Sweet 16 Part 2: Friday’s Top Sportsbook Betting Action in March Madness

After an exciting first half of the 2012 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 last night, Friday finds yet another set of 4 games for College Basketball fans to engage in, as the shot at reaching the regional finals comes into reach for 8 more teams taking to the hard court this evening. As the tournament closes out regional play on Saturday and Sunday this week before a break and a shift of venues to the Final Four in New Orleans, Louisiana, it’s time to knuckle up, put our money where our mouth is, and put down our wagers for all the remaining games left in what has been a fantastic NCAA Basketball season once again. Let’s do a quick breakdown of each of the games playing out tonight, look over some of the best betting lines available for each contest, and hopefully spot some advantages for betting at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here.

South Region Game #1: #3 Baylor Bears vs. #10 Xavier, Tip-off 7:15 PM ET at Atlanta, GA

The Baylor Bears were considered to be one of the better teams in the tournament talent-wise, but also one of the teams most likely to suffer an ill-timed setback due to their propensity for getting beat by much less talented teams. Put those thoughts aside now, because this Bears team is now just one victory away from reaching its second Elite 8 in just 3 years, further giving Baylor University reason to be called an elite athletic school. With stand-out players like Perry Jones III, the two Quincy’s Acy and Miller, and a hot-shooting Brady Heslip who is having a sensational tournament averaging 22 points/game while hitting 14-of-22 3-point shots, the Bears are most certainly a team on the upswing. In opposition tonight however is a team that deserves to lose the mid-major distinction that most would associate with a Cinderella story at this point in the Big Dance. Xavier has reached the Sweet 16 in 4 of their last 5 into March Madness, and has a talented cast of their own behind guards Tu Holloway and Mark Lyons. While they aren’t exceptionally big and don’t shoot exceptionally well, they have been knocking off teams from the six largest conferences time and time again with outstanding all-around team efforts, proving that their never one to be counted out in any match-up. A big question tonight for Xavier though remains with their freshman swing man Dezmine Wells, who averages north of 10 points per game, and could see limited action after suffering a sprained big toe in the win against Lehigh. The Musketeers will need all their depth to prevail against a Baylor team destined to prove their doubters wrong, and any cracks in the foundation could spell disaster in the face of a Big 12 school that is gaining steam as the tournament rounds progress.

Betting Lines for Baylor vs. Xavier at Betonline Sportsbook:

The Baylor Bears take the nod as the favorite to win tonight’s match-up with Xavier, getting -285 odds straight up on the money line. The Xavier Musketeers find themselves, as usual, as heavy underdogs at +240 odds.

Against the Spread, find 6 points separating the two teams tonight, -6 to the favored Baylor Bears, +6 on the underdog Xavier Musketeers (both options are at -110 odds). While Xavier is more than capable of winning this game tonight if they can play solid defense and shoot well from the outside, what is of concern for spread pickers is what happens when they lose. In the last 4 defeats for Xavier, they’ve lost by an average of 10.5 points. If Baylor, with their bigger inside presence and better depth can frustrate Xavier and control the lead throughout the contest, there’s a very good chance the Musketeers will fall off in the closing minutes to give Baylor spread pickers a leg up.

Lastly for the total points betting line, the over/under stands at 142 points, as neither team plays lockdown defense, and both average north of 70 points per contest on offense. Both teams are going to come out and try to push the ball in transition, and with Baylor’s height advantage in the paint, look for lots of quick buckets and second chances inside to drive the points total upwards and potentially beyond the 142 mark tonight.

Our Prediction: While Xavier is a proven tournament darling, Baylor is on a mission to prove everyone wrong for doubting their hustle and their intensity. Baylor comes out hot, stays hot, and earns their ticket to the regional final by knocking off the Musketeers 76-68.

