The March Madness tournament is no stranger to upsets, but this year’s tournament is something special. It was the first time in the tournament’s history that a #16 seed knocked out a #1 seed. There were no more perfect brackets left before the Sweet 16 teams were even confirmed. The University of Virginia, Xavier, UNC, and Cincinnati all lost in the second round. The more interesting thing with March Madness are the underdog teams that come out of nowhere. Sweet 16 will be a test of whether or not these teams have the grit necessary to prove oddsmakers wrong. The unexpected outcomes that resulted in the Sweet Sixteen have indeed caused some dramatic shifting in basketball betting lines for this tournament.
The first 4 games of the Sweet 16 round take place on Thursday, March 22. The games, in order, are #11 Loyola v. #7 Nevada, #7 Texas A&M v. #3 Michigan, #9 Kansas State v. #5 Kentucky and #9 Florida State v. #4 Gonzaga. Loyola shocked bettors and fans alike when they defeated the University of Miami in the first round via a 3-point buzzer beater. They went on to narrowly beat Tennessee in the second round. Nevada defeated Texas in the first round and upset Cincinnati in the second. Both teams are looking to continue their March Madness glory run to the Elite 8.
Michigan won on a buzzer beater over Houston to propel themselves into the Sweet 16. They had a strong performance against Montana in the first round. Texas A&M will be their toughest challenge yet. The team wiped out both Providence and #2 UNC on their way to this spot. This looks like it will be another close game.
Kansas State is another Cinderella team that made it deep into March Madness. They knocked out UMBC, the team that defeated #1 Virginia, in the second round. Meanwhile, Kentucky bested Buffalo and Davidson to get to where they are. The latter game was close, but the Buffalo game was a blowout. Both teams have had arguably easy routes to the Sweet 16, but definitely more so for Kansas State. Kentucky will be favored to win this one, but there have already been plenty of upsets in the tournament so far.
Florida State is enjoying a nice run of victories over Missouri and #1 Xavier. Their latest win saw them comeback from a 20+ deficit to knock out a top-seeded team. Gonzaga is a tough team and were in the March Madness finals a year ago, but this is not the same team. FSU will likely ride the momentum into this game, though Gonzaga have some momentum of their own after blowing out Ohio State.
The next 4 games are #5 Clemson v. #1 Kansas, #5 West Virginia v. #1 Villanova, #11 Syracuse v. #2 Duke and #3 Texas Tech vs. #2 Purdue. Kansas has been conducting business as usual with wins over Penn and Seton Hall. Clemson destroyed #4 Auburn in the second round and had a strong win against NM State in the first. This game will be tough, but Kansas should edge them out.
As one of the few #1 seeds left, Villanova has a good shot of making it through. However, West Virginia had 2 strong wins against Murray State and Marshall. Nova also had some blowouts against Radford and Alabama, so this game will be an offensive shootout. Keep an eye out for the over bet at premium USA sportsbook sites.
Syracuse is a team that many thought should not be in the tournament at all, yet here they are in the Sweet 16. They’ve defeated Arizona State, TCU and Michigan State so far in the tournament. Some had MSU going as far as the Final Four. Syracuse may have gotten by on close wins, but they are legitimate. Duke is a different story. The Blue Devils had commanding wins over Iona and Rhode Island. Grayson Allen may be looking at a national championship in his final year with Duke.
Texas Tech and Purdue may be the closest of this set of games. Texas Tech knocked out the Florida Gators, a team many had going farther. Purdue had a close win against #10 Butler in the second round, showing some signs of weakness that Texas Tech may exploit. Each game is a different challenge, but Texas Tech looks to have the favor in this one.
One thing is certain—this is a Sweet 16 no one expected to see. People love the college basketball postseason for this exact reason. Whoever moves on to the Elite 8 will be a part of a historical year.