NCAA Tournament Survivor Guide For the Sweet 16 (Thursday)

Mar 22, 2022 - 8:54 PM

In a year where four double-digit seeds made the Sweet 16, you should be commended if you are still alive in your survivor pools at this point. But, as if getting to this point did not take much planning, now the real fun begins.

In the first round, one had 32 teams to choose from over the two days. For the next two days, there will be less than eight teams to choose from, given that some of the teams have already been utilized. So now is when survivor pool contestants have to master the trade of picking teams to advance, but not teams that will go too far so that there are still available selections once we get to the Final Four and beyond.

Throughout the tournament, one has to make eight picks: two from the First Round (one for each day played), two from the Second Round (one for each day played), and one from the Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, and National Championship.

As we did in the Round of 32, we rank all four Thursday games in order of most confidence to least confidence and provide a short narrative for each.

Here is a list of odds for all the favorites to win their Sweet 16 matchups on Thursday (odds courtesy of BettingPros consensus).

Check out all of our 2022 March Madness Coverage >>

Best Picks in Order of Most-to-Least Confidence

Gonzaga -435

Gonzaga is the most likely of all four teams playing on Thursday to win, so those just looking to “survive and advance” in their pools should look the Bulldogs’ way. Arkansas has gotten 35 points from JD Notae through the tournament’s first two games. However, if he goes 5-for-18 from the floor again as he did against New Mexico State, the Razorbacks will be fighting an uphill battle all night. The Bulldogs are no shoo-in for the Final Four, as the winner of the Duke-Texas Tech game has already faced Gonzaga in the regular season (Duke beat them), and neither will be intimidated in a rematch. However, if you think Gonzaga has legitimate national championship aspirations, you cannot use them in this spot.

Villanova -220

Compared to the other three teams playing on Thursday, Villanova arguably has the least likely chance to win a national championship. Thus, at some point, the Wildcats need to be used in survivor pools, as they will potentially be underdogs in every game they play from here on. However, the Wildcats are a solid survivor pool play today, if not for any other reason than you are undecided about the other games or need to save those teams for later rounds. The Wildcats have proven they can win close games consistently, as seven of their last 12 wins have been by six or fewer points. A big reason for that is lethal foul shooting, as Villanova’s 82.6% team free-throw shooting percentage has them on pace to break the NCAA single-season record. Hunter Dickinson poses matchup problems for Villanova, but the Wildcats are an experienced bunch that can be counted on for ways to neutralize him.

Arizona -125 

The No. 1 seed Arizona Wildcats are fortunate to be alive in the Sweet 16, needing overtime to survive an upset bid from TCU in the Round of 32. However, from a matchup perspective, No. 5 seed Houston is the last team the Wildcats should want to face.

While Arizona has a clear size advantage over Houston, the Cougars are one of the most physical teams left in the tournament and can use it to disrupt Arizona’s offense. Though seeding does not suggest so, one could argue that Villanova (if they beat Michigan) is a much better matchup for Arizona. Thus, the Wildcats have winnable games ahead of them, so it is better to save them for future rounds and make sure they get by Houston first.

Texas Tech -115

Of all four Sweet 16 games on Thursday, and possibly of all eight Sweet 16 games in general, this one between Texas Tech and Duke is the biggest coin flip. Texas Tech has the edge in experience, is likely the more battle-tested team, and plays a style of defense that can give Duke fits. On the other hand, Duke is the more talented team, has a roster littered with NBA prospects, and should be fueled by not wanting to have this game be their head coach’s last. How this game is officiated will go a long way in determining the winner. A tight whistle favors Duke, while a “let them play” attitude favors Texas Tech. Either way, this would not be a wise game to get involved with in survivor pools.

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