We breakdown the first set of Sweet 16 matchups with our top basketball picks and ‘leans’ for all four Thursday night games
No. 4 Wisconsin tips things off at 7:15 pm ET vs. the top seeded Syracuse Orange and sportsbooks favor Syracuse -3 but that’s down from an opening line of -4.5.
Syracuse (33-2 SU) won the Big East regular season title but without Fab Melo it’s going to be tough getting past Wisconsin straight-up, let alone covering by more than three points. The Orange is 1-1 ATS in the March Madness tournament but just 2-7 ATS in their past nine and 5-11 ATS since January 14.
Wisconsin has a 5-2 ATS record in its past seven and after losing its past two regional semi-finals, look for the Badgers to take advantage of the situation.
Pick: Take Wisconsin, with a lean to the “Over” 120
No. 6 CINCINNATI vs. No. 2 OHIO STATE
Most online sportsbooks opened the Buckeyes at -7 and the dog is getting upwards of 78-percent action according to one sports betting site, yet the line has spent time at -7.5 and even -8 points. Strange line movement and that’s a bit of a caution flag, especially for a Buckeyes team who are 5-9 ATS as single-digit chalk this season.
The Bearcats are on a 10-3 ATS run in their past 13 and coming off an impressive win over Florida State but No. 2 seeds in the Sweet 16 have a 13-5 ATS record in March Madness vs. opponents off an upset win.
Lean: Ohio State
No. 7 FLORIDA vs. No. 3 MARQUETTE
Florida’s first two wins in the March tourney were by 26 and 34 points but the current line at Pinnacle (Marquette -1.5) suggests a much closer game on-deck. Florida HC Billy Donovan’s record in the NCAA tourney from the Sweet 16 out (12-3 SU, 11-4 ATS) is earning this team a tip of respect but favorites have dominated this region with a 9-3 ATS record and we like the Golden Eagles to advance.
Pick: Take Marquette
No. 4 LOUISVILLE vs. No. 1 MICHIGAN STATE
The Cardinals and Spartans renew acquaintances for the first time since the 2009 Midwest Regional Final and Michigan State is favored by -5 points with a full game total of 125. This marks the first time since all four No. 1 seeds have made it to the Sweet 16 and we lean to the favorite in this matchup but our top play looks at the first-half total.
Michigan State cruised past Long Island but they were threatened by Saint Louis and we are looking for an exceptionally strong defensive gameplan early against the Cardinals. The current first-half line is 57.5 or 58 and we see these teams coming up well shy.
Pick: Take the first-half Under
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