The talk of parity this year was more than a little bit overdone, something I've talked about before. And while NCAA Tournament results don't prove anything either way, it is worth noting that we're reasonably chalk-ish as we head into the Sweet 16. All four 1 seeds are still around, something which only happens about half of the time. We also don't have any really unqualified teams. The lowest seed remaining is Syracuse, and they got here by getting a 15 seed in the Round of 32, but even they are more than capable of a big upset.
The result of this is that we have eight really awesome games lined up for today and tomorrow. Games like North Carolina/Indiana and Kansas/Maryland are just a small piece of the fun. The NCAA Tournament has been fantastic so far, and there's no reason to think that's going to change tonight.
Let's get to the first half of the Sweet 16 games:
Sunday Yesterday ATS: 3-5-0
2016 Tournament ATS: 26-25-1
2015 Tournament ATS: 39-28-0 (58%)
2010-14 ATS: 181-139-11 (57%)
Villanova (-4) over Miami (FL): These two teams match up reasonably well. They're both good at what the other team does well. I certainly don't see any obvious match-up advantages, other than that Miami's poor outside shooting (32.6% on threes in ACC play) will give them difficulties against a Villanova defense which is fantastic at defending the paint. The difference to me in this game is simply that Villanova is a better basketball team, and has been playing some of its best basketball down the stretch. With a spread as small as 4.5 points, if one team is clearly better, I'd rather just take them. There's always a risk of a team not covering a small spread, and that's happened to me an unfortunately large amount the past couple of tourney days (including Notre Dame somehow winning without covering 1.5 points), but I'm not going to overreact to that. Take the better team, and the team playing better basketball right now, and that's Villanova.
Texas A&M (+2.5) over Oklahoma: Ever so quietly, Oklahoma's performance the past few weeks has been a little bit down from where they were in January. The turnovers are still a concern offensively, and their defensive effort has dropped off a bit as well. At the same time, Texas A&M is surging, getting past that early February lull and playing their best basketball of the season down the stretch. Their offense in particular will cause troubles with their physicality and aggressiveness inside, against an Oklahoma defense that is strongest on the perimeter and which has struggled with defensive rebounding. Throw in the penchant for the Aggies to force turnovers, and this really is a toss-up game at this point. I'll take the points.
Kansas (-6.5) over Maryland: It's hard to know exactly what to make of that Maryland/Hawaii game. Maryland appeared to be on the ropes when Hawaii just basically fell apart over the final ten minutes. I don't think that performance will really assuage the concerns of Maryland's slide in play the past few weeks. The Hawaii game broke a streak of seven consecutive games against Pomeroy Top 100 opponents where Maryland had allowed at least 1 PPP, and Kansas's offense will again pose a test with their ability to hit outside shots and to hit the offensive glass when they need to. If Maryland does pull this game out, their one match-up advantage appears to be the inside duo of Robert Carter and Diamond Stone. I'm not sure that Perry Ellis is a good defensive match-up against either of them, and I wonder if Bill Self will be forced to go deeper into his front court bench than he usually likes to. But I just see no evidence based on performance the past few weeks that Maryland can beat Kansas unless there's a fluky shooting performance.
Oregon (-3) over Duke: Amazingly, the public seems to have turned on Duke. I can't find a respected computer rating which has Oregon as this large of a favorite. But there's a reason folks have soured on Duke, which is the loss of Amile Jefferson and their decline in play since mid-February. Duke has been weakest on the defensive glass, which is somewhere that Oregon can attack. The saving grace for Duke when they've played well has been outside shooting, and Oregon's three-point defense is not great. If Duke wins this game, it will be because they hit outside shots at a high rate.