Dogs Ready to Bite the Books: Sweet 16 Edition

Picking upsets in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament is all about an underdog catching a favorite off-guard. Those early games create some great betting opportunities based on each team’s current form. That is why I went with Murray State’s win over Marquette as last week’s top underdog play.

When you get to the Sweet 16 Round of this tournament, every team left in dance has already proven that they are playing well. Picking upsets at this stage of the Big Dance can get a bit tricky, but there is always value to be found in the opening spreads.

The Pac-12’s Oregon Ducks are the only double-digit seed to advance past the first two rounds at No. 12 in the South Region. They now have to take on the top seed in that bracket which also happens to be the No. 2 team in the nation.

Virginia opened as a 7.5-point favorite for this Thursday night’s clash at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. The line almost immediately jumped to eight points and that is when I jumped onboard the Ducks’ bandwagon.

Top Underdog Bet- Take Oregon (+8) against Virginia

The Pac-12 has basically been an afterthought this season. Washington was the only team to poke its head into the national rankings. Oregon’s chances to make some noise appeared to die down early in the season when it lost freshman center Bol Bol for the remainder of the year.

The Ducks went on to post a straight-up 10-8 record in conference play as part of a 25-12 record overall. However, they were able to get hot at the right time of the season starting with a big 73-47 romp over Arizona as 2.5-point home favorites to close out the month of February. Heading into Thursday’s Sweet 16 tilt, Oregon has now won its last 10 contests both straight-up and against the spread.

It closed as an underdog in two of those games, including last Friday’s stunning 72-54 beatdown of Wisconsin as a slight 1.5-point underdog. Just for good measure, the Ducks repeated the effort on Sunday with a 73-54 victory against the upstart UC Irvine Anteaters as 4.5-point favorites. They definitely caught a break in that matchup after the Anteaters stunned No. 4 Kansas State in the opening round.

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Oregon did start the season ranked No. 14 in the preseason AP Top 25 and it has regained that form behind players such as guards’ Payton Pritchard and Ehab Amin, along with forward Kenny Wooten. Pritchard averaged 13.0 points a game in the regular season, but that average has climbed to 19.0 points over his last five starts.

Amin came up big on Sunday with 12 points and six rebounds and Wooten has combined to score 20 points in the first two rounds after averaging 6.5 PPG.

Virginia was able to climb out from under the black cloud of last year’s first-round exit as a No. 1 seed with a pair of double-digit wins in the first two rounds of this year’s NCAA Tournament against Gardner-Webb and Oklahoma. The Cavaliers could not cover the closing 22.5-point spread in Friday’s 15-point win and they actually trailed in that game 36-30 at the half. However, they came through for bettors on Sunday with a 12-point win against the Sooners as 10.5-point favorites.

The Cavaliers are playing well enough for a Final Four run, but getting past Thursday night could be their biggest mental challenge. More than a few highly-talented Virginia teams met its demise in the Sweet 16. The Cavaliers do have the best defense in the nation in points allowed (55.0), but Oregon has put up at least 70 points in four of its last six games.

I actually have Virginia winning this game SU, but I see eight points as a gift with the Ducks making the Cavaliers earn that next win.

Article by Dave Schwab

Posted March 25th, 2019

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