Stuckey: How I’m Approaching Each Sweet 16 Game on Friday

Stuckey: How I’m Approaching Each Sweet 16 Game on Friday article feature image
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Photo credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Auburn Tigers guards Bryce Brown and J’Von McCormick

  • Stuckey details how he's approaching each of the four games on Friday's NCAA Tournament betting card.
  • Some he's already hit pregame, others he'll be waiting to get live if a better number pops.

This is the last day of the tourney where we will have more than two games. Cherish it.

I really like the side and total in one of the late games — and think each of the other three might present some nice live betting opportunities. Here’s how I’m approaching all four Sweet 16 games on Friday night.


LSU-Michigan State

  • Line: Michigan State -6
  • Total: 148
  • Time: 7:09 p.m. ET, CBS

What has me most worried about backing LSU in this matchup is the enormous coaching edge for Michigan State. That will likely keep me off the Tigers pregame unless this number gets to Tigers +7.

If it never touches +7 pregame, I will be looking to back LSU at 7 or better live or adjusted for the game with a second half wager. I do think both teams will be able to do work on the offensive glass.

And LSU should force some turnovers against a Spartans team that can be a little loose with the ball at times. Also, Michigan State forces almost no turnovers (bottom 10 nationally in turnover percentage). Those extra possessions in LSU’s favor should help the underdog.

Ideally, Michigan State opens up a quick lead out of the gates. LSU is a very streaky team and has come back from large deficits all season, so, despite its youth, it won’t be phased by a quick Sparty spurt.

No feel on the total.

Auburn-North Carolina

  • Line: North Carolina -5.5
  • Total: 165
  • Time: 7:29 p.m. ET, TBS

I actually think this line is a tad high. However, 5.5 points is almost nothing in what should be an absolute track meet. If I can’t get 6-plus pregame, we should see one live in a game that should feature plenty of scoring and numerous runs.

I am a little worried about Auburn on the defensive glass, where it ranks 334th in the country in rebounding percentage. That’s not ideal against a UNC team that ranks in the top 20 in offensive rebounding rate.

However, I do think Auburn can force some turnovers, which it does better than any team in the country. Bruce Pearl’s group forces turnovers on 25.2% of opponent possessions, which leads the NCAA. And while UNC’s overall turnover numbers aren’t alarming, Coby White can be loose with the ball. The Heels freshman phenom has a turnover rate north of 19%.

It’s just too many points to give a red-hot Auburn team that is playing as well as any team in the tournament — but I know I can likely get better than 5.5 — whether it’s at some point during the day or live.

In regards to the total, it’s a tad high but I can’t stomach the under unless it rises a few more points.

Virginia Tech-Duke

  • Line: Duke -7
  • Total: 144
  • Time: 9:39 p.m. ET, CBS

As I’m sure most of you know by now, I love the Hokies. I bet them as soon as they opened and a few more times down to 7.5 since. If you haven’t got in on them, I’d bet them down to +6, but make sure you grab that key number of +7 if it’s still available.

Virginia Tech’s defensive scheme involves going under screens and aggressively helping, which means it forces teams to hoist a ton of 3’s. In fact, only Monmouth forced teams to shoot a higher percentage of shots from beyond the arc this season. And that’s the exact formula you need to beat the Blue Devils, whose primary weakness is shooting the long ball.

With Justin Robinson now back in the mix, this is a top 10 Virginia Tech team with a ton of athletes and experience. The Hokies will not fear their ACC foe one bit — and all of the pressure will be on the other side.

In regards to the total, I also bet the under here. Virginia Tech is an absolute snail, ranking 332nd in Adjusted Tempo. And while I think Duke struggles on the offensive end, I think it can have some success on defense.

All of the talk is always about Zion and rightfully so, but not enough people talk about Coach K’s defense. It”s excellent.

And speaking of Zion, he didn’t play in the first meeting in Blacksburg. In that game, Kerry Blackshear dominated for Virginia Tech, scoring 23 points en route to a Hokies win. Well, Zion is one of the best defenders in the country and should be able to contain Blackshear this time around.

I think this game goes down to the wire and ends up in the high 60s.

The Picks: Virginia Tech +7.5, Under 144

Houston-Kentucky

  • Line: Kentucky -3
  • Total: 134
  • Time: 9:59 p.m. ET, TBS

I can’t bet this game pregame because I just don’t know what we will get from stud forward PJ Washington. If I knew he couldn’t give much, I’d jump all over Houston. But if he comes out 80/90%, then I will look to bet Kentucky live as an underdog.

If you’re looking to bet this total, I think the under has a touch of value. I may be adding it myself as these are two of the most underrated defenses in the entire country.

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