Wagering options plentiful in Sweet 16


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With the NCAA tournament down to the Sweet 16 after a weekend filled with amazing surprises, bettors still have plenty of options to take advantage of — and hence, plenty of potential tickets to cash. Let’s take a brief look at the futures market and how it relates to my four sets of power ratings as well as readdress some trends posted in the VSiN tournament guide that will be in play this weekend.

BetMGM odds to win each region

This is the first year I have projected each team’s percentage chances to win its regional. I have updated them based on the current bracket and the teams’ ratings after the first weekend of tourney action. If you’ve come to trust one rating over another, I encourage you to use that analysis in comparing with the odds offered by BetMGM. Again, though, I have taken the average of the four ratings sets to come up with one overall percentage chance for each team to reach each round.

Here are the 16 remaining teams listed in alphabetical order and their chances:

Odds to win West Region

Gonzaga: -450 

USC: + 700 

Creighton: + 900 

Oregon: + 1400 

Odds to win East Region

Michigan: + 125 

Alabama: + 200 

Florida State: + 300 

UCLA: + 600 

Odds to win South Region

Baylor: -150 

Arkansas: + 175 

Villanova: + 600 

Oral Roberts: + 3500 

Odds to win Midwest Region

Houston: + 115 

Loyola-Chicago: + 170 

Syracuse: + 500 

Oregon State: + 700

A few observations from the findings:

— As much as Gonzaga is an overwhelming favorite to win the West at 67.3%, according to my four-ratings average calculations, BetMGM has the Bulldogs massively overpriced at -450. That price represents a chance of over 80%. This is following a pattern started at the outset of the tournament, when oddsmakers had Gonzaga as 13.9% overvalued. Obviously it will take a lot for any other team in the West, made up of Nos. 5, 6 and 7 seeds, to knock out coach Mark Few’s squad. But as a bettor, I can’t embrace overpaying for anything, especially after some of the strange results we witnessed last weekend. I would conclude that USC is most fairly priced for value at + 700, as my percentages say it should be + 648 before applying any juice.

— The East Region figures to be the most competitive, though again you will be badly overpaying for the No. 1 seed. At + 125, oddsmakers are giving Michigan a much better chance than I am to win two more games and reach the Final Four. My percentages show Michigan at 28.5%, which is + 254 before any juice is applied. I believe the injury to Isaiah Livers continues to be ignored or minimized. Coach Juwan Howard’s team didn’t exactly fire on all cylinders in its first two outings. My pick in this region at the outset of the tournament was Florida State, and at + 300, I’d still be comfortable backing the Seminoles.

— The South Region offers the most predictable Sweet 16 games, in my view. Villanova should be able to stick close with Baylor, just as Wisconsin did. But without Collin Gillespie, controlling the game against Baylor’s tenacious defense will be tough. Oral Roberts is a great story, but the Sweet 16 is typically where Cinderella teams go to die. If projecting a Baylor-Alabama matchup, the Bears figure to be about a 4-point favorite. In that case, it gives them about a 61.7% chance to win outright, and the -150 price looks quite sharp. I’m on Baylor to reach the title game.

— The Midwest Region is a real challenge. Houston is the favorite, but how can anyone discount Loyola-Chicago after the way it dismantled in-state rival Illinois? In fact, considering all three other teams were 2-0 ATS for the first weekend, it could be argued that the Cougars were the only one that didn’t play up to expectations. I offered my concerns about Houston’s offense a little earlier in the season, and after proving me wrong for most of the campaign, some troubling signs emerged against Rutgers in the round of 32. If the Elite Eight matchup is Cougars vs. Ramblers, the latter will make every basket tough to get. I’d side with Loyola and its recent experience in getting to the Final Four as an underdog pick.

— If there’s any massive underdog I think could upset its region and reach the Final Four, it would be Syracuse at + 500. The Midwest Region looks like the one where a surprising team could emerge, and the Orange are proving themselves better and more battle-tested than anyone probably thought. Coach Jim Boeheim has pulled off a surprise or two in the tournament before, and his son Buddy is carrying the offense.

