NCAA Tournament Survivor Guide For the Sweet 16 (Thursday)

Mar 21, 2023 - 10:12 AM

In a year where a No. 15 seed (Princeton) and only two No. 1 and two No. 2 seeds made the Sweet 16, you should be commended if you are still alive in your survivor pools. 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. There will be fewer than eight teams to choose from for the next two days, 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).

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2023 NCAA Tournament Guide (March Madness)

Best Picks in Order of Most-to-Least Confidence

UConn (-175)

UConn is not the biggest of the four favorites to win on Thursday, but the Huskies might be the smartest survivor pool pick based on the gauntlet they face ahead of them for the rest of the tournament. UConn projects to be an underdog in the Elite 8 if UCLA beats Gonzaga, and the Huskies would certainly be underdogs to Houston or Texas at the Final Four, which is conveniently played in Houston this year. Thus, now is the time to use UConn, and one can more confidently do so after the news that Arkansas point guard Anthony Black was in a boot to protect a foot injury he has been dealing with for much of the last month. In addition, the Razorbacks may not have an answer for UConn center Adama Sanogo, who is the first player to average 25 points and ten rebounds while shooting better than 70% from the floor through the first two games of the NCAA Tournament since 2009 (per ESPN Stats & Info).

Tennessee (-250)

While Tennessee is the biggest favorite on Thursday’s slate, eschewing the Volunteers in favor of UConn is where some of the survivor pool strategies come in. Tennessee would likely be favored against the Michigan State-Kansas State winner. Still, it would arguably be one of the lowest teams on the national championship odds boards, especially if the other regions go chalk with their No. 1 and No. 2 seeds advancing. However, even without point guard Zakai Zeigler, Tennessee finds itself in the Sweet 16 on the heels of two dominant defensive performances where it held Louisiana and Duke to an average of 53.5 points. If you do not think the Volunteers get past the winner of Michigan State-Kansas State, they would be a viable option to use in the Sweet 16. However, a Florida Atlantic team that has won 33 games will be no pushover.

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UCLA (-125)

UCLA is favored over a Gonzaga team it was trounced by 83-63 in the regular season last year and will play this year’s Sweet 16 game in that same venue. In last year’s contest, Drew Timme and Julian Strawther combined for 30 points, and this year’s leading scorer Jaime Jaquez scored a team-high 19 but shot just 7-of-22 from the field. Given the familiarity between these teams, we would not advise using the Bruins in this round, especially with how injured they are at the moment. UCLA is already without arguably the best defensive player in the country, Jaylen Clark. Now we do not know the status of David Singleton, who suffered an ankle injury late in the team’s Round of 32 win over Northwestern.

Michigan State (-120)

It may be unusual to see a No. 7 seed favored over a No. 3 seed in the Sweet 16, but that is the respect that oddsmakers have for Tom Izzo, who has the third-highest winning percentage (.701) in the NCAA Tournament among active coaches with at least 20 games coached. In addition, his 15 trips to the Sweet 16 times him for sixth-most all-time. However, he has to deal with Kansas State’s two Third-Team All-Americans (Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson), who combined for 40 of the Wildcats’ 75 points in their win over Kentucky.

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