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NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Preview

CE Manager 21 hours, 56 minutes ago
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The Sweet 16 field is now set, and while there's an absence of a true Cinderella like a Florida Gulf Coast, that often means we're going to see better, and more competitive games from here on out.  Of course, there still were a number of upsets over the weekend in a Tournament that I feel is already guaranteed to be better than last year's "dud."

Below you will find analysis of all 16 teams remaining in the field. They are ranked by their odds to win the championship.

The Favorite

1.  Kentucky (Even) - Where else did you think I would start? The 36-0 Wildcats are currently at even money to cut down the nets and a slight favorite if you want to bet them against the entire remaining field.  The sportbooks are clearly going to be rooting against Coach Cal and company, particularly William Hill in Vegas which took a wager at 50-1 odds that UK would run the table.   At this point, I would have them as a double-digit favorite against every other team left, except four, even though they are 0-2 ATS so far in the Tournament. Interestingly, Calipari has a 2-6 (straight up) career record coaching against WVU's Bob Huggins.

The Contenders

2. Arizona (5/1) -  They may not even be the best group of "Wildcats" in the field, but they are my second choice to win this Tournament right now.  Arizona turned in two impressive performances over the weekend, beating Texas Southern 93-72 (didn't cover as 23.5 pt faves though) and then Ohio State (73-58, -10).  Curiously, the line for their Sweet 16 matchup with Xavier is identical to the Ohio State line despite the fact that most power rankings I've seen had the Buckeyes higher than the Musketeers.  Sean Miller's team hasn't lost a game since since February 7th (13-0 SU, 10-3 ATS) and is the only team besides UK to rank in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.  All three of their losses came to non-Tournament teams.

3. Duke (6/1) - Unlike the two other top seeds still remaining, the Blue Devils covered the spread in each of their first two games.  Totals players may want to note that six of their past seven games have gone Under.  Getting to face a San Diego State team that was battling a virus was a slight advantage in the last round.  Jahlil Okafor has turned in a pair of monster games to this point.

4. Wisconsin (7/1) - The Badgers are the top seed out West, but I have them a notch below Arizona. They are at somewhat of a disadvantage drawing North Carolina as their Sweet 16 opponent, a tougher matchup that 'Zona has with Xavier and the odds reflect that.  One of the Badgers' three losses this year came against a Duke team that also beat UNC twice. The numbers suggest Wisconsin is the most efficient offense in the nation, but what about the defense?  They did just hold Oregon to just 65 points and are allowing just 56.8 points per game.   That being said, they went 0-2 ATS last weekend

5. Gonzaga (12/1) - In the Sweet 16 for the first time in six years, are the 'Zags being overlooked? Once could certainly make the case that they are. They absolutely dominated an Iowa team that looked very impressive just two days prior against Davidson, winning by 19.  This is the best shooting team in the entire country and Sunday marked the sixth time this season that they were 60% or better from the field.  The draw has worked out for them too as they play the only double digit seed left in the field (UCLA) in the Sweet 16.  I'd actually put the Bulldogs ahead of Duke as the favorites to win their region.

6. Michigan State (12/1) - Yes, the Tom Izzo narrative has grown into a cliche, but it doesn't make it any less true.  Sparty has hurt the sportsbooks twice so far as the public went heavy on them against both Georgia (not surprising) and then Virginia (as a dog) and ended up 2-0 ATS.  Perhaps we should have seen this coming considering they played seven overtime games during the year and went an "unlucky" 2-5 in those.  Izzo is now 11-9 SU as a lower-seed in the Tournament, so predictably they are the one lower seed favored to win its Sweet 16 matchup. I understand that the East Region is wide open right now (no 1 or 2 seed), but I'll disagree with the odds that place MSU in the same category as the above teams.

Final Four Material?

7. North Carolina (25/1) - With the exception of one bad second half stretch against Harvard, Roy Williams' Tar Heels have looked pretty good so far.  I took them against Arkansas in their second game (covered!) and while they have now turned the ball over 33 times in two games, this team is second nationally in rebounding, assists and points in the paint.  The fact that five ACC teams made the Sweet 16 makes UNC's record look a little better.   Starting forward Kennedy Meeks did sprain his left knee in the Arkansas game and his status for Thursday's game vs. Wisconsin is questionable, which is a concern.

8.  Utah (25/1) - Larry Krystkowiak's team turned in two very impressive defensive performances to start the Tournament.  Holding trendy underdog Stephen F Austin to just 50 points is no small feat.  The Utes are now 2-0 ATS after dispatching Georgetown in the Round of 32.  While their overall level of play tends to dip rather significantly away from Salt Lake City, most (including myself) thought this team was underseeded and you have to take note of their 25-12 ATS record as underdogs the last three seasons.  

9.  Louisville (30/1) - Making their fourth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance is a bit of a surprise given the off-court turmoil and poor finish to the regular season.  They also struggled with UC Irvine in the Round of 64.  But Sunday's win over a very good Northern Iowa team should have caught your attention.  The key for Rick Pitino's team is defense as they've held the opposition under 60 points in each of their last six victories.  

10. Wichita State (30/1) - I think it's a good thing that their huge, program-defining win over in-state "rival" Kansas was the second game of the weekend as the Shockers now have a couple of days to process and hopefully avoid any kind of letdown.  It's funny the way the Tournament works as last year this team came in unbeaten as a 1-seed and lost in the Round of 32.  This year, they were way underseeded as a seven and probably are a better team.  The wins over Indiana and KU were much different, which is a good thing, as it shows Greg Marshall's team can win in a variety of ways.  The early money has come in on them for the Sweet 16 matchup with Notre Dame.

