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NCAA Tournament by the odds: L.V. picks and preview of the Sweet 16


Jeff Roberson / AP

Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes heads to the basket as Pittsburgh’s Michael Young defends during the first half in a first-round men’s college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 18, 2016, in St. Louis.

Updated Thursday, March 24, 2016 | 10:50 a.m.

Don’t expect local bookmakers to join in on the chorus heralding the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament as one of the best ever.

It wasn’t for them. While casinos statewide surely didn’t lose money at the start of March Madness — though the Gaming Control Board doesn’t keep official records for events aside from the Super Bowl — they also didn’t score the free-flowing jackpot of the past few years.

Favorites and overs delivered some of the success to the betting public last weekend. Teams laying points went 27-24-1 against the spread, while 27 of 52 games went over the total.

Popularly bet underdogs harmed sports books in their own right. On Friday, for example, four underdogs drew more than 60 percent of the tickets at William Hill sports books — Wisconsin, Temple, Saint Joseph’s and Northern Iowa.

Three won outright, with Temple falling by an overtime buzzer-beating tip-in.

Talking Points hopefully helped hammer the books in the second round, going 12-4 against the spread picking every game to bring the blog’s overall record on the tournament to 29-22-1.

Check below for picks on every Sweet 16 game. They’re listed in rough order of confidence.

No. 1 seed Oregon minus-3 vs. No. 4 seed Duke Call it a near-wash offensively, where the Ducks and Blue Devils are both capable of pouring in a tremendous number of points. But Oregon will have clear advantages on defense, where it gives up nearly 4 points less per 100 possessions, and location, as the game tips at 10 p.m. in Duke’s native Eastern time zone.

No. 3 seed Miami plus-4.5 vs. No. 2 seed Villanova The Hurricanes didn’t get enough praise for torching Wichita State’s top-rated defense last round, which has left them in the familiar position of being undervalued. With Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, Miami has the rare backcourt that can match up well with Villanova.

No. 11 seed Gonzaga minus-4.5 vs. No. 10 seed Syracuse With Gonzaga’s defense — giving up a tournament-low .81 points per possession after two rounds — coming on to match its usual offensive effectiveness, the Bulldogs will stay a bet-on until further notice. Syracuse stands without an advantage in any area.

No. 7 seed Wisconsin plus-1 vs. No. 6 seed Notre Dame Siding with the smart, defensively suffocating team over the athletic, offensively explosive team. Wisconsin is going to shoot better than the 37 percent it posted over the opening weekend, while Notre Dame will be hard pressed to keep up its 57 percent from the field.

No. 3 seed Texas A&M plus-2.5 vs. No. 2 seed Oklahoma Bettors are beginning to look like masochists for heaping cash on Oklahoma, which has failed to cover in seven straight, in every game. The Sooners haven’t even been the better team down the stretch, as they have a plus-7 average point differential over the last month to Texas A&M’s plus-11.

Click to enlarge photo

Iowa State forward Georges Niang, third from left, goes up for a shot as Arkansas-Little Rock guards Jermaine Ruttley and Kemy Osse and forward Maurius Hill, from left, defend during Saturday's game.

No. 4 seed Iowa State plus-5.5 vs. No. 1 seed Virginia Virginia struggled more with Butler’s high-powered offense than the 77-69 final score indicates. Iowa State, in many ways, is a better version of Butler with Georges Niang and Monte Morris poised to shoot the Cyclones into a game that comes down to the final minutes.

No. 1 seed Kansas minus-6.5 vs. No. 5 seed Maryland No reason not to take a reasonable price with a team that’s separated itself as the nation’s best against a team that’s underachieved all season. The Terrapins are 0-5 straight-up, 1-4 against the spread as an underdog.

No. 1 seed North Carolina minus-5.5 vs. No. 5 seed Indiana Tough to decide which side to take in a game between teams that look like sell-high candidates. But Indiana would have probably taken an extra point or two, and gotten far less public support, in this spot a week ago before taking down Kentucky.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at

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