Tuley's Takes on Sweet 16: Two big dogs worth backing

March 22, 2022 08:00 PM
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We have a saying here in the Tuley’s Takes home office: March Madness never fails when it comes to entertainment value, even if it fails our brackets and wallets.

We’ve had some great March Madness runs, but most years are like this where we had a lot more success in the conference tournaments the two weeks before the Big Dance. We went 2-2 ATS with our daily Best Bets in our “Tuley’s Takes Today” column at VSiN.com as we lost with Boise State on Thursday, won with Colgate and Memphis on Friday and Saturday, then lost with Illinois on Sunday. Our secondary plays were worse at 2-5 ATS, which was disappointing as underdogs ended up going 27-21 ATS (56.3 percent) for the four days. I did have some other winners — Saint Peter’s vs. Kentucky, Notre Dame vs. Alabama, Creighton vs. Kansas and Iowa State vs. Wisconsin were the highlights — but it was definitely a losing weekend for yours truly, especially when including my woeful brackets, which were crippled when Iowa lost to Richmond early Thursday (wish I had hedged with Richmond + 10 or + 400 on the moneyline) and then officially dead when Kentucky was shocked by Saint Peter’s later that night, though at least I had Saint Peter’s + 18.5, but unfortunately not + 1500 on the moneyline.

But overall it was a fun time with friends who were in town for all the action. Can’t wait for opening weekend next year, but first, we have work to do with the Sweet 16.

Fifteen dogs won outright in the 48 games of the first two rounds, plus dogs covered a whopping 12 games (25 percent) in straight-up losses. Still, we have three No. 1 seeds (Gonzaga, Arizona, Kansas) that navigated the land mines as many people correctly predicted that Baylor was the most likely of the top seeds to be eliminated first. No. 2 South seed Villanova is playing like a No. 1 seed and Duke continues with Coach K’s farewell tour.

There are a ton of other great storylines heading into the Sweet 16, but we’re most interested in which live dogs will continue barking and moving on to the Elite Eight, or at least cover the spread.

Tuley's Takes on Thursday's Sweet 16 games

I don’t like either of Thursday’s bigger dogs — Arkansas + 9 in the opening game or Michigan + 5 vs. Villanova. I have leans on the two games below, though like last week I don’t like any Thursday plays as much as my Friday picks.

Texas Tech (-1) vs. Duke

When I handicapped this game back before the tournament, I had the Red Raiders as the better team and moving on to the Elite Eight. Duke impressively rallied to beat Michigan State to keep Coach K’s last dance going, but Texas Tech’s big edge on defense over 40 minutes should prove the difference here. I’m not too surprised that Texas Tech opened as the favorite as I know a lot of people agree with me about Texas Tech being better than Duke (including kenpom.com), but I’ll still holding out hope that the public jumps on the Coach K bandwagon and bets the Dukies to favoritism by Thursday.

Houston (+ 1.5) vs. Arizona

I felt Houston was a little overrated and its line was inflated against Illinois, but I was really impressed with how the Cougars dominated that game. I know Arizona struggled against No. 9 TCU and didn’t cover, but I was still hoping this line would come out a little higher so I could confidently take Houston with a few points just in case. It will still probably be my Best Bet in “Tuley’s Takes Today” on Thursday unless Texas Tech becomes a dog, but I also hope the line moves to get a little more value.

Tuley's Takes on Friday's Sweet 16 games

I like these plays more than either of my proposed wagers on Thursday. I’m passing on the two short dogs — North Carolina + 2.5 vs. UCLA and Iowa State + 2.5 vs. Miami — but really love both big dogs.

Providence (+ 7.5) vs. Kansas

On Selection Sunday, I was on “The Lookahead” show with my VSiN colleague Scott Seidenberg and we discussed how the whole betting world and bracket pickers were jumping on No. 13 South Dakota State vs. No. 4 Providence. And oddsmakers had the Friars as just 2.5-point favorites, the lowest we’ve ever seen for a 4-vs.-13 matchup. SDSU was the poster child of a public underdog, and we were willing to fade that notion. The knocks against Providence were that it was No. 49 in the rankings at kenpom.com (more in line with an 11 or 12 seed) and the luckiest team with many of its wins by narrow margins. My takeaway was that sometimes teams make their own luck — and wouldn’t you prefer to have a team that comes through in close games? Providence took care of South Dakota State and routed Richmond to improve to No. 33 in the KenPom rankings, though just No. 13 of the Sweet 16. Kansas struggled to cover the spread most of the season, going just 11-17-1 ATS before covering their last seven. But I believe this is where the spread catches up to them as Providence has that knack for playing close games. The best example was the Friars’ 76-74 loss on March 1 at Villanova as 10.5-point dogs. We should get a similar battle on Friday night.

Saint Peter’s (+ 12.5) vs. Purdue

Seidenberg and I also discussed this game on “The Lookahead” show on Sunday night. Saint Peter’s is the darling Cinderella as a No. 15 seed in the Sweet 16. Now, I’m a big fan of the Boilermakers’ dynamic duo of Jaden Ivey and Zach Edey. In fact, I have a free promotional idea for CBS: Get Indiana native David Letterman to recreate his famous introduction of Oprah Winfrey to Uma Thurman at the 1995 Oscars: “Oprah … Uma … Uma … Oprah.” They could stage it as Letterman introducing the two teammates: “Ivey … Edey … Edey … Ivey.” But enough of that nonsense. Purdue obviously should be favored, but after what we saw from Saint Peter’s over the weekend, I’m thrilled that we’re getting more than 10 points. The Peacocks rank No. 28 in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. A lot of naysayers say that’s because of a lower level of talent and competition in the MAAC, but that certainly wasn’t a detriment in keeping them in games against Kentucky and 31-2 Murray State. I’m not sure I’ll take a flier on the + 700 moneyline, but taking the points is a must.

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