By Mike Szvetitz and Gerry Ahern FrontPageBets
The final eight slots in the Sweet 16 will be decided with a bevy of Sunday games poised to blast more brackets.
FrontPageBets offers predictions on the four games that we like the most as the field is narrowed down to a few.
Our editors’ brackets are blown, but our best bets on the money line are better for bettors. Mike Szvetitz is 2-2. Gerry Ahern is 6-2, including the first four games.
Follow our predictions here and learn more about NCAA tournament teams through our partners in the Lee Enterprises Sports Network.
No. 7 Michigan State vs. No. 2 Duke
Location/region of the second round: Greenville, SC/West
Spread: Duke -6.5 (-105); State of Michigan +6.5 (-115)
money line: Duke -275; State of Michigan +220
Path to Round of 32: Duke (29-6) continued his quest to send Coach Mike Krzyzewski home with a sixth national championship by beating Cal State Fullerton (78-61) in his opener. It was a technical feat for the Blue Devils, who had five goalscorers in double figures and played solid defensively. Freshman forward Paolo Banchero had a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Next up is well-known tournament opponents Michigan State (23-12). Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo is 3-12 in life against Krzyzewski and 2-3 in the NCAA tournament. The Spartans almost didn’t get there, squeaking past No. 10 Davidson, 74-73. Senior forward Joey Hauser played the unexpected hero, scoring 27 points as MSU held off a furious Wildcats attack. Sophomore point guard AJ Hoggard added 14 points and two assists. Duke is 17-16-2 against the spread. Michigan State is 19-16.
#11 Iowa State vs. #3 Wisconsin
Location/region of the second round: Milwaukee/Midwest
Spread: Wisconsin -3.5 (-110); State of Iowa +3.5 (-110)
money line: Wisconsin-170; State of Iowa +150
Path to Round of 32: Wisconsin (25-7) dealt with No. 14 seed Colgate in his opener, 67-60. Big Ten player of the year Johnny Davis was the catalyst with 25 points, 17 of them in the last 20 minutes. The sophomore guard and future NBA player also grabbed eight rebounds. The Badgers in general and Davis in particular struggled to defend the 3-point shot. The Raiders made up 10 of 22 shots from deep. Wisconsin State Journal columnist Jim Polzin recaps Davis’ big day. Wisconsin is playing close to home again in Brew City, drawing Iowa State (21-12). The Cyclones upset No. 6 LSU, 59-54, and gambled away an 11-point lead before coming back to take control. Freshman guard Tyrese Hunter canned a pair of clutch 3-pointers to help keep the ISU alive. He finished with a game-high 23 points. Senior guard Izaiah Brockington added 19 points and four rebounds. Wisconsin is 17-15 against the spread. State of Iowa is 18-15.
The selection: Wisconsin, 68-60
No. 10 Miami vs. No. 2 Auburn
Location/region of the second round: Greenville, SC/Midwest
Spread: Maroon -7.5 (-110); Miami +7.5 (-110)
money line: maroon -350; Miami +270
Path to Round of 32: Auburn (28-5) freshman phenom Jabari Smith scored 20 points and snatched 14 rebounds, highlighted by a posterizing dunk, in the Tigers’ 80-61 first-round win over No. 15 Jacksonville State. AU center Walker Kessler was a block away from a triple-double with 13 points, 10 boards and nine swats. According to sports editor Opelika-Auburn News Justin Lee, the Tigers were poised to return to the court after an early exit from the SEC tournament, where they were the top seeds after winning the championship in the regular season. Playing through Smith and Kessler is key for Auburn to hit a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Miami (24-10) knocked off No. 7 USC on Friday, 68-66 when Charlie Moore nailed two free throws with 3 seconds left to lift the Hurricanes, who nearly slipped a 13-point lead at halftime. Moore finished with 16 points. Kameron McGusty, who leads Miami with a 17.4 point-per-game average, added 12 to the win. The Canes need to find an answer for Auburn’s big men, which could be a problem as the Tigers look to get another Final Four run under Bruce Pearl. Auburn is 19-13 against the spread this season while Miami is 18-14-1.
No. 6 Texas vs. No. 3 Purdue
Location/region of the second round: Milwaukee/East
Spread: Purdue -3 (-110); Texas +3 (-110)
money line: Purdue -155; Miami +135
Path to Round of 32: Purdue (28-7) passed No. 14 Yale, 78-56, in their first-round game on Friday, led by Jaden Ivey’s 22 points and 7-foot-4 center Zach Edey’s 16 points and nine rebounds. It was Purdue’s fourth first-round win in the last five tournaments. Senior guard Sasha Stefanovic, who has started all 35 games for the Boilermakers, will need to maintain his confidence despite a shooting dip to keep Purdue dancing, especially against a tough Texas defense. and acc Aaron Ferguson the Times of Northwest Indiana, that shouldn’t be a problem. Speaking of overwhelming, Texas (22-11) edged out a red-hot Virginia Tech team 81-73 in their first-round win. The Hokies came into play on a five-game winning streak, including beating Duke in the ACC Tournament championship game. Columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch David Tel wrote, “The Longhorns overwhelmed the Hokies like no other opponent this season.” Texas ranks 13th nationally for defense efficiency. The Longhorns also found their shot against the Hokies, going 10-of-19 from behind the 3-point line. Senior guard Andrew Jones led Texas with a game-high 21 points. Four other longhorns were in double digits on Friday. Purdue is 13-19-2 against the spread this season; Texas is 12-20.
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Mike Szvetitz is General Manager and Content Director for FrontPageBets.com. Szvetitz is a veteran reporter and editor with 22 years of experience, including 17 years as a sports editor in Florida, Alabama and Virginia, where he covers everything from prep to pro. His column “View From The Lazy Boy” won several state and national awards.
Gerry Ahern is Senior Content Editor for FrontPageBets. A veteran sports editor and digital media manager with 35 years of experience, he has overseen coverage of major sporting events, from the Super Bowls to the Final Fours to the Olympics and the Masters.