11. Oklahoma (30/1) - The highest remaining seed in the East Region doesn't seem to be getting a whole lot of respect given that both Louisville and Michigan State have lower odds to win the Championship.  That probably has a lot to do with the high profile coaches at those other two schools, but don't make the mistake of sleeping on Lon Kruger, who is the only coach in history to take four different schools to the Sweet 16.  Somewhat predictably, the Sooners are underdogs to Michigan State in the Sweet 16 as they did lose to them by double digits last season on a neutral floor.  Only two Big 12 teams remain, which isn't a good sign for OU, and Conference Player of the Year Buddy Hield must play better.

12. Notre Dame (35/1) - The Irish are 0-2 ATS so far in the tournament, barely beating 14-seed Northeastern and then needing overtime to escape Butler.  HC Mike Brey, who lost his mother Saturday afternoon, is now 1-9 ATS all-time in the Big Dance.  As I said in my analysis before the Northeastern, the Fighting Irish's dramatic splits in offensive and defensive efficiency should give you some pause.  As I said when discussing Wichita State, early money has come in against the Irish.

The Long Shots

13. North Carolina State (60/1) - The Wolfpack pulled off one of the legitimate stunners of this tournament so far, beating top seeded Villanova Saturday night.  It's not like NC State didn't already have quality wins on its resume (they've beaten Duke, UNC and Louisville), it's just that I had a lot of regard for 'Nova.  If you're a Wolfpack fan, then you have to love getting a conference opponent (Louisville) that your team already beat during the regular season, on the road.  On the flip side, the fact that they were very fortunate to advance past LSU and have shot just 8 for 35 from three-point range in two games must be considered as well.

14. West Virginia (75/1) - Anyone who watched the Mountaineers' impressive win over Maryland Sunday night (myself included, as I was on them) would scoff at them being mentioned down here amongst the long shots. But the problem is that they draw Kentucky in the Sweet 16, which likely signals the end of WVU's run.   That will be the first time all season that they are a double digit underdog.  

15. Xavier (75/1) - Certainly one of the more unheralded teams left in the field, the Musketeers were a popular pick to be upset in each of their first two games. Yet, not only did they defeat both Ole Miss and Georgia State, but they covered the spread by double digits each time out.  The Sweet 16 will be a large step up in class, however, and remember Xavier was blown out twice by Villanova down the stretch.

16. UCLA (100/1) - The lone double digit seed still standing, I'm still not sure UCLA deserved to even be in the Tournament.  They got a fortunate call at the end of the SMU game and then a fortunate draw in the Round of 32 against 14-seed UAB.  Do not forget this team trailed Kentucky 41-7 at halftime earlier this year.  The Bruins clearly are the team with the least shot of making a Final Four, let alone win the National Championship.  They lost to Gonzaga, at home, during the regular season.


Power's 10* NCAAB Game of the Week / March Madness Subscriptions / Sweet 16 Picks

MLB Early Bird Sale!

CE Manager Mar 24, 2015
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P.S. Have you heard about Swish Analytics? Swish Analytics is the premier provider of algorithm-driven sports picks and predictions. Swish mainly focuses on NBA but this year they’re stepping up to bat and making MLB picks! Check back on over the next few weeks to get more details on Swish’s MLB picks.

Bring on the Sweet Sixteen!

CE Manager Mar 22, 2015
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March Madness is in full swing and our Experts have you covered with an All Access Pass for picks and analysis right through to the National Championship! Pricing has now been reduced to $179 - a $100 savings since the opening round. Additionally, our March Madness individual Guaranteed Picks start at only $25 each.

Unsure of who to go with? Keep reading to find out who the hottest NCAAB cappers are as we head to the Sweet 16.

Check out these amazing records for the tourneys so far!

Bryan Power: 11-7 (61%), +$2,440

Jesse Schule: 13-8 (62%), +$1,770

Ben Burns: 9-7 (56%), +$1,438

Steve Merril: 11-9 (55%), +$1096

Winafy: 10-7-1 (59%), +$1,074

Check out these 2015 NCAAB March records, including the tournament to date:

Al McMordie: 50-33-1 (60%), +$14,510

Larry Ness: 64-46-2 (58%), +$13,176

Jesse Schule: 32-16-1 (67%), +$7,522

Steve Merril: 23-18 (56%), +$2,994

Experts Consensus: 18-15 (55%), +$1,830

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Bring on the Round of 32!

CE Manager Mar 20, 2015
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March Madness is in full swing and our experts have you covered with an All Access Pass for picks and analysis right through the National Championship. Unsure of who to go with? Have a look at how the guys have performed thus far.

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Check out these 2015 NCAAB March records:

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Larry Ness: 57-41-2 (58%), +$11,980

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Red-Hot Start to the Tourney!

CE Manager Mar 20, 2015
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Our experts came out of the gate on fire in Thursday NCAA action, picking a combined 60%! Five cappers eclipsed the 75% mark, with stellar performances from Bryan Power (5-0), Winafy (5-0), Marc Lawrence (3-0-1), Ben Burns (4-1) & Al McMordie (3-1).

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Midwest Region

12:15 PM ET: New Mexico St. vs. Kansas

2:10 PM ET: Buffalo vs. West Virginia

2:45 PM ET: Indiana vs. Wichita St.

4:40 PM ET: Valparaiso vs. Maryland


West Region

6:50 PM ET: Oklahoma St. vs. Oregon


East Region

12:40 PM ET: Georgia vs. Michigan St.

1:40 PM ET: Wyoming vs. Northern Iowa

3:10 PM ET: Belmont vs. Virginia

4:10 PM ET: UC Irvine vs. Louisville

9:57 PM ET: Dayton vs. Providence


South Region

7:10 PM ET: Robert Morris vs. Duke

7:20 PM ET: Davidson vs. Iowa

9:40 PM ET: St. John's vs. San Diego St.


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