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NCAAM Basketball Friday Night Sweet 16 Gambling Guide

By Steven McAvoy

The Sweet 16 is halfway over and OH MY GOODNESS WAS IT GOOD. But now that we have matchups in the West & South regions, it’s time to turn our attention to the rest of the field.

While I am a firm believer the world watched the National Champion play on Thursday, the second slate of Sweet 16 games provide plenty of value and an opportunity to make plenty of money. After a perfect 3/3 slate, here’s my picks for Friday Madness!

No. 3 Purdue (-12.5) vs No. 15 Saint Peter’s

Pick: Saint Peter’s +12.5 (-110)

What I find fascinating about this game is simply how different both sides are in just about every single way.

The Peacocks are small, tout a top five figure in defensive field goal percentage (44%), with a top-50 turnover rate to boot.

Purdue is one of the strongest offenses in the country ranking second in offensive efficiency, firing at a 39% clip from outside (fourth in the nation) and 56% from inside (13th).

The Peacocks are led by 6-foot-7 block artist KC Ndefo and Doug Edert, the latter of whom has become a household name thanks to his mustache and a now NIL deal with Buffalo Wild Wings. Purdue brings to the table a potential lottery pick in Jaden Ivey and a down low tandem of Zach Edey (7’4) and Trevion Williams (6’10) who live at the free throw line and dominate just about everyone.

Ironically, the one thing Saint Peter’s has over Purdue is recent success on the usually poor end of the floor. Over their tournament run, Saint Peters has shot just over 46% from the field and went 9-17 from behind the arc against Kentucky. Purdue’s defense has been abysmal all year, which has also been a staple of the Big 10 this season.

A big determinant of this game will be Edey & Williams’ ability to draw fouls, as Saint Peter’s ranks 348/358 in foul rate. But I think the Peacocks are ready. Despite the awful foul rate, things are clicking for the Peacocks, and clearly it’s shown with big wins against a tournament favorite and a fast paced offense that they seemed to handle despite going 3-13 from behind the arc.

There are three constants in life: Death, Taxes and upsets in March, so why stop now? I’ll take the Peacocks to put up a fight against the Boilermakers, and who knows, maybe become the first 15-seed to make the Elite 8.

No 1. Kansas (-7.5) vs No. 4 Providence

Pick: Lean Providence +7.5 and better (-114)

Providence are literally the Mike Zimmer Minnesota Vikings. Favorite? Bet against them. Dog? Bet on them. But in this case, I really don’t know as I write this, so let’s break it down.

For Kansas, the Jayhawks are full of blue chip talent, have one of the best players in the nation in Ochai Agbaji, and are one of two team (the other Villanova) left who’s top 30 in offensive and defensive efficiency according to KenPom.

Now to Providence, who are ranked by KenPom as the luckiest team in the country. Let's realize something first; Ed Cooley’s team, no matter how lucky, is still a good team. They’re efficient in transition, they know how to take care of the basketball and are a top-25 team in free throw rate with a bunch of scorers.

Their defense is good, not great, but your defense needs to be good in order to win the regular season title in the Big East over powerhouses UConn and Villanova.

I have no bet as of this article, but I’ll leave you with this: per the Action Network, Ed Cooley is 135-103-2 (56.7%) ATS as a dog. If you count just the seasons he’s been at the helm of the Friars (2014-) he’s 71-47-1 (60.2%). As long as the shots go down, who really cares how lucky you are?

No. 4 UCLA (-2) vs No. 8 UNC

Pick: UCLA -2 (-110)

Finally, a battle of the blue bloods. Hubert Davis’ Tar Heels are riding high after a topple of the No. 1 Baylor Bears in overtime fashion, and they have finally come into full form of an offensive powerhouse. Brady Manek and Armando Bancot have looked like one of the best front courts in the nation since conference tournament play.

As for UCLA, the No. 4 seed is looking to get back to the final four yet again and looks poised for a big game. Behind the duo of Juzang and Bernard, the Bruins have a chance to give UNC fits. However there’s one major factor in this game: the health of Jaime Jaquez.

It appears on Twitter he completed full drills on Thursday and appears ready. He told the media after practice he considers himself day-to-day. With Jaquez healthy, a lot of handicappers have this game at UCLA -4, which is exactly why I'm grabbing the Bruins to lay the points.

The game itself will be rough, with UNC trying to run and UCLA trying to crawl, and there will be a lot of shot attempts despite the tempo, but no matter how ugly, at least the jerseys will look sexy.

No. 10 Miami (-2.5) v No. 11 Iowa State

Pick(s): Iowa State +2.5 (-110), possible ML (+146)

By far the ugliest game in the Sweet 16, it’s still something i find increasingly interesting.

I’ve established that the Big 12 is dominant defensively. Every single team is strong defensively, and for the most part, offensive ratings take a dip in conference play. Whenever they get a chance to play a non-conference opponent, they get after it fast on offense. However, Iowa State’s offense is garbage.

Despite this, their top five adjusted defense is among the best left in the field and it’s the biggest reason why they’ve come this far. Ranking fourth in turnover rate at 24.7% and a perimeter defense that only allowed teams to shoot 29% from range.

On the flip side, Miami has a solid offense, an essential among the ACC to compete, but struggles to play defensively and it’s shown all year. They feature a trio of guards who have been hard to stop, just ask Auburn. This game is literally a top-5 adjusted defense vs a top-20 adjusted offense. Therefore I’ll take the defense here.

The only thing holding Iowa State from winning this game is a meh offense, but they’ll get open looks inside and out as Miami is putrid at defending the deep ball and ranks in the bottom third of the NCAA in the paint. Finally the Cyclones will dictate the tempo down to a snails pace, just as they did against Wisconsin.

The Hurricanes manufacture almost a third of their points from behind the arc, which will get muffled by the Cyclones defense. If the Cyclones can manufacture points off turnovers and get a slight rebounding edge - an area they aren’t good at - that’ll just be a cherry on top en route to an Elite 8 meeting against either ACC foe UNC or PAC-12 slaughterhouse UCLA.

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