Ultimate Betting Preview for Sunday’s 8 Second-Round Games

Ultimate Betting Preview for Sunday’s 8 Second-Round Games article feature image
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© Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

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Only one more day left of this epic weekend so let’s make it count. All eyes will be on how UMBC follows up its historic win, but there are also seven other intriguing matchups to determine the final tickets to the Sweet 16. In Sunday’s edition of our NCAA Tournament betting guide, we will take a look at matchups and metrics to watch, along with trends and our favorite bets from our crew of experts (Stuckey, Jordan Majewski, Bryan Mears and Wes Reynolds) for all eight games.

Be sure to check back here up until game time for insight into last-minute sharp action, significant line moves and any other betting market info. Also, keep your eyes out for a first look at the Sweet 16 matchups late Sunday night.

Let’s get to it!

All spreads as of Saturday afternoon. 


#10 Butler vs. #2 Purdue -3.5 | O/U: 143.5

Detroit, MI | 12:10 p.m. ET on CBS

No. 1 thing I’ll be watching: Purdue’s offense without Isaac Haas.

Purdue has the country’s fourth-most prolific post offense and the ninth-most efficient offense overall, per Synergy. That is, of course, due in large part to the  play of the now-injured Haas on the block. He would draw loads of attention on the block, which freed up Purdue’s excellent off-ball motion. Per hooplens.com, Purdue has been 17 points per 100 possessions better with Haas on the floor against Tier A opponents. The most dramatic efficiency split occurs on the offensive end, where Purdue scores 1.18 points per possession with Haas on the floor and 1.08 with him off. With Haas off the floor and replacement Matt Haarms on the floor, Purdue has been a net 13 points per 100 possessions worse.

I’m not subscribing to the theory that Purdue will be “looser” offensively with Haas unavailable. That said, I think Purdue might actually matchup better against Butler’s ubiquitous pick-and-roll offense, especially if Matt Painter shifts Vince Edwards down to the 5 with Nojel Eastern at the 4. Haas was actually somewhat of a nonfactor in the regular season meeting with Butler, playing just 16 minutes with foul trouble. Purdue won that game 82-67 in Indianapolis. — Jordan Majewski

Did You Know?

Matt Painter is 14-4 ATS in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament in his coaching career, including 10-2 ATS in his past 12 games. — Evan Abrams

Betting Market

Sixty-three percent of bettors are backing the much higher seeded Purdue squad, but they remain at -3.5. The line has not moved to -3 or -4 yet, but the juice at Pinnacle (-3.5 +102) and Bookmaker (-3.5 -105) suggest it may be headed to -3. — Mark Gallant

My Favorite Bet

Stuck: Purdue 1H
Wes: Over 143.5

#11 Syracuse vs. #3 Michigan State -9.5 | O/U: 129

Detroit, MI | 2:40 p.m. ET on CBS

No. 1 thing I’ll be watching: Can Cuse score at all?

The Orange win games by slowing down the tempo and forcing teams out of their element with a pesky zone. They now rank sixth in defensive efficiency on the year and 19th in effective field goal percentage (eFG%) allowed. Syracuse held TCU and Arizona State to just 39.6 and 40.4 percent shooting, respectively, in its first two tournament games. Unfortunately, now the Orange get a Michigan State Spartans squad that ranks seventh in eFG% and specifically fifth in 3-point percentage. Literally every player averaging 19-plus minutes for the Spartans this season has hit 3s at an above-average rate.

But the other side of the ball is probably more important than Cuse defending Michigan State. I’m just not sure how the Orange are going to manufacture buckets. With the length of guys like Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr., every bucket is going to be hard to come by, and the Orange already struggle shooting the ball. They rank an atrocious 323rd this year in eFG%, and the Spartans rank first in the nation in eFG% allowed. Unless Cuse randomly gets hot on Sunday, I don’t see many avenues for success against this loaded Spartans squad. — Bryan Mears

Did You Know?

Since the 2002 NCAA Tournament, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim is 10-1 SU and ATS when seeded higher than his opponent. Cuse was listed as the underdog in 9 of the 11 games and is covering the spread by a whopping 9.3 PPG. — Evan Abrams

Boeheim has faced Tom Izzo just once in the NCAA Tournament, in the 2000 Sweet 16, when the 1-seed Spartans toppled 4-seed Syracuse by 17 points. The Spartans covered the 7.5-point spread en route to their first National Title since Magic Johnson in 1979. — Evan Abrams

Michigan State is 8-1 straight-up under Tom Izzo as a favorite of 8 or more points in the NCAA tournament but 3-4-2 ATS since 2005. — John Ewing

Betting Market

It appears are experts were on the sharp side early. Though spread bets are relatively split, with Michigan State getting the slight majority, the Spartans have moved all the way to -9.5 this morning. — Mark Gallant

My Favorite Bet

Stuck: Michigan State -8
Mears: Michigan State -8
Wes: Michigan State -8

#7 Texas A&M vs. #2 North Carolina -7 | O/U: 151.5

Charlotte, NC | 5:15 p.m. ET on CBS

No. 1 thing I’ll be watching: UNC’s effectiveness in transition

This is a good matchup for the Tar Heels, whose biggest weakness this season — by far — has been defending the 3-point line. The Aggies rank 283rd in frequency of shots from the 3-point line and just 291st in 3-point percentage. With that weakness muted, the Aggies can’t afford to give up easy points to the Heels, who are masters are creating them. UNC ranks third this season in offensive rebounding and loves pushing the pace at any time for transition opportunities. The margin for error given this matchup is small for the Aggies, and, if they have lapses in transition or on the boards, this could get away from them. — Bryan Mears

Did You Know?

