March Madness best bets: Sweet 16 picks against the spread

Gonzaga forward Drew Timme, right, drives past Memphis forward DeAndre Williams.
Gonzaga forward Drew Timme, right, drives past Memphis forward DeAndre Williams during the second round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday. Gonzaga will play Arkansas in the Sweet 16 Thursday.
(Craig Mitchelldyer / Associated Press)
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We’ve seen plenty of upsets in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, including only the third 15-seed ever to make the Sweet 16 in St. Peter’s.

VSiN’s experts Adam Burke and Greg Peterson give their best bets and most likely upsets for every game of the Sweet 16.

Record through first two rounds: 37-38-1


Odds are consensus from VSiN’s March Madness Vegas odds page.



No. 4 Arkansas vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (-8.5, 154.5)

Burke: The Bulldogs dodged a bullet in the second-round win over Memphis. Gonzaga drew a top-20 caliber team with a ton of upside and did enough to survive with an efficient performance on offense and just enough on defense. It was the second-highest points per possession allowed by Gonzaga’s defense this season, but Memphis was only four for 19 from three-point range – and that was the difference in the game.

Even though Arkansas is a higher seed, Memphis was a better team and the Bulldogs match up far better with the Razorbacks. Arkansas is a bottom-50 offense from deep, which should limit any upset potential. Overall, Arkansas is a poor shooting team that ranks 240th in eFG% offense against Division I teams. Against a Gonzaga defense that leads the nation in eFG% against, it’s hard to see how the Razorbacks score enough to keep pace in this game.

The Arkansas defense rates well by the adjusted metrics by virtue of being in the SEC, but we’ve seen everybody from that conference struggle in this tournament, including the Razorbacks, who had problems defending Vermont and scoring against New Mexico State.

It’s a big number, but the Bulldogs offense will be overwhelming in this game. Furthermore, they get to stay on the West Coast and play in San Francisco, so they have a location advantage once again.


No. 11 Michigan vs. No. 2 Villanova (-5, 135.5)

Peterson: Michigan has the least-efficient defense in terms of points allowed per possession of any remaining team in the field, ranking 220th.

Both teams are two of the slowest in the country, with Villanova 342nd in possessions per game and Michigan 258th. The Wildcats are playing their best defense of the season, allowing 65 points or fewer in six straight games.

Opponents are shooting 29.2% from three-point range when Villanova is away from home, which is 16th in the country. The Wildcats’ 3-point shooting percentage goes from 41.3% at home down to 33.5% in road and neutral court games. I like the under here.

Pick: Under 135.5

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament has had plenty of surprises so far, but here are eight March Madness picks for the Sweet 16 that are slam dunks.

March 22, 2022


No. 3 Texas Tech (-1, 136.5) vs. No. 2 Duke

Peterson: Texas Tech is the No. 1 defense in the country in points allowed on a per possession basis away from home, while Duke has surrendered at least 76 points in five of their last six games.


In that six-game span, Blue Devils opponents are making 41.5% of their three-point shots with just 7.8 turnovers per game forced. Duke is 335th in the country in turnovers forced per possession in road and neutral court games on the season.

While the Red Raiders are just 93rd in points scored on a per possession basis, they give themselves second chances on offense as their 31.7% rebound rate on missed shots is 27th in the country. I like Texas Tech to win.

Pick: Texas Tech -1


No. 5 Houston vs. No. 1 Arizona (-2, 144.5)

Peterson: The Arizona offense has been one of the most consistent units in college basketball, ranking sixth in the country in points scored on a per possession basis. The Wildcats have scored at least 81 points in eight straight games and 12 of their last 13.

Arizona has also allowed at least 69 points in 11 of its last 12 games while Houston has allowed 15.6 points per 100 possessions more in road and neutral court games than at home.


The Cougars have been consistent on offense as well, with 68 points or more in 11 of their last 12 games despite ranking 293rd in possessions per game. Houston is in the top 10 among Division I teams in both points scored and points allowed on a per possession basis.

