the spread. It would be convenient to use the excuse that it’s unfair to pick every game but also misleading, as top-confidence plays are a dismal 2-4.

The games over the next two days offer an opportunity to salvage what to this point has been a disappointing NCAA Tournament for the blog.

Check below for picks on every game, listed in rough order of confidence.

No. 4 Syracuse plus-5.5 over No. 1 Indiana As long as the Orange can slow the game down, they can hang with the Hoosiers for 40 minutes. A coaching mismatch with Jim Boeheim over Tom Crean makes it easier to back Syracuse.

No. 3 Florida minus-12.5 over No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast Florida is a far superior team to Georgetown, yet this spread is a point less than what the Hoyas gave the Eagles in their opening game. Despite the large number, there’s plenty of value on the Gators as they would have been favored by more at any other point this season.

No. 9 Wichita State minus-4 over No. 13 La Salle When in doubt, take the team that plays better defense. The last time the Explorers faced a bunch that defends as well as the Shockers, they lost by 24 points to St. Louis.

No. 1 Louisville minus-10 over No. 12 Oregon In 17 career NCAA Tournament appearances, Louisville coach Rick Pitino has never lost in the Sweet 16. Since coming to Louisville, Pitino is 4-0 against the spread this round and covering by an average of 17 points per game.

No. 6 Arizona plus-3.5 over No. 2 Ohio State The Staples Center is nearly 2,000 miles closer to the Wildcats' campus than the Buckeyes'. In a close game, having a crowd advantage counts as an additional edge to a team that’s looked as impressive as anyone in the country through their first two NCAA Tournament games.

No. 2 Duke minus-2 over No. 3 Michigan State Duke has beaten Michigan State in four of five meetings over the past 10 years but only covered twice. The average spread in those games, however, has been Duke minus-5.

No. 1 Kansas minus-2 over No. 4 Michigan With early money on the underdog driving the number down a half-point, it’s too tempting not to buy low on the team that’s been more consistent throughout the year. The Wolverines combined 40-point blowouts of Virginia Commonwealth and South Dakota State might have them a smidge over-valued.

No. 3 Marquette plus-5.5 over No. 2 Miami The public loaded up on Miami against Illinois, driving the spread from minus-5 to minus-8, and the Hurricanes couldn’t come through in a four-point win. The same could happen here, so bettors wanting Miami should grab this number early. Wait it out on Marquette.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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