March Madness Sweet Sixteen Preview
The Villanova Wildcats are out. So are the Duke Blue Devils and the Louisville Cardinals. The first two rounds of March Madness saw their share of upsets and bad beats – who will forget the “meaningless” deep 3-pointer Oklahoma State (+3.5) sank at the end of Friday’s 92-91 loss to Michigan? But most of the big teams have advanced to the Sweet Sixteen round of the Big Dance. Here’s a look at how things stand heading into Thursday’s action.
This is where the defending champs met their Waterloo. Top-seeded Villanova fell to the No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers in the Second Round, 65-62 as 6.5-point favorites on the NCAA basketball odds board. The East is also where No. 2 Duke (–7) got stuffed 88-81 by the No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks. South Carolina will play the No. 3 Baylor Bears Friday night (7:29 PM ET, TBS) at Madison Square Garden, then Wisconsin will take the floor against the No. 4 Florida Gators (9:59 PM ET, TBS). Baylor and Florida are +200 co-favorites at press time to win the East and advance to the Final Four.
Only one upset of note in the West, as the No. 3 Florida State Seminoles were trampled 91-66 by the No. 11 Xavier Musketeers (+7) in the Second Round. But don’t mistake the Musketeers for Cinderellas – this is a quality Big East team with a real shot of beating the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats on Thursday (10:09 PM ET, TBS). Before those teams battle in San Jose, the No. 1 Gonzaga Bulldogs will face the No. 4 West Virginia Mountaineers in what should be an instant classic, tipping off at 7:39 PM ET on TBS. Because West Virginia is such an obstacle, the betting lines have Arizona (+140) ahead of Gonzaga (+175) to win the West.
The Michigan Wolverines didn’t get the cover against OSU, but they made their legion of fans very happy by dumping No. 2 Louisville 73-69 as 3.5-point underdogs on the closing line. They’ll be on national television Thursday night (7:09 PM ET, CBS) against the No. 3 Oregon Ducks, live from Kansas City. At 9:39 PM ET, the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks face the No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers in the nightcap. Kansas is the +120 favorite to make it out of the Midwest and into the Final Four.
No major upsets here. The top four seeds have advanced to the Sweet 16. They’ll be playing Friday night in Memphis, starting with the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels versus the No. 4 Butler Bulldogs at 7:09 PM ET, followed by the biggest college basketball game of the year thus far: Lonzo Ball and the No. 3 UCLA Bruins versus the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats at 9:39 PM ET.
*Odds as of March 22, 2017