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2017 NCAA Tournament – Sweet Sixteen Best Bets and Odds

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  • Where: Various. New York, Memphis, Kansas City, San Jose
  • When: March 23, 2017 7:09 pm EST

Let’s see if we’ve got this straight.

On Thursday, a Sweet Sixteen bracket will commence in which the national “Cinderella” is a #1 seed, UNC is as cold as Canada but one of just two solid favorites anyway, the Kansas Jayhawks are worried about getting pushed around in the paint, and the team that just beat Duke is a Friday night underdog. Just another year of March Madness.

To scramble things further, analysts are saying some strange things about top-seeded survivors. Sports Illustrated believes Gonzaga showed only weakness in the first and second rounds, for instance; others are praising the Zags for holding off a determined Northwestern team.

Las Vegas is not immune. Xavier has accomplished as much as any other team in the tourney, knocking off athletic, highly-touted Florida State last week. Yet the Musketeers are a (+7.5) ATS long-shot against a vulnerable Arizona squad in San Jose.

MSB does not always recommend placing a wager – for instance our MMA previews often advise small stakes and cold showers for certain bouts. But without question, bookies have left the door open to a small number of value bets in the 2017 Sweet Sixteen.

Whether your pool bracket is busted or you’re hot and playing with house money, take the opportunity to score a couple of individual-game winners in the third round.

Gonzaga – Disrespect equals a fun wager

2017 Sweet Sixteen PredictionsThe Zags are the Brexit of basketball. When merely a feel-good upstart campaign, the media found it cute to cover them. Those smiles have faded. Gonzaga is only a (-155) money line favorite over #4 seed West Virginia on Thursday. No major-conference #1 seed with the talent and teamwork of the Bulldogs would ever be so overlooked.

The unit just keeps winning with a lighting-bolt transition game, great defense and newfound depth on the inside. But few pundits are giving the WCC champions plus-odds for a deep run. That Cinderella outfit just doesn’t want to come off sometimes.

Is it conference envy? East coast favoritism? Bettors need not worry about where the bias is coming from, but simply know that it’s there. Bias affects the betting lines.

West Virginia is no slouch. Bob Huggins teams have been out-muscling opponents for decades, and Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson-led offense was a perfect free-wheeling foil for the pressing, suffocating Mountaineers in the second round.

But WVU has two big problems. First, the full-court press is not an ideal strategy against a squad as quick, well-coached and versatile as the Zags. Second, massive Gonzaga center Przemek Karnowski may have gotten tired against Northwestern, but another Bulldog seven-footer, freshman Zach Collins, found his stride in the same game.

The all-in style of the Mountaineers will play right into the top seed’s strengths, and Gonzaga’s real chance to win is between 80 and 90 percent. We recommend betting two units on the Bulldogs to advance to the Elite Eight at BetOnline.

The Musketeers could powder Arizona

Should seeding play a role in the odds by the third round? Look at the lines on #2 seed Arizona (-355 ML, -7.5 ATS) vs Xavier on Thursday night. The Wildcats are a fine college basketball team, riding a conference championship of their own. Lauri Markkanen is a monster, and sophomore guard Allonzo Trier is a consistent, flashy point-scorer. But the squad looked average at times against St. Mary’s in the second round, going 10-of-29 from the field in a dreary first frame.

Xavier in contrast is hot-shooting (50% from beyond the arc after two games) with rising star Trevon Bluiett scoring 29 points against FSU in a 20+ point win. Chris Mack’s Musketeers don’t look, play, or feel like an #11 seed.

This game is a toss-up.

The odds make Xavier a terrific value bet ATS or on the money line (+295) at Bovada.

Parlay with the Tar Heels on Friday

North Carolina’s (-325) odds to beat Butler don’t encourage a stand-alone money line wager. But if you’re looking to parlay a strong favorite alongside your best value pick, the Tar Heels are a great paired bet.

UNC’s late-season shooting collapse against Virginia sent shivers through Chapel Hill. But the team is showing that when shots don’t go in, they can weather the storm with a driving physical game and get to the free-throw line. Sharpshooters Joel Berry III and Josh Jackson were a combined 7-for-27 from the field in the second round, but North Carolina still prevailed over Arkansas – a stronger unit than anything Butler has seen in the tourney so far.

Kentucky remains MSB’s pick to go to the Final Four out of the south region. However, odds for Friday’s big-time showdown with UCLA are essentially a pick ’em. UNC will have a far easier row to hoe in the third round, making the latter a safer option as part of a two or three-pick parlay.

Stay away from…

Michigan vs Oregon: An intriguing match-up with the #7 seed favored (-125), but far too volatile a wager either way.

Purdue vs Kansas: The Jayhawks are used to dominating the boards with size and aggression. But Big Ten player-of-the-year Caleb Swanigan is a beast, capable of intimidating KU Nation and making the outcome unpredictable.

Florida vs Wisconsin: A chesty Badger team takes on the cool, confident Gators in a match-up of tight odds and unclear betting value.

South Carolina vs Baylor: Most analysts believe that the slight-underdog Gamecocks’ second-round victory over Duke had more to do with the Blue Devils finally falling apart than anything the #7 seed did. We’ll know more after the Round of 16.

Three sweet plays for the Sixteen

To recap MSB’s tip sheet for the third round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, ignore the naysayers and put a dime on Gonzaga to advance over WVU. For an upset special, bank on the Xavier Musketeers to play their third excellent game in a row and surprise PAC-12 tournament champion Arizona.

In a parlay, pair Gonzaga and North Carolina for the winning combination.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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