During his career at North Carolina, head coach Roy Williams is 17-0 straight-up and 12-4-1 ATS (75%) when playing an NCAA Tournament game in the state of North Carolina. — Evan Abrams

Betting Market

This is easily the most lopsided game of the day. The Tarheels are receiving a whopping 80% of bets as of 10 AM, which is 13% more than the next highest number. This wave of heavy action has forced books to move UNC to -7. — Mark Gallant

My Favorite Bet

Stuck: Texas A&M +6
Jordan: UNC -6
Wes: Texas A&M +6

#7 Nevada vs. #2 Cincinnati -9 | O/U: 137.5

Nashville, TN | 6:10 p.m. ET on TNT

No. 1 thing I’ll be watching: Cincy’s advantage in the paint

This doesn’t set up particularly well for Nevada. The Wolf Pack’s offense is predicated on exploiting mismatches with their size on the perimeter through pick and roll with the Martin twins (Caleb and Cody), Kendall Stephens, and Jordan Caroline. Few teams, if any, are more capable of switching on screens with the versatility and athleticism that Cincinnati brings defensively. Nevada likes to push in transition as well, but Cincy is equally elite in transition defense as it is in the half court. Nevada’s often 5-out alignment translates into poor rebounding on the defensive end. That spells trouble against a Cincy team that ranks second nationally in offensive rebounding rebounding rate. Additionally, the Pack never play zone defense, which has been the Achilles’ heel of the Bearcat offense all year. Kyle Washington and Gary Clark will have a massive advantage in the paint for the Bearcats on the offensive end and on the glass. — Jordan Majewski

Did You Know?

The Mountain West conference has faced a top-2 seed this late in the tournament 10 times in its history, going 1-9 straight-up and 3-7 ATS. The lone Mountain West team to pull the upset was UNLV, behind Lon Kruger, beating Bo Ryan and Wisconsin in the 2007 tournament. That year, the Runnin’ Rebels were also a 7-seed facing a 2-seed in the Round of 32. — Evan Abrams

Betting Market

This game is looking like a sharp vs. square showdown, as Nevada is currently a trendy dog with 52% of bets. Cincinnati has more than 75% of dollars, though, and has moved from -7 to -9 since opening. — Mark Gallant

My Favorite Bet

Jordan: Cincinnati -7.5
Mears: Cincinnati -7.5

#5 Clemson vs. #4 Auburn -1 | O/U: 146.5

San Diego, CA | 7:10 p.m. ET on TBS

No. 1 thing I’ll be watching: Auburn’s offense at the rim

This is a true coinflip matchup. Both teams are fairly efficient offensively (Clemson ranks 45th; Auburn ranks 19th) and defensively (Clemson 9th, Auburn 31st) and shoot FTs well (Clemson 75.7%, Auburn 77.3%). The key will be if Auburn can get enough offense at the rim against Elijah Thomas and Clemson’s No. 10-ranked 2-point defense (44.2%). Auburn also can’t afford to shoot free throws like it did the other night against Charleston (15-of-32), or it will be packing its bags. — Wes Reynolds

Did You Know?

Auburn is currently getting less than 50% of spread tickets as the favorite. Since 2005, a favorite getting less than 50% of bets has gone 36-19-1 (66%) ATS in the Round of 32. Track live odds here— John Ewing

There are two SEC vs. ACC matchups in the second round: Texas A&M vs. North Carolina and Auburn vs. Clemson. Since 2010, the SEC is 9-3-1 ATS (75%) against the ACC in the tournament, covering by an average of 6.5 points per game. Overall, the SEC is 47-31-7 ATS (60.3%) in the NCAA Tournament since 2010, the most profitable conference in the country over that period. — Evan Abrams

Betting Market

Clemson is looking like Paris Hilton’s chihuahua, as they are currently a very trendy small dog. With two thirds of bets and more than three quarters of the money, they may become the favorite quite soon. However, oddsmakers may be afraid sharp bettors will pounce on Auburn as a dog if they move the line. — Mark Gallant

My Favorite Bet

Jordan: Clemson +1
Mears: Clemson +1
Wes: Clemson +1

#16 UMBC vs. #9 Kansas State -10 | O/U: 135.5

Charlotte, NC | 7:45 p.m. ET on TruTV

No. 1 thing I’ll be watching: UMBC post defense

We are all UMBC Retrievers, but it’s hard to see America’s team keeping the run going. Kansas State is an elite ball-screen defense. The Wildcats have the length and speed on the perimeter with Barry Brown, Cartier Diarra and Kam Stokes that Virginia lacked against Jairus Lyles and KJ Maura. KSU also won’t be flustered by the zone traps that UMBC threw at Virginia, disrupting Tony Bennett’s methodical mover-blocker offense. Dean Wade probably won’t play again, but Makol Malwein should be able to exact plenty of damage against an undermanned UMBC frontcourt. — Jordan Majewski

Did You Know?

