How to Bet the Sweet 16: Betting Notes, Insights on Every Friday NCAA Tournament Game

How to Bet the Sweet 16: Betting Notes, Insights on Every Friday NCAA Tournament Game article feature image
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Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ashton Hagans

The star power on Friday night’s NCAA Tournament slate is hard to top.

Duke. Kentucky. North Carolina. Zion. Coby. Cassius. It’s a bettor’s dream.

We’ve compiled snippets from all our in-depth betting guides below. You can access those guides via the links here, and under each section.

All our other Friday content  — staff picks, sharp report, and more — is available here, as well.


>> All odds as of Thursday night. Download The Action Network App to get real-time odds and live win probabilities on your bets.


#2 Michigan State vs. #3 LSU

  • Spread: Michigan State -6
  • Over/Under: 148
  • Location: Washington D.C.
  • Date: Friday, March 29
  • Time: 7:09 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS

— The coaching advantage sways heavily in favor of Michigan State with LSU coach Will Wade suspended, but the Tigers have a much deeper bench.

— On paper, the Spartans have a massive advantage in all areas except one: Turnovers.

— The last time LSU lost by more than six points? Nov. 25, Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend.

— Even in losses to Houston, Florida, Florida State and Arkansas, the Tigers were able to keep it close. And while Michigan State is the more talented team, the Spartans have yet to face anything in the havoc department like LSU.


#1 North Carolina vs. #5 Auburn

  • Spread: North Carolina -5
  • Over/Under: 164.5
  • Location: Kansas City, Mo.
  • Date: Friday, March 29
  • Time: 7:29 p.m. ET
  • TV: TBS

— Auburn coach Bruce Pearl says you should take the over in this game — it’s moved from 160 to 165. Should you listen?

— The Tar Heels will have a massive rebounding edge in this game. Auburn may just abandon the boards all together.

— One thing Carolina has to watch out for is turnovers. Against Iona, the Heels were just straight-up sloppy for parts of the game, possibly because of the total talent mismatch they had. Against Washington (and the zone), they had 15 turnovers, and it was really the only thing they didn’t do well.

— Auburn will sacrifice certain skills at the defensive end to thrive on offense. They have won twice essentially because of tempo and shot-making while starting four lethal shooters. They’ve attempted 62 three-pointers, and 57 two-pointers.

— Carolina can catch teams off guard because of its desire to push the ball off makes or misses. But the Tigers should love the pace of this game, and I would imagine are perfectly happy to run up and down, jacking a ton of 3s and trying to beat Carolina down the court the other way.

— After all of that, you may be salivating to bet the over,  but if Auburn isn’t making 3’s, this becomes a blowout REALLY fast, and then Carolina will be more than content to grind the pace down in the second half when it is up substantially. You need such a specific set of conditions (and continual pace) for a total in this range to hit in a tournament game, where so much is at stake and teams can micro-manage periods of the game even more.


#1 Duke vs. #4 Virginia Tech

  • Spread: Duke -7
  • Over/Under: 143.5
  • Location: Washington D.C.
  • Date: Friday, March 29
  • Time: 9:39 p.m. ET
  • TV: CBS

— Normally, you could catch a team like Duke undervalued after almost losing in the Round of 32.

However, that’s not the case here since this is such an ideal matchup for Virginia Tech. It’s no longer a secret that the key to beating Duke is to force them to shoot the 3 — by far its biggest weakness. The Blue Devils are the worst 3-point shooting team in the tournament.

— UCF gave the blueprint on how to beat Duke. Virginia Tech doesn’t need to do anything differently on the defensive end to get Duke to shoot 3’s, either. The Hokies force teams to shoot more 3’s than all but one team in the nation.

The Hokies will go under every screen and aggressively help in order to prevent opponents from getting to the rim.

— You can’t talk about Virginia Tech without mentioning the return of guard Justin Robinson.

The four-year veteran is the catalyst of the offense, running the show with ease and finding VT’s plethora of shooters on the perimeter. His presence will be especially critical against an elite defender in Tre Jones.


#2 Kentucky vs. #3 Houston

  • Spread: Kentucky -3
  • Over/Under: 134.5
  • Location: Kansas City, Mo.
  • Date: Friday, March 29
  • Time: 9:57 p.m. ET
  • TV: TBS

— Star forward PJ Washington has missed Kentucky’s first two NCAA Tournament games with a left foot sprain. But he posted a video on Wednesday, in which he shed his walking boot.

Even if the sophomore plays, I’d expect Wildcats coach John Calipari to keep him on a pitch clock, limiting his effectiveness against an underrated Houston frontcourt. Washington would still provide an impact, but don’t let his status dominate your perception of this matchup.

— With or without Washington, much of Kentucky’s offense stems from inside the arc. Not only has it tallied a mere 14.9% 3-point scoring rate in its first two affairs in the big dance, but it’s produced the 52nd-highest 2-point scoring rate across college basketball.

And the Cougars match up well, having surrendered the 50th-lowest 2-point scoring percentage (45.4%).

— Houston’s motion offense presents the 78th-highest perimeter scoring rate (35.8%), with a bevy 3-point gunners in Armoni Brooks, Davis, Dejon Jarreau and Robinson, who all shoot at least 35%. All four of them can handle the ball, creating mismatches off the dribble drive.

John Calipari’s unit has been susceptible from behind the arc, yielding the 59th-highest 3-point scoring percentage (35.7%) in the nation.

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