Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, March 19, 2018 at 9:53 AM
Butler (+3.5) over Purdue 73-76
Syracuse (+9.5) over Michigan State 55-53
Florida State (+5.5) over Xavier 75-70
IT'S THE BELIEVE-IT-OR-NOT NCAA TOURNAMENT WHERE HALF OF THIS WEEK'S SWEET 16 TEAMS WERE NOT EXPECTED TO BE HERE (THAT'S SEEDS #5 OR LOWER!) AND WE TAKE QUICK PEEKS AT WHO SURVIVED-AND ADVANCED
Busted brackets? Heck, most of America's NCAA Tournament bracket sheets have been absolutely destroyed!
Can you ever remember in the same year having first/second-round losers that included a pair of #1 seeds (Virginia and Xavier), a pair of #2 seeds (North Carolina and Cincinnati), two #3 seeds (Michigan State and Tennessee) and three #4 seeds (Arizona, Wichita State and Auburn).
Go ahead and check it out: Half of this week's Sweet 16 seeds were supposed to be here when the brackets came out eight days ago and half of 'em were on the #5-thru-#11 seed lines and so we're left with no defending national champion (bye-bye heartless North Carolina) and no #1 overall seed (shame on you, Virginia) while the much-discussed South Region features four teams whose seed total adds up to 32 (that's a #5, a #7, a #9 and a #11) and it's conceivable - if not very likely - that we could wind up with a Final Four of #11 Loyola vs. #9 Florida State along with #5 West Virginia vs. #11 Syracuse ... don't laugh, the way this tourney has played out we may just get this quartet in San Antonio after all!
Still, get a load of this ... Despite all the mind-blowing upsets - many of them lopsided in nature as rightly pointed out by CBS play-by-play man Jim Nantz - the fact of the matter is NCAA Tournament Betting Favorites will enter Sweet 16 play with an overall record of 24-26-1 (with one pick 'em game) against the spread for a .480 winning rate ... right, not nearly as bad as one might have thought considering the damage wreaked by the likes of UMBC, Loyola, Butler and Syracuse as all of these are double-digit seeds who combined to go 9-0 versus the vig this first week of NCAA Tournament play.
So, the giant-killers out there had their moment(s) in the sun, yet chalk-eaters have not been as buried as one might have thought - so tell that to your know-it-all buddy who has probably been quick to tell you that "all the dogs are winning in this NCAA Tournament" ... no they're not!
The Sweet 16 roll call ...
The ACC has four teams (Duke, Clemson, Florida State and Syracuse);
The Big 12 has four teams (Kansas, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Kansas State);
The Big 10 has two teams (Purdue and Michigan);
The SEC has two teams (Kentucky and Texas A&M);
The Big East Conference has one team (Villanova);
The Missouri Valley Conference has one team (Loyola-Chicago);
The Mountain West Conference has one team (Nevada); and
The West Coast Conference has one team (Gonzaga).
Don't miss out as we bring you all the winners in this week's NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games to go along with all the other College Basketball Tournies plus get all the daily/nightly NBA action too as Jim Hurley's Network of Handicappers and Bloggers keep ripping it up on the hardwood - just check it out right here online or 1-800-323-4453. Make sure you're all aboard for all the "March Madness" winners as there's plenty of profits straight ahead!
THE SWEET 16
Let's check out the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 teams with a reminder that complete/comprehensive previews will be posted right here at Jim Sez later in the week. Also, we'll provide our NCAA Tournament Pointspread Chart in the next column, so don't miss out on that annual feature:
SOUTH - at Atlanta, GA
On Thursday, it's ... Loyola-Chicago vs. Nevada (7:07 p.m. ET); Kansas State vs. Kentucky (approximately 9:37 p.m. ET)
#5 KENTUCKY (26-10) - Who needs an experienced team? This typically freshman-loaded UK Wildcats club slithered past Davidson in Round I and then pummeled an overmatched/outsized Buffalo team in Round II and gotta say that Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (27 points/6 assists/6 rebounds against the Bulls) might wind up making this NCAA Tourney his private playpen by the time we're all done.
#7 NEVADA (29-7) - The Wolf Pack's epic comeback from a 22-point second-half deficit against Cincinnati was made possible by the fact the UC Bearcats didn't hit a single field goal in the game's final 5:45! Twins Caleb and Cody Martin combined for 35 points in that Sunday stunner and they read each other's minds down the stretch.
#9 KANSAS STATE (24-11) - Gotta say the K-State Wildcats were in a no-win situation in Sunday's 50-43 non-cover win against 10-point pup UMBC but some grabby "D" (UMBC shot less than 30 percent for the game) and big plays by Xavier Sneed proved to be the winning formula for a Big 12 club that continues to operate below the NCAA Tourney radar.
#11 LOYOLA-CHICAGO (30-5) - Love how the TNT/TBS/TruTv post-game crew has been calling this team the "Fighting Sister Jeans" in honor of the most photographed non-player/non-coach in this tourney ... only divine intervention could have landed that bounding ball in the hoop for G Clayton Custer at the end of last Saturday's 63-62 winner against Tennessee - yes, one of many weekend winners by the Jim Hurley Network!!!
