Duke University basketball coach hugging star player Paolo Banchero on the court during an NCAA Tournament game
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BETTING & FANTASY

March Madness Betting Guide: Sweet 16 Thursday

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Get ready for Duke, Arizona, Gonzaga, and more on first night of the men’s NCAA Tournament’s second weekend with FanDuel Sportsbook.

The NCAA tournament rolls on with the Sweet 16 getting underway at 7:09 pm ET on Thursday night.

Filling out a bracket is the main attraction for most sports fans this time of year, but the fun doesn’t have to stop there. It’s also the perfect opportunity to place some bets at FanDuel Sportsbook.

Which games should draw our attention in the Sweet 16? Let’s find out.

Please note that lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. Please check here to make sure you’re seeing the most updated information.

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(1) Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. (4) Arkansas Razorbacks

While numberFire’s model doesn’t give the Arkansas Razorbacks much of a shot at winning against the top overall seed, it likes their chances of covering a spread that’s crept up to 9.5 points on FanDuel Sportsbook.

Unsurprisingly, the Gonzaga Bulldogs are the nation’s best team, per KenPom and BartTorvik, but the Razorbacks are hardly pushovers as roughly a top-20 team on both sites.

Defensively, these are two of the better teams left in the tournament, too. According to BartTorvik, Gonzaga ranks eighth in adjusted defense while Arkansas is 12th.

But it’s on offense where these squads diverge. The Bulldogs own the second-best adjusted offense, whereas the Razorbacks are a solid but unspectacular 63rd.

Perhaps Arkansas’ most troubling area is shooting from beyond the arc, as they rank just 313th out of 358 teams in three-point percentage. They made just 3-of-16 threes in their second-round win over New Mexico State, and they’ll certainly have to do better than that to keep pace with the Bulldogs.

On the bright side, they get to the charity stripe frequently, ranking 15th in free throw rate. That’s played out in their tournament games, with Arkansas attempting 25 free throws in each of their first two matchups while converting 84.0% of them.

Meanwhile, despite Gonzaga’s stellar metrics, they haven’t exactly breezed through their first two games, letting a 16 seed, Georgia State, hang around for far longer than expected and then defeating Memphis by just four points.

The Razorbacks will need to up their offensive game for any chance at the upset, but their stellar defense should help them keep things close. Arkansas had wins over quality opponents like KentuckyAuburnTennessee, and LSU down the stretch, all of whom are top 25 squads on KenPom and BartTorvik.

Our model thinks backing Arkansas and the points has a 62.28% likelihood of hitting.

(2) Duke Blue Devils vs. (3) Texas Tech Red Raiders

According to BartTorvik, guess which college basketball team has played the best ball over the last 10 games?

That would be the Texas Tech Red Raiders.

Not only do the Red Raiders own the country’s best adjusted defense over that stretch, but they’re tops for the entire season.

They should be able to give the Duke Blue Devils everything they can handle, and it’s telling that the lower-seeded Red Raiders are the ones who are favored by one point. While both teams are top 10 squads on KenPom and BartTorvik, Texas Tech is actually the higher-rated one on both sites.

Of course, stopping Duke’s elite offense won’t come easy. The Blue Devils have the third-best adjusted offense this season and the very best one over the last 10 games. That being said, there isn’t a single ACC team that’s top-35 in adjusted defense, so Duke isn’t used to facing this kind of elite defensive play.

Additionally, the Blue Devils’ own defense hasn’t been so hot lately, as they rank 168th in adjusted defensive efficiency over their last 10. Specifically, they struggle to force turnovers, ranking 308th in turnover rate this year.

While Texas Tech’s adjusted offense can’t hang with some of the elite units left in the tourney, they’re still a top-50 unit overall and will get a nice boost if Duke continues to lag defensively.

Overall, the Red Raiders look like a deserving favorite, and we should like their chances of winning and covering the minuscule spread.

(1) Arizona Wildcats vs. (5) Houston Cougars

The Houston Cougars entered the tournament as an under-seeded team, and they’ve looked the part, eliminating both UAB and Illinois by double-digit points on their way to the Sweet 16.

This will be their toughest test yet, though, as they now find themselves as 1.5-point underdogs to the top seed in their region, the Arizona Wildcats.

But you could make the argument that it’s the Cougars who should actually be slight favorites, particularly after the Wildcats needed overtime to sneak by TCU (9-seed) to even make it this far.

Houston is now ranked as the second-best team in the country by both KenPom and BartTorvik, whereas Arizona comes in at third and eighth.

Per BartTorvik, the Cougars are a top-10 squad in adjusted offense (ninth) and adjusted defense (sixth). Only top-ranked Gonzaga can say the same.

On the other hand, while the Wildcats boast the seventh-best adjusted offense, they’re 28th in adjusted defense. Arizona’s defense has fallen off over their last 10 outings, too, just barely sitting inside the top 100 over that span.

Any way you slice it, there’s value in backing a Houston team that still doesn’t seem to be getting enough credit. numberFire’s model tends to agree, giving the Cougars a 54.72% chance of covering. Given the small spread, you can also opt for the Houston moneyline (+100) as well.

Kenyatta Storin

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