NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Betting Analysis

NCAA Tournament: Sweet 16 Betting Analysis

It was a mostly successful first weekend of betting the NCAA tournament at RotoWire, namely from Steve Peralta, who killed his Round of 32 plays. For the most part, I also had some success and even came out on the positive end of a close call, as Maryland somehow finished below 63.5 points in a mostly-dominant 63-54 win against UConn.

My futures article looks more like a bloodbath after highlighting teams like Illinois and Purdue. That said, I also mentioned Oregon at +2500 to make the Final Four, as well as Alabama at +2000 to win it all. Oregon is now +600 to make the Final Four and Alabama is +1100 to take the Championship.

There aren't a ton of current numbers I like from a futures aspect. If you like the better seeds to advance, it makes more sense to play them on a game-by-game basis. Michigan is +750 to win the title game, but there's also a chance it will be underdogs against Alabama, Gonzaga and then Baylor. Florida State, who is just a +2.5 point underdog against Michigan, is +1500 to cut down the nets. 

Maybe one of my favorite futures is Oregon State at +700 to make the Final Four. I'll talk about them later, but they're in a region that anyone can win and surprisingly have worse odds than Syracuse (+500) to win it. Even Oregon is +600 to win its region despite having to likely play Gonzaga in the Elite Eight. Some of these numbers don't make sense and that's usually when it's best to make a move.

Five-Game Metrics

For the Sweet 16, there are numbers that need to be analyzed. I think Syracuse and Oregon State are being severely underrated, as both of them are playing at a different level than they have all season. Both of them are around six-point underdogs, which is similar to the numbers found at KenPom, meaning recent form isn't being taken into account.

I think the best, most recent comparison for these teams is Auburn in the 2018-19 tournament. No one really believed in the Tigers throughout the entire tourney, and even when you look back at that Final Four, they seem like an afterthought. While the Tigers were undoubtedly better than OSU and Syracuse this year, they entered March Madness with eight-straight wins, playing their best basketball.

Syracuse is kind of in a situation of its own because of how it plays, but a recent change in the lineup has to be taken into account. In addition to Buddy Boeheim averaging 25 points over the last four games, the Orange introduced Robert Braswell to a basic starting role (played 29 minutes against West Virginia) over the smaller Alan Griffin. While Griffin was having a nice season offensively, he doesn't have the same length as Braswell and also, he isn't taking away as many shots from Boeheim. 

That leads me to using five-day averages for adjusted offense and defense found at BartTorvik. Over the last five games, Syracuse's offense has an average offensive rating of 129.8 and defensive rating of 94.56. Oregon State is at 121.81 and 88.95. 

If you want the numbers for their opponents in the same timespan, Houston's offense is 127.64 and its defense is 96.33. Loyola Chicago is at 120.59 and 85.81. Of note, the Ramblers are also on their best five-game offensive stretch of the season.

In comparison, Gonzaga has the best offense in the country by a wide margin for the season at 126.3, while Loyola Chicago's defense is at 86.1.

To get the projected spread based off the last five games for these teams, you can subtract offense from defense for each team and then compare.

Five-game adjusted efficiency margins

Syracuse: 35.24

Houston: 31.33

Loyola-Chicago: 34.78

Oregon State: 32.86

Based off the five-game adjusted margins, Syracuse should be a favorite and Loyola Chicago should be a smaller favorite. Sure, you could do this for every game, but it's most relevant for teams who simply weren't good earlier in the season. So why are we making spreads off a team's efficiency for the full season when they are playing completely different basketball? That's where the betting advantages are.

While you don't want to put everything into a five-game sample, it's still relevant and one that leads me to betting Syracuse +6. The Cougars will grab offensive boards, that's to be expected, but they also have to make shots and only Quentin Grimes has done that consistently from three this season. It doesn't help that their defense has steadily gotten worse this season, which means Boeheim could be set for another big outing.

I also think there is some value on Oregon State at +6.5. The Ramblers are a KenPom darling, ranked ninth in the country, but the Beavers are surprisingly playing at a similar level at the moment. And it's not like they're beating up on smaller teams. They got through UCLA, Oregon and Colorado in the Pac-12 tourney, then played two vastly different teams in Tennessee and Oklahoma State in the first two rounds. Yes, if this matchup was played six games ago, Loyola would probably be a -15 point favorite, but that doesn't matter. The Beavers are playing their best basketball of the season and have a legitimate shot to advance.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam Zdroik
Adam, a 2019, 2018 and 2017 Finalist for FSWA Soccer Writer of the Year, is RotoWire's assistant soccer editor. He also runs RotoWire's Bracketology, as well as writes on other various college basketball content. He has previously worked at ESPN and Sporting Kansas City, and he is a former Streak for the Cash winner and Michigan State graduate.
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