South Region Game #2: #1 Kentucky vs. #4 Indiana, Tip-Off at 9:45 PM ET at Atlanta, GA

Hitting the court just after the end of the Baylor vs. Xavier game is undoubtedly the most anticipated Sweet 16 match-up for online sports betting fans, as a rematch between #1 seed Kentucky and #4 Indiana plays out between the two of the most winningest teams in College Basketball history, with a combined 12 national titles between them. This is the first time in nearly 20 years that the two schools have met in the NCAA Tournament, thus it’s safe to say there’s huge and longstanding bragging rights on the line for these two programs. The Hoosiers have already proven they can beat this year’s #1 ranked team, knocking off the Wildcats 73-72 on a buzzer beater from Christian Watford just before the New Year, but you’d be kidding yourself if you think John Calipari’s ‘Cats aren’t thinking about redemption for that loss. Make no mistake, the Wildcats leading scorer Anthony Davis will be first and foremost set on having a better game tonight with concentration on avoiding unnecessary fouls, as his absence due to foul trouble in the December loss was a huge reason why Kentucky couldn’t close the door on Indiana the first time around. Talent is all over the place in this match-up tonight, from Davis, Doron Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague for the Wildcats, and from Cody Zeller, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo for the Hoosiers. Both teams shoot lights out at around 49 percent from the floor on the season, and both teams are well-composed after tough schedules throughout the NCAA regular season.

One very important factor tonight for both teams is how they manage to stay composed on defense in the face of hot-shooting, talented players. Kentucky looks the most poised to dominate this game defensively, allowing just 59 points/game on the season, while Indiana (giving up 65.5 points/game on defense) likes to play more run-and-gun, relying on their offensive to outscore opponents especially into the final minutes. Kentucky has the advantage inside with bigger, more physical bodies occupying the paint, however if they focus all their attention inside on defense as well, they’ll be subject to a barrage of outside shooting from a Hoosiers team that hits an amazing 43.1 percent of their 3-point shots. It would most certainly be a horror story for Wildcats fans to see another last second shot with the game on the line fall via Christian Watford or Jordan Hulls, so expect Kentucky to be pressing and aggressive around the perimeter on defense. Indiana on the other hand has to find a way to stop the easy buckets from Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. These guys get to loose balls, frustrate with physical ability, and shoot the ball well when given open space for jump-shots. Indiana simply must have solid defensive efforts inside tonight, and avoid getting their big guys into foul trouble as well. That’s something Kentucky most certainly will be trying to do to pay back the Hoosiers for handing them one of only two losses suffered by the Wildcats on the season.

Betting Lines for #1 Kentucky vs. #4 Indiana:

Kentucky comes in as a huge favorite in this match-up tonight, as the bookmakers at Betonline Sportsbook certainly aren’t expecting this to be a close contest via their money line stance taking the Wildcats as -615 favorites to win. Indiana is the second biggest underdog of the Sweet 16 round at +485 odds, so if you’re feeling saucy on taking an upset bid, now’s a great time to do it.

All fantasies aside however, the best chance for backing the Indiana Hoosiers may line with the spread, as Indiana is a hefty 9 1/2 point underdog (-110 odds). Though Kentucky is certainly deserving of their 9 1/2 point favorite with better depth, bigger size and arguably more talent across the board, there is no question that Indiana is a team that puts up an incredible fight down to the last minute, and for a team that can pour in 3-pointers in clutch moments you can never count them out even when all appears lost. Look for Indiana to be intent on keeping this game close until the end, and cover the spread tonight.

Onto the total points line, the over/under sits at a lofty 144 points, as should befit a match-up between two very high-percentage shooting teams. However, as we’ve seen in years past when two very quality shooting teams meet up in later rounds, defense tends to stiffen up, transition offense becomes harder to score points with, and more inopportune shots come about as smothering defense is focused upon. While I do expect some late-game scoring to push the total right up near the line tonight, I’m looking for a better defensive effort from both teams, especially in the first half, to increase the likelihood that this game stays just under the mark for total points.

Our Prediction: Kentucky simply has the better team from position to position, and while Indiana will make a game of it via their impressive outside shooting prowess, in the end, Anthony Davis is going to be the X factor in tonight’s game, and will lead his Wildcats to the Elite 8 to come. Look for Kentucky to dominate inside the paint, play better defense around the perimeter, and prevent Indiana from having real success in multiple facets of their game. It’ll be a better dogfight than what’s predicted on the betting lines, but UK emerges with a solid 70-64 win to advance.

