It's time to take a break from previewing the 2010-11 season pick some lines for the Sweet 16. As you all know, I've been a victim of statistical flukes this Tournament. There are always going to be a bunch of one-game flukes, like Georgia Tech's free throw shooting against Oklahoma State, or Cornell's team-wide shooting against Wisconsin, and it just seemed like every single one of those went against me this year. Just an awful run.
That said, I'm hopeful after finally having a good day picking the lines for Sunday's games, going 7-1 against the spread to bring myself to 26-20-2 against the line through two rounds. So does that mean you should trust my gambling advice for the first time in a couple of weeks? Maybe. Although don't get mad at me if the next team to go 24-for-25 from the free throw line is a team I picked against. Without further ado, here's my take on the Sweet 16 lines:
Butler (+6) over Syracuse: It looks like Arinze Onuaku probably wont play, and Syracuse could finally suffer from their lack of depth. Without Onuaku they barely even attempt to push the ball inside, and just launch deep shots all game. They hit them against Gonzaga, but there's no reason to expect them to shoot that well again. And Butler is a much better team than Gonzaga. Don't be surprised to see Syracuse go down.
West Virginia (-3.5) over Washington: The Truck Bryant injury doesn't change my mind here. West Virginia is just the much better team, and Washington has simply benefited from an easy path to the Sweet 16. Their run will end here.
Cornell (+10) over Kentucky: Kentucky's defense isn't any better than Wisconsin's, so if Cornell repeats their shooting performance then it's not impossible for them to take out Kentucky.
Kansas State (-5) over Xavier: If Kansas State plays half as well as they did against BYU, they should take care of a Xavier team that is going to really struggle to stop the K-State backcourt. Xavier doesn't have the athleticism to keep up, and that line is too small for me to bet on a close finish.
Ohio State (-4.5) over Tennessee: People forget that despite wins over Kentucky and Kansas and a Sweet 16 appearance, that the win over San Diego State was only Tennessee's third win over the RPI Top 50 this season. Ohio State has been rolling, and I can see them dominating the Vols here.
Baylor (-4) over Saint Mary's: Baylor has had all week to figure out how to stop Omar Samhan. And Saint Mary's doesn't have a lot of offensive options if he struggles or gets into foul trouble. Saint Mary's is good, but they're overrated because people forget how awful Villanova has been for well more than a month now: beating them isn't the same as beating a team like West Virginia or Ohio State. In fact, Baylor has been much better than Villanova of late, and will prove an even tougher test.
Michigan State (-4) over Northern Iowa: The Kalin Lucas injury is the only reason this line is so close, because the Spartans were so downright awful with the ball when Lucas was out earlier this season. But they had those troubles against Big Ten defenses, and Northern Iowa won't be quite as pesky. And not only is Northern Iowa due for a letdown after that big win over Kansas, but you can bet that Tom Izzo, arguably the best NCAA Tournament coach of the past 15 years, has spent all week studying how badly Northern Iowa struggled to handle the Kansas full court press late in the game. Northern Iowa has been very careful with the ball most of the season, but Michigan State might pressure them and force enough turnovers to balance out however many turnovers they commit themselves. And if the turnover numbers are remotely close then there's no way Northern Iowa can win.
Duke (-7) over Purdue: This is where the run ends for Purdue, a team that had a pretty easy path to the Sweet 16. Duke has been playing so well over the last few weeks, and is arguably the best team left in the Tournament. The upset of Kansas and the injuries for West Virginia and Syracuse mean that Kentucky might be the only true contender left that might stop Duke from another National Championship.