The first two rounds of the 2021 NCAA Tournament are in the books and we're getting ready for the next round by making some Sweet 16 betting predictions!
March Madness betting at online sportsbooks has been wildly popular through the first and second rounds, and that is expected to continue through the end of the Final Four in a couple of weeks. Despite the fact that most people's brackets aren't looking so great, it won't keep bettors from continuing to place wagers as the tournament progresses.
In fact, seeing less-than-expected teams make it to this point can make betting more exciting, and it can also open up an opportunity to spot value in a line between teams that don't often see one another (not counting Oregon-USC, of course). Below, we are exploring the odds and picking out a few of the games to make Sweet 16 betting picks.
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2021 March Madness Picks | Sweet 16 Predictions For NCAA Tournament
Over the first two rounds, March Madness has certainly lived up to its name. The Sweet 16 does feature three No. 1 seeds but we've also got four double-digit seeds incliding a No. 15, four Pac-12 teams, and no Illinois left. If we know what's good for us, we should expect some more surprises before things are said and done.
Oregon State vs. Loyola Predictions | Sweet 16 Betting Picks
If you thought Sister Jean and Loyola Chicago were out of our lives after that Cinderella run to the Final Four in 2018, you were mistaken. Even with big, bad Illinois in the way, the Ramblers got it done once again and have a good chance to win this region.
Congrats to Oregon State. They surprise Pac-12 champs scrapped their way to a bid and have made the most of it, and that's what March is all about. But now, we think their time is up.
OSU shot below its season averages in the second round, including just 30 percent from three-point range. So how did they score 80 and beat red-hot Oklahoma State by 10 points? A Massive 52-32 rebounding advantage, and 32 points from the free-throw line.
Now that the Beavers' opponent is a defensive stalwart, we think water finds its level in both categories. Loyola ranked 30th in total rebounding percentage this season and just out-rebounded Illinois, who ranked No. 2 in rebounding going into the tournament.
We think water finds its level in the forms of Oregon State's rebounding and the free throws. The Beavers got 35 of them last game but the Ramblers are the best team in the country and limiting free throw attempts. Loyola will defend every possession and most of them without fouling.
Despite being known for its defense, Loyola has been a top-10 team all season in terms of field goal percentage. According to KenPom, they have a higher adjusted offensive efficiency rating than the Beavers, who rank last among the remaining teams in that category.
The low total makes it tough to give away points, but we think the Ramblers find a way to cover in the end as Oregon State struggles to score.
Pick: Loyola Chicago -6.5 (-110 at DraftKings)
UCLA vs. Alabama Predictions | Sweet 16 Betting Picks
gain, credit to the underdog here. The Bruins played awful in the conference tournament and shouldn't have won the First Four game. As it turns out, Michigan State didn't want it and less than a week later, here we are.
This will begin to sound like we are picking on Pac-12 teams but I can promise that's not the intention. Alabama is just extremely versatile and a massive step up in competition
The Bruins make the most of their possessions, which aren't many because they rank 292nd in pace. With that said, the Tide should be able to control the pace in this contrast of styles. Alabama can speed up the game on offense with their 13th-ranked pace of play and if there's one thing a slow team doesn't want, it's to be forced into a track meet. That's exactly what Alabama just did to Maryland, a team that is similar to UCLA in how it wants to play. If the Bruins aren't playing from in front, they are prone to having big issues in this game.
And even if things begin to slow down as UCLA prefers, Alabama is still in the driver's seat thanks to an elite defense to combat the Bruins' strong offensive efficiency.
This number opened around Alabama -5 and is starting to grow, so we'd suggest snagging the Crimson Tide now at -5.5 (-110) and hoping they can stretch things out at the end and cover the number.
Pick: Alabama -5.5 (-110 at BetMGM)
USC vs. Oregon Predictions | Sweet 16 Betting Picks
Two more Pac-12 teams, would you look at that. The Conference of Champions, as Bill Walton would call it, has four teams in the Sweet 16 seeded No. 6 or higher and two of them get to face one another here.
The spread in this game is a single point, which makes sense because these teams are pretty evenly matched. The Trojans did beat Oregon by 14 earlier this season, but there's no guarantee it happens again. If it matters to you at all, the Ducks have played one less game after its no-contest win over VCU and have one less game of wear-and-tear on them.
Rather than target a team, we are looking at the total of 140 points and looking under. Considering the offensive performances we saw in round two this feels a bit uncomfortable but we think this matchup calls for it.
The total opened around 139 points, which was around the same number we saw in the last meeting. That game ended at 130 points and that number will be surpassed but we still think it stays below 140 due to the style of game we are likely in for.
If USC shoots 61 percent from three-point range again, this is going over. If Oregon shoots 56 percent from the field again, same thing. But each of these defenses is sure to provide more resistance to one another than Kansas and Iowa did, respectively.
The Trojans jumped out to a 21-point halftime lead against Oregon last time out but we anticipate a much closer game in this one. We think the pace will slow down a bit as both teams grind out a game that is within a couple of possessions most of the way.
Pick: USC-Oregon Under 140 (-112 at DraftKings)
2021 March Madness Bracket
One of the best things about March Madness every year is the time following Selection Sunday and the start of the opening round.
This is when millions of people are entering bracket pools and making important decisions about which teams they want to pick to make a deep run with the hopes of winning a few dollars and bragging rights among friends, family, and co-workers.
Most things are best done online these days, but this is one activity where manually doing it yourself is exciting and worthwhile. So if you're in need, check out our printable NCAA Tournament bracket and start making your picks!
Photo Credit: Associated Press