EAST - at Boston, MA
On Friday, it's ... West Virginia vs. Villanova (7:27 p.m. ET); Texas Tech vs. Purdue (approximately 9:57 p.m. ET)
#1 VILLANOVA (32-4) - Don't ask us why it took the Wildcats a little more than half the game to get heated up against Alabama last Saturday but that storm-like surge soon after intermission was something to behold as Mikal Bridges (23 points including five triples) was merely unconscious but let's see how many open looks he gets against West Virginia.
#2 PURDUE (30-6) - Boiler Up! This Big 10 team survived-and-advanced without injured C Isaac Haas and his broken elbow but what were the odds that backup F/C Matt Haarms would deliver an underrated 7-point, 6-rebound/solid defense in the paint game en route to the 76-73 non-cover win against Butler in the Round of 32? We'll be on top of the news as to whether or not Haas can play against T-Tech but right now odds are against it.
#3 TEXAS TECH (26-9) - Okay, so you saw those buzzer-beating wins by Loyola and Michigan, but what about the T-Tech Red Raiders who dodged two late-game shots that would have forced overtime in that 69-66 win/cover against Florida? Maybe the Techsters didn't defend great in those closing seconds but overall perimeter defense was stout against the Gators who shot just 6-of-22 beyond the arc. Also, can everyone stop asking about the toe of Tech's Keenan Evans (22 points in 32 minutes) ... the kid is perfectly fine!
#5 WEST VIRGINIA (26-10) - If senior G Jevon Carter isn't one of the top three players thus far in this man's tourney, then we don't know what we're watching! The do-everything leader of the Mountaineers snuffed out in-state "rival" Marshall with a stat line that featured 28 points/5 assists/5 steals/4 rebounds and only one turnover in 29 minutes. Sneaky feeling he may be the best player on the floor when WVU challenges 'Nova on Friday night.
WEST - at Los Angeles, CA
On Thursday, it's ... Texas A&M vs. Michigan (7:35 p.m. ET); Florida State vs. Gonzaga (approximately 10:05 p.m. ET)
#3 MICHIGAN (30-7) - Maybe the Jordan Poole's heroic three-pointer that beat Houston late/late Saturday night was the shot of the tourney so far but the maize-and-blue are thanking their lucky stars for those three late-game missed free throws by the Coogs and for the fact Michigan made it to another Sweet 16 despite its starters going 15-of-44 from the floor. No way is that gonna work against Texas A&M, boys.
#4 GONZAGA (32-4) - All hail the 'Zags for that electric 11-0 scoring run after Ohio State had swiped a temporary lead in last Saturday's 90-84 win/cover. Okay, so new star-of-stars Zach Norvell, Jr. drained six trifectas en route to a 28-point game but G Josh Perkins (8 assists) was an underrated second-round hero.
#7 TEXAS A&M (22-12) - Talk about a team that put on its "big boy pants" for this tourney so far: The Aggies overcome an embarrassingly bad start to beat Providence in the opening round and then lambasted 7.5-point fav North Carolina 86-65 as windmill dunks, clean open-court steals and rock-hard defense won the day as 6-foot-10 Tyler Davis (18 points/9 rebounds) showed he's ready for the "next level".
#9 FLORIDA STATE (22-11) - Let's face it: This was an opening week of monumental comeback wins and these Seminoles were part of the happy face mix after making up an 11-point deficit late to beat foul-prone Xavier ... don't want to hear Musketeers' coach Chris Mack bellyache about the refs as Florida State simply stole the game with a 31-14 run in the game's final 10:42 as the 'Noles bench once again outscored the starters.
MIDWEST - at Omaha, NE
On Friday, it's ... Clemson vs. Kansas (7:07 p.m. ET); Syracuse vs. Duke (approximately 9:37 p.m. ET)
#1 KANSAS (29-7) - Okay, so these Jayhawks got "backdoored" by Seton Hall when it came to that 4.5-point spread (see Kansas 83, The Hall 79) but note Bill Self's club nailed half of its 56 FG tries against one of the best defenses in the land and off-the-bench C Udoka Azubuike actually played 22 minutes as he continues to work his way back from a knee injury ... can he go 30 minutes here against Clemson?
#2 DUKE (28-7) - Maybe those pre-tourney 6-to-1 odds for the Blue Devils to win it all is looking better when you consider all the powerhouses that lost but Mike Kryzewski's squad still has some fine-tuning to do with this newfangled zone defense and G Grayson Allen (only 10 points in the 87-62 win/cover against Rhode Island) must be more of a scoring threat in the Sweet 16 game versus the Orange.
#5 CLEMSON (25-9) - To be clear, Virginia and Arizona and North Carolina were not the only power conference teams that got punched in the mouth this past week/weekend as these ACC Tigers walloped the Auburn Tigers 84-53 ... and it wasn't even that close (see 43-19 at halftime). Maybe it's high time Clemson G Gabe DeVoe (22 points/5 rebounds/5 assists) started to get some national headlines.
#11 SYRACUSE (23-13) - Wouldn't it be a tad ironic if the "last team" that made it into this year's NCAA Tournament wound up being the "last team standing" come the first Monday night in April? Hey, Jim Boeheim's crew can look downright ugly at times when attempting to get off a shot - the 'Cuse scored 60, 57 and 55 points in its three tourney wins between Wednesday and Sunday and even allowed 20 offensive boards to Michigan State in Round II but Boeheim's troops are alive and kicking and frosh Oshae Brissett (15 points/9 rebounds versus Sparty) is fact becoming a March hero.
NOTE: Plenty more "March Madness" all this week right here at Jim Sez.