Sweet 16 Betting Lines are Out

Arizona has the easiest road to the Great Eight, according to the early odds released by 5 Dimes. The Wildcats are favored by 7.5 points over Steve Fisher’s San Diego St. team. The other game in the West bracket, being played in Anaheim, features the Baylor Bears taking on the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin is favored by three points in that game.

The South regional features Florida, the top seeded team in the tournament. The Gators are favored by five points over UCLA, with the total posted at 137 points. The Gators are -230 to win the game outright. Two Cinderella teams will play the other game in the South. Dayton, entering February with a 1-5 record in the Atlantic 10 after losses to Saint Louis, Richmond, VCU, Rhode Island and St. Joseph’s, have lost only twice since then. They knocked out Syracuse on Saturday, and will take on Stanford on Thursday night in Memphis. Stanford is favored by three points.

In the East, Iowa St. is favored by one point over Connecticut. That game will be played in Madison Square Garden on Friday. The winner of that game will take on the winner of Virginia and Michigan St. The Spartans are favored by two points over Virginia.

Louisville and Kentucky will renew their rivalry in the Midwest bracket in Indianapolis on Friday. Louisville is favored by five. Kentucky finally stepped up to their preseason reputation by defeating the only undefeated team in college basketball, the No. 1 seed Wichita State Shockers. The Wildcats have had Louisville’s number since John Calipari took over the Kentucky team. Kentucky beat Louisville in the Final Four two years ago, and is 5-1 against the Cardinals since Calipari began coaching in Lexington.

Tennessee and Michigan will be the undercard in the Midwest Bracket, but both teams have the talent to beat the winner of the Louisville/Kentucky game. Michigan is favored by 1.5 in the early lines.

Tennessee Takes Down Mercer, Advances to Sweet 16

Tennessee stayed hot and took out Cinderella Mercer on the way to its third tournament victory in a five-day period, earning a spot in the Sweet 16 with an 83-63 victory in the third round of the Midwest Regional on Sunday night at PNC Arena.

Junior guard Josh Richardson scored a career-high 26 points as the Volunteers dominated from the start. The 11th-seeded in the Midwest, one of the last team to make the tournament, move on to face second-seeded Michigan (27-8) on Friday night in Indianapolis. They made the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in eight years and are one of three Southeastern Conference teams to the second week in the tournament.

Tennessee Head Coach Cuonzo Martin says the turnaround is a product of the players on the team.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Martin said. “Just a lot of resiliency as a team, a lot of fight. Tremendous composure. It’s amazing to see these guys grow up right before my eyes through the course of a season. Fun to be around. They took a lot of lumps, bumps along the way. Continue to work hard, continue to stay together, found a way to win games and be successful. In the midst of it, they’ve grown a true love for each other in the process. Just for me, happy as a coach to be a part of these guys’ lives.

The SEC, after putting only three teams in the tournament, still haven’t lost a game in March Madness. Florida and Kentucky both join Tennessee in the Sweet 16.

“Sometimes perception becomes a reality,” said Martin. “It’s a very tough league, a very talented league. You’ve got the number one team in all of college basketball in the SEC. You have the winningest college program in the SEC, in Kentucky. It is what it is. I just think for us as a league, don’t get consumed with the peripheral. Just continue to work hard, get multiple teams in the tournament because you have very talented teams. It’s unfortunate we only have three teams in it.
I don’t think the criticism is accurate. But the teams that are in the tournament, they won it because they’re good teams.”

Mercer took out Duke on Friday but were unable to back that performance up against Tennessee. Coach Bob Hoffman says his team had no answer for Tennessee’s rebounding.

“They rebound hard and it showed tonight,” said Hoffman. “I didn’t do a very good job boxing them out. It was my fault. We could have a had a lot more defensive stops if we just could have controlled them on the boards. They’ve got the biggest men in America. Wow. I mean, they just kept coming at us. We really missed having another body. Monty would have helped us. Whether it would have been the whole difference, it would have really been great to have another big body because Maymon and Stokes are as physical and strong as anybody we’ve ever played against. You throw them together, that makes it even more tough to overcome.”