Readdressing the trends for this weekend

Last weekend’s round-by-round trends fared pretty well, particularly for the second-round action. I did quite well Sunday and Monday following the angles of taking top seeds that didn’t cover in their first games. Gonzaga, Michigan, Florida State and Alabama rebounded very nicely after ho-hum efforts to start the tournament. The UCLA-Abilene Christian game also hit on several lucrative historical angles, and minus the motivation it had to beat in-state rival Texas, ACU was simply overmatched. In any case, let’s look at the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight trends that were posted in the VSiN tournament guide and apply the angles to the upcoming games. 

Sweet 16 trends

Favorites of eight or more points are on a 22-7-3 Under (75%) run, allowing 61.9 ppg.

A pair of games have heavy favorites. Gonzaga takes on Creighton, and Arkansas faces Oral Roberts. Historically, elite teams tend to turn up the defense at this point in the tournament. Expect the Bulldogs and Razorbacks to be fully prepared to limit the opposing offenses, especially with nearly a week to prepare.

Nos. 1 and 2 seeds have taken care of business lately and combined are on a 27-6 SU and 21-11-1 ATS (65.6%) run over the last six seasons, though they were 3-5 ATS in 2019.

The last tournament we saw, in 2019, bucked the odds in terms of top seeds coming to play in the Sweet 16. We will see five Nos. 1 or 2 seeds Saturday and Sunday. It’s a pretty good bet that at least three will win handily enough to cover their point spreads.

This round is usually the end of the line for double-digit seeds. But they have been very competitive as underdogs, going 12-2-1 ATS (85.7%) in that role since 2011.

This is quite a favorable trend for UCLA, Oral Roberts, Syracuse and Oregon State. However, keep in mind that covering and winning can be two completely different things.

Double-digit seeds from power conferences are just 3-12 SU and 6-8-1 ATS (42.9%) since 2005, although Oregon did cover against Virginia in 2019.

This is an interesting branch coming off the trunk of the previous trend. Three of our four double-digit seeds are from power conferences. Only Oral Roberts is not. Does this mean ORU has the best chance to get it done this weekend? We’ll see.

The popular 1-4 matchup has been all No. 1 lately, 10-1 SU and 8-2-1 ATS over the last six tournaments.

The only 1-4 matchup is Michigan vs. Florida State. Recently, No. 1 seeds have rolled. I will be bucking this angle to back the Seminoles.

In games between teams seeded fifth or worse, the worse-seeded team is 10-4 SU and ATS (71.4%) since 2001.

Another intriguing angle to consider for Saturday and Sunday, and one that would favor Oregon and Oregon State.

Elite 8 trends

Favorites are just 35-33 SU and 24-42-2 ATS (36.4%) since ’03, making this a strong underdog round lately. In 2019, Elite Eight dogs won three of four games outright.

Remember this one when considering laying points Monday or Tuesday. The Elite Eight games have proven to be the most competitive of any round lately.

The true benchmark point for underdog success is 3.5 points. Teams playing as underdogs of 3.5 or fewer points are 25-16 SU and 27-13-1 ATS (67.5%) over the last 21 years.

The Elite Eight upsets come in games where they are most expected.


Cinderella teams, or those not from power conferences, are great bets when they reach this round. They’re 10-9 SU and 12-6-1 ATS (66.7%) since ’03, including 9-1-1 ATS as underdogs of 3 points or more.

The non-power-conference teams still alive are Gonzaga, Oral Roberts, Houston and Loyola.

This is clearly a survival round for No. 1 seeds, as they are just 29-24 SU and 20-29-4 ATS (40.8%) since ’01, including 1-2 SU and ATS in 2019.

Gonzaga, Michigan or both on upset alert?

Nos. 1-3 seeds have struggled mightily against teams seeded fourth or worse, going 12-13 SU and 4-19-2 ATS (17.4%) since ’01.

Potential for such matchups exists in every region in the Elite Eight this season.

This round has easily been the best to play Overs on totals, 84-54-2 (60.9%) since ’01. In games with lower totals of 143 or less, it has been 59 Overs and 24 Unders, for 71.1%, including 3-0 on Overs in ’19.

The Elite Eight has been the highest-scoring round in recent tournament years. In my opinion, it’s a combination of playing a second game on a court in three days and the lesser preparation time to study film and get prepared for an elite offense.

In games between teams seeded third or worse, the worse-seeded team has gone 6-1 SU and 7-0 ATS since 2013.

Again, there is potential for this to happen in every region this year.

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