Tournament Notebook: Sweet 16 Picks for 2014
Cinderellas have joined the party and ratings are up as all is Madness in the 2014 NCAA Tournament. It’s safe to say that a little unexpected and a little expected occurred over the first weekend of games. I’m not sure anyone saw six overtime games though.
Despite all the madness over the second and third rounds, 10 of the 16 teams still alive are seeded 1-through-4. Let’s forget about your brackets and pick the sweet 16 match-ups slated for Thursday and Friday as most of them will probably be straight up on ESPN’ Streak for the Cash.
#11 Dayton vs. #10 Stanford (Thursday, 6:15 PM in Memphis, TN)
Only 0.4 percent of brackets in ESPN’s Tournament Challenge correctly pegged this unusual sweet 16 matchup and one of them is my three-year old son who picked by mascots/logos. Both of these teams are playing well, but Dayton’s defense has been great in close wins over Ohio State and Syracuse.
Odds: Stanford (-3.0/-160)
The Pick: Dayton keeps the magical run alive.
#6 Baylor vs. #2 Wisconsin (Thursday, 6:47 PM in Anaheim, CA)
Of the eight games in the Sweet 16, this has to be one of the more attractive ones. Baylor has been one of the hottest teams in college basketball since the beginning of February and the Badgers’ Bo Ryan is on a mission to make his first Final Four.
Odds: Wisconsin (-3.5/-165)
The Pick: Baylor and that should mean a lot coming from a Wisconsin alum.
#4 UCLA vs. #1 Florida (Thursday, 8:45 PM in Memphis, TN)
To be honest, I feel that Pittsburgh was a much tougher opponent for the Gators than UCLA will be. Florida plays stifling defense and have seen all kinds of different teams and styles on their 27 game winning streak. UCLA is extremely talented, but falling behind early will doom them in this one.
Odds: Florida (-4.5/-185)
The Pick: Florida who will have either Dayton or Stanford to punch their trip to the Final Four.
#4 San Diego St. vs. #1 Arizona (Thursday, 9:17 PM in Anaheim, CA)
This is going to be the best game of the day and mostly because of the guard battle between the Aztecs’ Xavier Thames and the Wildcats’ Nick Johnson. Beyond that, these are two well-coached and physical teams who are going to beat up on one another.
Odds: Arizona (-7.5/-350)
The Pick: San Diego St. because they want it more and they were one of the most underrated teams this season. After this win, they won’t be anymore.
#11 Tennessee vs. #2 Michigan (Friday, 6:15 PM in Indianapolis, IN)
The best aspect of tournament games is the clash of styles and this is a perfect example of contrasting styles. Michigan is a finesse team who beats you with an offensive onslaught while the Volunteers are a team who beats you with defense and rebounding. Tennessee already struggled with an Iowa team who is very similar, but worse than the Wolverines.
Odds: Michigan (-2.5/-138)
The Pick: Michigan because they seem to always make shots and Nik Stauskas is killer behind the arc.
#7 Connecticut vs. #3 Iowa State (Friday, 6:27 PM in New York, NY)
Shabazz Napier went nuts in the Huskies upset of Villanova and has arguably been the best player in the tournament (remember Kemba Walker anyone?). Iowa State losing Georges Niang to a broken foot actually makes this game interesting. Cyclones’ guard DeAndre Kane will be good, but most likely not good enough.
Odds: Iowa St. (-1.5/-128)
The Pick: Napier can’t be stopped and will lead the Huskies to an unexpected elite eight appearance.
#8 Kentucky vs. #4 Louisville (Friday, 8:45 PM in Indianapolis, IN)
Oh boy, not a rematch between John Calipari’s Wildcats and Rick Pitino’s Cardinals. Pitino is an unbelievable 11-0 in Sweet 16 games, but it was Calipari who beat Louisville at Rupp Arena this year. Both teams should bring a ton of fans to make it an astonishing atmosphere for this regional slate.
Odds: Louisville (-4.5/-196)
The Pick: Kentucky because the Cardinals have been simply underwhelming so far.
#4 Michigan St. vs. #1 Virginia (Friday, 8:57 PM in New York, NY)
This is one of the premier, if not the best, matchup of the fourth round. Tom Izzo is a great tournament coach and Tony Bennett is a rising star in the college basketball world. I give the Spartans the edge in this game because they’re used to defensively strong teams in the Big Ten. On the flipside, you could say the Cavs are used to offensive juggernauts in the ACC.
Odds: Michigan St. (-2.0/-128)
The Pick: Michigan St. because they have more playmakers than Virginia does.
Picks in Confidence Order
Florida over UCLA (most confident)
Michigan over Tennessee
Michigan St. over Virginia
Connecticut over Iowa St.
San Diego St. over Arizona
Baylor over Wisconsin
Kentucky over Louisville
Dayton over Stanford (least confident)
What teams do you have dancing their way to the Elite 8? Let me know by commenting below!