Midwest Region Game #1: #1 North Carolina vs. #13 Ohio

Oh, how we all love a good Cinderella story. It’s safe to say that no one would expect to see the Ohio Bobcats in contention for a spot in the Elite 8, after bumping off two defensive stalwarts in Michigan and South Florida, but it’s also safe to say that they haven’t seen an offense like North Carolina’s at any point along their MAC conference schedule. While you can never totally rule out an underdog, especially in this year’s tournament where we saw two #2 seeds go out in the second round, and a whole host of upsets in between then and now, you have to realize that this is one of the most lopsided match-ups remaining in the NCAA Tournament. While Ohio has some talent via D.J. Cooper (14.9 ppg) and Walter Offutt (12.0 ppg) and play pretty solid defense (allowing 62.4 ppg), they are horribly outsized against a North Carolina team brimming with supersized talent. In the rebounding category alone the Tarheels average 11 more boards per game (45 to 34), which could sum up this contest before it even gets started. From John Henson to Tyler Zeller to Harrison Barnes, UNC has the length to suffocate any team inside the paint, let alone a mid-major team that is just happy to be playing this late in the season. Don’t forget as well that UNC ranks second in the nation in scoring at 82 points per game, averaging 12 points more per contest than Ohio does. While we’re totally setting ourselves up for the possibility of an embarrassing upset, the stats and the talent paint a picture of a game with huge blowout potential, and one in which only UNC can truly beat themselves in.

Betting Lines for #1 North Carolina vs. #13 Ohio

Betonline Sportsbook has the Ohio Bobcats right where most would expect them; as huge underdogs on the money line, specifically at +530 odds to win. There’s very little point in chasing those astronomical underdog odds, or the -670 odds on North Carolina to win, unless you’re willing to wager massive cash for little gain backing the clear favorite Tarheels to win.

Against the spread, things start to get a bit more intriguing. Ohio is a 10 1/2 point underdog, but at such low odds (-110) as is typical for the spread, there’s little reason to chase a pipe dream of seeing another Cinderella story making this a close game. With North Carolina coming off a drubbing of the nation’s top shooting team in Creighton (87-73), expectations should be high that we’ll see a similar performance against a much less capable team in Ohio, and a very good chance that North Carolina simply runs away with this game from the get-go.

Another tricky pick here is the betting lines for total points, as the over/under stands at 143. Ohio has gotten past the first two rounds of competition on good defense, but despite averaging 70 points per game they’ve yet to show they have the offensive capabilities to generate enough baskets to get the total points anywhere near their half of 143. With Ohio desperate to slow the pace of the game down, and likely struggling to score point in the face of a very big North Carolina team, even a huge scoring night for UNC doesn’t look likely to push the points total over the mark tonight.

Our Prediction: North Carolina simply overwhelms the Ohio Bobcats, ending an exciting run for a team that at least got a shot to play three games on the national stage. No doubt Ohio will give their best efforts especially on defense, but in the end their lack of offense and rebounding will have UNC rolling through tonight’s match-up and into the Elite 8. North Carolina dominates in a 80-68 win.

Midwest Region Game #2: #2 Kansas vs. #11 North Carolina State

For the final game of the Sweet 16 in this year’s NCAA Tournament, a most intriguing match-up comes across the betting lines today, as the #2 seed Kansas Jayhawks try to avoid being bumped out of yet another tournament by an upstart #11 seed team. While on paper the N.C. State Wolfpack doesn’t seem to match up all too well against the Jayhawks, this is a team you somewhat have to throw the stats out on. Since the ACC tournament commenced, first season head coach Mark Gottfried’s Wolfpack have answered the call to step up their form, and show that they’re ones worthy of not only inclusion in the NCAA Tournament, but also ones to be worried about. Two impressive wins over San Diego State and Georgetown later, and N.C. State is certainly a team that is on the upswing, building confidence and not afraid to take on the likes of Big 12 powerhouse Kansas.

C.J. Leslie has without a doubt been the step-up player for the Wolfpack late in the year, emerging as a leader for N.C. State after getting called out for being a troublemaker earlier in the season. He has been on fire down the stretch hitting 59.6 percent of his shots while averaging 18.3 points/game over the last 10 contests, and is certainly a key factor for the Wolfpack getting over the hump and into one of the last at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament. Leading a ‘Pack team that features 5 players in double figures, N.C. State has plenty of potential scoring leaders which bodes well against a Kansas team whose only real crutch is their lack of depth. While you have to respect Bill Self’s KU squad via their exceptionally talented cast of starters including Thomas Robinson (17.8 ppg, 11.8 rpg) and TyShawn Taylor (16.9 ppg, 4.8 apg), there is definitely hope for a team with depth to contend with Kansas tonight, and make this an interesting match-up for online sportsbook betting.

