Our long nightmare is over. The three days between the second round and the Sweet 16 of the men's NCAA Tournament have passed. Tonight the thrill of watching teenagers (OK, so some of them are like 24 because of COVID eligibility rules) miss jump shots more frequently than their professional counterparts will return to our lives.
Here's hoping tonight's games match the excitement and unpredictability of the first weekend. Or, at the very least, here's hoping that our bets win. Before we get to them, let's catch up on all the latest happenings from around this world we call sports.
Let's get to some sweet Sweet 16 winners.
All times Eastern, and all odds via Caesars Sportsbook
🔥 The Hot Ticket
- Key Trend: There is no trend that supports this play. The trends are haters.
- The Pick: Gonzaga +1.5 (-110)
I take no joy in making this pick. I owe a lot to this UCLA team, or at least its two biggest contributors. Over their careers, I've won a lot of bets riding the coattails of UCLA's Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell (and Johnny Juzang in previous seasons). But this is college, so it has to end sometime, and there's a real chance that time is tonight. Simply put, Gonzaga shouldn't be the underdog in this game.
Gonzaga is the better team. That's not the case if Jaylen Clark is healthy, but he's not, and while the Bruins have gone 4-1 without him, the wins came against Colorado, Oregon, UNC Asheville and Northwestern. The lone loss came to Arizona, a team far closer to Gonzaga in quality than Northwestern or Oregon. While the Bruins have won, there's no denying they haven't been as strong defensively without Clark, and tonight they'll face the most efficient offense in the country.
The Bruins won't have Clark around to guard Julian Strawther, who is often lost in the shadow of Drew Timme but has shot 42.2% from three and has been one of the most efficient scorers in the country. All that said, I'm still taking Gonzaga with the points. While I believe the Bulldogs win more often than not, I have too much respect for Mick Cronin, Jaime Jaquez and Tyger Campbell to rule out the possibility they gut out one more win, even by the slimmest of margins.
Whatever the result, this will be the best game of our four Sweet 16 options tonight.
Here's what SportsLine is saying about the game: The Projection Model is strongly on my side betting this spread, but you should see how confident it is about a play on the total.
💰 More Sweet 16 picks
No. 3 Kansas State vs. No. 7 Michigan State, 6:30 p.m. | TV: TBS
The Pick: Michigan State (-125) -- With tournament games, a lot of the value you find is based on how teams have performed recently compared to how they've performed over the entire season. On the season, Kansas State has been better than Michigan State, even if only slightly. However, Michigan State's been better over the last month than Kansas State, and by a margin that's more significant than the Wildcats' advantage over the entire year.
That's part of the reason why Kansas State opened as a 1-point favorite and is now a 1 to 1.5-point underdog, depending on where you look. I don't see much value in betting this spread on either side. If I'm betting it, I'm betting the money line, and I see more value on the Spartans. My primary concern about Kansas State all season has been its lack of size on the perimeter. The Wildcats will find ways to score against the Spartans tonight, but I have legitimate concerns about the Wildcats stopping Michigan State. I'm taking the Spartans to win, and if you want a player prop, I'd look to take the over on Joey Hauser's points total.
No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic, 9 p.m. | TV: TBS
The Pick: Tennessee -5 (-110) -- To the dismay of Duke fans, Tennessee is available to play tonight and not in prison for beating Duke's players so badly last week. While I happily cashed my Tennessee +4.5 ticket in the game, even I was surprised to see how, shall we say, "aggressive" the Vols were in their approach. And it worked! So I will not judge them.
I do not believe the Vols will need to be as physical tonight, though that doesn't mean they'll go easy on the Owls. Based on how the conference has performed this postseason (C-USA is 23-11 in the postseason, only the SEC has performed better), it's fair to say the selection committee underappreciated Conference USA and that FAU was underseeded. But Florida Atlantic's offensive performance has dipped lately, and I worry about the Owls' lack of length in this matchup. Tennessee's one of the best defensive teams in the country, and I see them presenting all sorts of problems for FAU tonight.