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October 23, 2014

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

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David Phillip / AP

Iowa State’s DeAndre Kane (50) is grabbed by teammates Monte Morris, center, and Daniel Edozie, right, after making the game-winning basket against North Carolina during the second half of a third-round game in the NCAA college basketball tournament Sunday, March 23, 2014, in San Antonio. Iowa State won 85-83.

March Madness in Las Vegas

Patrons celebrate Dayton's upset of Ohio State during the second round of the NCAA basketball tournament Thursday, March 20, 2014 during a party at the South Point. Launch slideshow »

LVH Superbook updated odds to win NCAA Tournament

  • Florida: 7-to-2
  • Michigan State: 7-to-2
  • Louisville: 7-to-2
  • Arizona: 3-to-1
  • Virginia: 10-to-1
  • Wisconsin: 18-to-1
  • Michigan: 18-to-1
  • Ketucky: 18-to-1
  • UCLA: 25-to-1
  • Baylor: 25-to-1
  • Tennessee: 25-to-1
  • Iowa State: 30-to-1
  • UConn: 30-to-1
  • San Diego State: 50-to-1
  • Stanford: 50-to-1
  • Dayton: 75-to-1

The most celebrated Sweet 16-ers usually have their parties spoiled this weekend in Las Vegas.

Sports book crowds may thin between the first March weekend of the NCAA Tournament and the second, but the madness just begins. From a point-spread perspective, underdogs have recently wreaked more havoc in the Sweet 16 than either of the two more heavily gambled-upon preceding rounds.

Since 2005, teams taking points have gone 40-31-1 against the spread for a profitable ticket-cashing rate of 56 percent. In each of the last three NCAA Tournaments, at least five out of eight underdogs covered in the Sweet 16.

Will the trend continue in a year where the games are tighter than ever? I’ll attempt to forecast in the space below.

But don’t expect much. Troubles have persisted picking every game in the tournament, an unprofitable approach but one the blog annually partakes in for the sake of analysis, with an overall record of 22-29-3.

The saving grace is a 4-2 mark in top-confidence games.

Read on for the Sweet 16 picks, listed in order of confidence.

No. 2 seed Wisconsin minus-3 over No. 6 seed Baylor Other than round of 32 performances, where Baylor beat Creighton by an astounding 30 points as a 3.5-point underdog, good luck finding a single area where the Bears hold an advantage over the Badgers. Wisconsin is better coached, stronger offensively, stingier defensively and more accomplished on the season.

No. 11 seed Tennessee plus-3 over No. 2 seed Michigan All the action is lining up on the same side to boost the line, which is incentive enough to go the opposite way. It’s a bonus that the other side, Tennessee, also looks like the better team.

No. 4 seed Louisville minus-4.5 over No. 8 seed Kentucky Marvel at the betting market’s overreaction to Kentucky’s tear, and then bet the other side. Louisville is getting shorted a couple points against their in-state rival. Wichita State also gave 4.5 points to Kentucky last weekend but Louisville is unanimously power-rated higher in Las Vegas.

No. 4 San Diego State plus-8 over No. 1 seed Arizona As the lowest Sweet 16 over/under of 122.5 indicates, points will come at a premium in Anaheim, Calif’s second game. Eight is too many points to give in a defensive struggle between familiar opponents. Playing in each of the last three years, the Aztecs have covered in two of three meetings against the Wildcats and won one outright.

No. 1 seed Virginia plus-2 over No. 4 seed Michigan State The Spartans have played a team as tough defensively or on the boards as the Cavaliers. In a game that’s should come down to the final minute, taking the points is a must.

No. 10 seed Stanford minus-3 over No. 11 seed Dayton The Flyers upset two deeply flawed offensive teams last weekend. They won’t find it as easy to stop a scorer the caliber of the Cardinal’s Chasson Randle.

No. 3 seed Iowa State minus-1.5 over No. 7 seed Connecticut Hard to feel confident with either of these teams given their inconsistency over the course of the season, but with a week to prepare, Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg gives the Cyclones an edge.

No. 1 seed Florida minus-4.5 over No. 4 seed UCLA In a total toss-up, have to pick against the curse of the public underdog. UCLA opened as high as a 5.5-point underdog, but heavy action drove the spread down an entire point to potentially create value on the other side.

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

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