What bodes even better for N.C. State is seeing what kind of struggles Purdue gave to Kansas in the Round of 32, losing by just 3 points after looking very likely to snag an upset win. The Boilermakers’ success on defense, holding the Jayhawks to just 33.9 percent shooting, is most certainly something the Wolfpack will want to emulate tonight. Along with that, putting attention first and foremost on Kansas’ big men Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey has paid dividends for other teams this season, as controlling the scoring of one or the other inside KU players puts added pressure around the perimeter, where Kansas has not shot exceptionally well this in this year’s tournament (%31 vs. Detroit, %25 vs. Purdue). Here’s what looks good for a solid chance of a Wolfpack upset; against a good shooting team in San Diego State, N.C. State took the ball to the basket, and shot a scorching 58.5 percent from the floor. Against a defensive-minded and very physical inside team like Georgetown, N.C. State went outside and found success by hitting 46.7 percent of their 3-point shots, led by a 4-for-5 shooting night from forward Scott Wood. Another huge point to take away from both games? The Wolfpack won the battle of the glass, and very importantly against Georgetown held a 15:6 advantage on the offensive boards. If they can have similar inside success against the Kansas big men, N.C. State will be moving on to the Elite 8 as one of the best Cinderella stories in this year’s Big Dance.

Betting Lines for #2 Kansas vs. #11 N.C. State

#2 Kansas has a monkey to shake off their backs after being ousted by last year’s Cinderella story, then-#11 seed VCU. The bookmakers at Betonline have obviously not taken any historical failings by Kansas into account, and have given the Jayhawks a hefty -415 favorite to win on the money line tonight. N.C. State therefore makes for an intriguing pick at +345 odds, especially after playing well to overcome two teams that could have made a legitimate run towards the Final Four this year.

Against the spread, again the high odds in favor of Kansas to win favor going after a pick on N.C. State. An 8 point difference sits between the two sides tonight, with the Jayhawks forced to cover 8 points (-115 odds) as favorite, and the Wolfpack getting 8 points (-105 odds) to play with tonight. After seeing Kansas struggle with Purdue in a game they arguably should have lost, and watching N.C. State build confidence with each game under their belt, N.C. State has to be more than a passing interest for spread pickers in this match-up.

Lastly, the over/under on total points stands at a lofty 143 1/2 points for tonight’s contest. However, after seeing Kansas fail to surpass 65 points in both tournament games prior to this meeting, there has to be a sense of reluctance expecting a complete offensive turnaround for the Jayhawks, especially when the Wolfpack, typically a pretty poor defensive side (allowing 68 points/game to opposing offenses), held SDSU and Georgetown to 65 points or less, and also managed to keep North Carolina 13 points under their season average (allowing 69 points vs. UNC’s 82 average) in a close loss in the ACC tournament. In a game where defense will be critical, the under wager on total points looks to be a great option for online sportsbook betting tonight.

Our Prediction: This game has great potential to be a solid upset pick tonight, and there would most certainly be an excellent story to tell for N.C. State coming from being an ACC afterthought, to just barely squeezing in the tournament, to making a legitimate run for a national title. Though Kansas is a whole different monster compared to what N.C. State has faced thus far, their depth and confidence against a Kansas team that may be starting to doubt themselves after two lackluster performances, gives great reason to want to chase the Cinderella story here tonight. And so, for the sake of making things interesting, that’s exactly what we’ll do here. N.C. State goes for glory tonight, pulling off yet another #11 vs. #2 defeat over Kansas to send them packing early for a second consecutive year. Wolfpack 70, Kansas 68.

Enjoy all these great games for the final day of Sweet 16 competition in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, get those wagers placed as soon as possible at the Betonline Sportsbook or any of the best reviewed online sportsbooks found on our homepage, and get set for an outstanding weekend of College hoops ahead with even more action as the Elite 8 round of play comes knocking on the door!

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