Pick: Over 144.5

March Madness: Surging North Carolina Tar Heels have been on a run as they ruined Coach K’s home sendoff and have become big story at NCAA tournament.

March 21, 2022



No. 15 St. Peter’s vs. No. 3 Purdue (-12.5, 136.5)

Peterson: St. Peter’s, this tournament’s Cinderella, has gotten to this point thanks to a defense that is 11th nationally in points allowed on a per possession basis. KC Ndefo, who led the country with 3.6 blocks per game last season, helps to anchor the middle of that defense.

Purdue is fourth in the country in three-point shooting percentage but is making just 32.5% of their threes the past eight games and now must now execute against a St. Peter’s defense that is 16th in the country in opponent three-point shooting percentage (29.5%).


The Peacocks offense should get plenty of clean possessions, as Purdue is 355th nationally in turnovers forced per possession when away from home. The Boilermakers have scored at least 70 points in six of their last eight road or neutral court games. I like St. Peter’s to stay within this big number.

Pick: St. Peter’s + 12.5


No. 4 Providence vs. No. 1 Kansas (-8, 141.5)

Peterson: Both teams are allowing opponents to shoot 30.4% from three-point range, ranking 33rd and 34th in the country and Providence is even better away from home — allowing opponents to hit on just 29.2% of their three-pointers.

The Friars are getting 42.6% of their points from made two-point shots in road and neutral court games, the 16th-fewest among 358 Division I teams. They also have 8.3% of their shots away from home blocked (342nd).

Kansas enters having allowed 68 points or fewer in six of its last seven games, while Providence has scored 66 points or fewer in three of its last four.


Pick: Under 141.5


No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 4 UCLA (-2, 142)

Burke: If this game was played a few weeks ago, UCLA would have been a much bigger favorite. Some recency bias has leaked into the markets, as North Carolina’s offense has been extremely efficient in wins over Marquette and Baylor, and UCLA’s struggled with Akron. The Bruins scored 1.277 points per possession against a really stout St. Mary’s team to get back on track, but that isn’t getting the same respect as UNC’s win over a No. 1 seed.

Baylor wasn’t the same team that we saw start 15-0 and also had an outlier performance, going nine of 37 from three-point range and 11 of 24 on shots at the rim. Credit to the Tar Heels for playing as well as they have, but UCLA is a better team than Baylor right now. This line has been overadjusted based on what we’ve seen in just two games.

The Tar Heels entered the tournament as a below-average defense against three-pointers, but opponents are 17 of 68 to this point. UCLA shoots at better than 35% from deep. Maybe North Carolina has really turned it around, but a team that was borderline top-40 late in the regular season doesn’t deserve to be this short of a dog against a consensus top-20 team for the entire season.

Pick: UCLA -2


No. 11 Iowa State vs. No. 10 Miami (-1, 133.5)

Burke: Two very different styles will be on display in this one. The Cyclones have won 59-54 and 54-49 in this tournament, holding opponents to six of 41 from three-point range. They took on an LSU team that had just fired its coach and a Wisconsin team that was clearly over-seeded, and had its worst offensive performance of the season at the worst possible time.

What’s interesting is that the Hurricanes are just four of 29 from three-point range. They’ve shot 52 of 94 on two-pointers, however, and have actually locked down a bit more on defense — aside from just forcing turnovers, which they’ve done well all season. The Hurricanes are plus-24 in turnover margin in the NCAA tournament, but they’ve also held back-to-back opponents to under 1.00 points per possession in consecutive games for the first time since January.

Iowa State is a team that forces a lot of turnovers as well, but unlike Miami, fails to take care of the basketball. The Cyclones rank 295th against Division I opponents in turnover percentage on offense. This game will likely come down to the team that takes better care of the ball, but it could also come down to the better offense, which is clearly Miami.

The Cyclones are outside the top 200 in eFG% offense, as they shoot under 32% from three-point range. Miami is just outside the top 30 in eFG% offense. We’ve seen a pretty noticeable move to the Miami side, and I agree with the early money.

Pick: Miami -2.5


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