Since the 1997 NCAA Tournament, five teams have won a game as an underdog of 15 points or more, including UMBC against Virginia. The previous four teams are 0-4 straight-up and 1-3 ATS their next time out, including 0-3 ATS since 2000. The four teams lost the Round of 32 game by 19.8 PPG and failed to cover the spread by a combined 8.6 PPG. The one team to almost pull two massive upsets in a row was Coppin State in 1997, losing 82-81 to Texas after botching an inbounds pass in the final seconds. — Evan Abrams

Kansas State opened as 10-point favorites against UMBC. Since 2005, teams favored by double digits in the Round of 32 have gone 24-1 straight-up (15-10 ATS). This is the first time the big favorite has been seeded 8 or higher. — John Ewing

Betting Market

More than 50% of bettors are currently backing the nation’s new favorite team on the spread, as the UMBC Retrievers have 53% of bets at +10. Many are taking their action to the moneyline, though, as almost 80% of bets have them to take down Kansas State for another upset. They can currently be had at around +400 around the market. — Mark Gallant

My Favorite Bet

None of our experts is betting this game at the moment.

#9 Florida State vs. #1 Xavier -5.5 | O/U: 156

Nashville, TN | 8:40 p.m. ET on TNT

No. 1 thing I’ll be watching: Terance Mann’s status/health

This is the second straight year that these teams will meet in the Round of 32. Last year, Xavier easily dispatched of the Seminoles by a score of 91-66. Xavier scored 1.34 ppp against a Florida State team with two NBA draft picks. In the postgame interview on Friday, FSU head coach Leonard Hamilton expressed concern about his depth being shorter than last year’s team. This is especially true with forward Terance Mann’s status in jeopardy, after he left with a groin injury against Missouri. Mann is FSU’s second-leading scorer and leading rebounder.

From a matchup standpoint, I’m watching whether Hamilton, a respected coach for his defense, can come up with something to slow the potent Xavier offense. From a psychological standpoint, I’m looking to see if Xavier can continue to play the disrespect card as the 1-seed that no pundits picked to make the Final Four. — Wes Reynolds

Did You Know?

Xavier scored 102 points against Texas Southern in the first round. Teams that scored 100 or more points in the NCAA tournament have gone 17-3 straight-up and 14-5-1 ATS in their next game since 2005. — John Ewing

Since the 2012 NCAA Tournament, ACC teams seeded at least 8 positions higher are 12-22 ATS (35.3%), 4-14 ATS if you exclude all Duke and North Carolina tourney games. — Evan Abrams

Betting Market

The spread for this game hasn’t seen very interesting action, but the total has seen the most movement on the slate. Bets are split almost 50/50, but the under is receiving almost 80% of dollars. This has caused the total to drop from 160 to 156 at Bookmaker. — Mark Gallant

My Favorite Bet

Wes: Under 159

#13 Marshall vs. #4 West Virginia -12.5 | O/U: 159.5

San Diego, CA | 9:40 p.m. ET on TBS

No. 1 thing I’ll be watching: West Virginia offensive rebounding

This is a really favorable matchup for West Virginia, as defensive specialist point guard Jevon Carter can stick Jon Elmore. (Just ask star guard Jonathan Stark of Murray State about Carter, who held Stark to 1-of-12 shooting in the first-round loss). Shot-blocking specialist forward Sagaba Konate can also neutralize forward Ajdin Penava inside.

However, the biggest advantage for West Virginia will come on the offensive glass, an area the Neers dominate. WVU ranks sixth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage. That spells disaster for a Marshall team that ranks 295th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage. Not only can West Virginia match up with Marshall’s best offensive players, but it should get easy putbacks on offense all night long. — Stuckey

Did You Know?

This is the fourth time since 1985 that two 13-seeds (Marshall and Buffalo) have advanced past the First Round (2008, 2001, 1987). In all three of the previous instances, none advanced to the Sweet 16. — Evan Abrams

The total for this game opened 159.5. Since 2005, in the NCAA tournament the under is 29-23-3 in games with an over/under of 155 or higher. — John Ewing

Betting Market

The largest favorite on the board, West Virginia is not getting much love from the public. They’re getting one third of the bets, but almost 60% of the dollars. These larger bets have allowed them to move from -11.5 to -12.5. Furthermore, the Sports Insights line predictor tool believes they will move to -13 on the next line move. — Mark Gallant

My Favorite Bet

Stuck: West Virginia -12.5


Editor’s note: The opinion on these games is from the individual writers and is based on their research, analysis and perspective. It is independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

UMBC guard Jairus Lyles; credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports