2021 Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament Betting Preview

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Six weeks ago, Oral Roberts at 10000-1 to win the NCAA Tournament could have been had at a Vegas sportsbook. Did anyone take a shot at turning $100 into a cool million, courtesy of hot-shot guard, Max Abmas?

A 6-foot-1 sophomore from the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolis, Abmas averages a national-best 24.6 points a game, makes 43.1% of his 3-pointers, 52.1% of his 2-pointers, and 90.2% of his free throws (13th best free-thrower in the country). He has played 95.5% of all possible minutes for the Golden Eagles this season, the third-best ironman rate in college hoops.

Teammate Kevin Obanor, a junior forward from Houston, is a great complement to Abmas, averaging 19 points and 9.6 boards. 

To top it off, Oral makes free throws at an 82.4% clip, the best in the land that might eclipse 1983-84 Harvard as the best freebie-shooting season in the game’s history.

For live betting odds, check out our March Madness Odds.

How Oral Roberts Eagles Might Move Forward

This all depends on Saturday, when the Eagles (18-10) play 11-point favorite Arkansas (24-6) in Indianapolis.

As 16 teams prepare for the second weekend of the tournament, the Eagles had been whittled to +10000 odds (risk $100 to win $10,000) to win it all at BetMGM, +3500 to triumph in two more games and reach the Final Four.

Theirs is the loveable longshot story of the maddest of Marches. Since the tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985, the average Sweet 16 seed had been 4.45.

This one is 5.88, thanks to 15th-seeded Oral Roberts upsetting 2-seeded Ohio State and 7-seeded Florida. Other underdog stories, like Oregon State and Syracuse, have contributed to making this the zaniest of March Madness iterations.

Even “Jeopardy!” champion James Holzhauer, a professional sports bettor who boasts about getting banned from Caesars’ properties, chimed in about the craziness.

He tweeted that conferences whose names correctly count their number of members are 8-0 and that those who don’t are 13-13, with a forfeit (cagey shots at the 10-team Big 12 and the 14-team Big Ten).

That, ladies and gentleman, is entertainment.


UCLA (20-9) reached the second weekend after winning three games in five days. Should it win it all, it would do so by beating seven opponents.

That would set a new standard for a program that owns an NCAA-record 11 national titles—in 1964 and ’65, and ’67-73, it needed four games to win it all; in ’75, five; and in ’95, six.

The Bruins are four-point underdogs to Alabama (26-6) on Sunday, and the Crimson Tide own slight edges in most categories. The Tide will want to play fast since its average possession length of 14.2 seconds is the third-highest in the country.

Fortunately for UCLA, it has a few days to rest. It will need every minute of that to rejuvenate for Bama, 10 of whose past 15 games have finished Under.

This game’s total quickly shot from 142 to 144, interesting since seven of UCLA’s last 11 games have finished Under 144. That makes Under our play.

Michigan saved the Big Ten from a total pratfall. The Wolverines (22-4) have not dropped consecutive games all season, but the loss of 6-7 senior swingman Isaiah Livers (foot injury) appeared to be detrimental.

Then Chaundee Brown, a 6-5 senior guard from Orlando, saved Monday with a season-high 21 points. Five-point favorite Michigan won and covered, 86-78 over LSU.

The Wolverines are the favorite by four points over Florida State (18-6) on Sunday. The two teams’ numbers are similar and offsetting, save for free throws—the Wolverines make 78% of their freebies, the Seminoles 73.9%.

Michigan might have uncovered a new weapon in Brown; when he scores at least 20 points over the past two seasons, the Wolverines are 6-0.


Before the NCAAs started, Oral Roberts was 500-1 to win the South Regional. It’s two steps from that epic achievement, but 11-point-favorite Arkansas now stands in the way of the Golden Eagles.

In its past six games as a double-digit favorite, the Razorbacks are 2-4. One of those covers was by a half-point.

The Eagles’ dynamic duo has shown its mettle this season as Oral has covered as a double-digit dog to Wichita State, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and—yes—Arkansas, on Dec. 20.

Beating Ohio State as a 15-point dog showed that Abmas and Obanor are formidable, and defeating Florida meant they’re no fluke. We favor them covering the double digits against the Razorbacks.

Baylor (24-2) is a 6.5-point favorite against Villanova (18-6) on Saturday, and this is when the Wildcats will sorely miss super guard Collin Gillespie. This opponent is not Winthrop or North Texas.

Over their past three games, the Bears are second among teams left in the tournament with an effective possession ratio of 1.050. What’s worse, for Nova, is that Baylor’s opponents’ ratio is 0.850, the lowest of the remaining squads.


The coach’s kid has been playing as if his pop’s gig is on the line. It isn’t. Unfortunately for the Atlantic Coast Conference, though, he’s only a junior, so they’ll have to contend with him next season.

Buddy Boeheim is only on the run of his life, a four-game stretch in which the lean 6-6 sharpshooter has made 24 of 43 3-pointers (55.8%), tallying 113 points.

The Orange (18-9) is a six-point dog against Houston (26-3) on Saturday. It will be intriguing to watch how the Cougars handle the Jim Boeheim-patented 2-3 zone defense.

Houston owns a top-10 efficient offense, but only because forwards Justin Gorham, Reggie Chaney, Fabian White, and Brison Gresham all crash the offensive boards so effectively.

The Cougars are average shooters. Their defense is élite, so that’s the challenge—the coach’s kid from long range against the game’s 12th-ranking perimeter defense. In a tight, low-scoring game, we’ll take the kid with the hot hand for the cover.

In the other regional semifinal, the Loyola-Oregon State total is 126 points. Only one of the Ramblers’ past 20 opponents has scored more than 60 points. That rules our underplay here in what has been a very low-scoring tournament.

And Loyola is only polishing its defensive prowess. Of the 16 remaining teams, over their past three games, its opponents’ effective possession ratio of 0.867 is second-lowest, to Houston.


Gonzaga (28-0) is displaying what we had suspected. It’s on a mission and that it has learned from so many past close calls to become a true national powerhouse.

That it could become the first undefeated team since the 1975-76 Indiana dynamo, and in the Hoosiers’ backyard for the duration of an entire NCAA Tournament, is the final ingredient to the supercharging of this squad.

Seven of the Zags’ previous nine games have finished Over. Throughout the weekend, all they did was cover spreads of 33 (over Norfolk State) and 15.5 points (over Oklahoma). 

In Sunday’s early game, Gonzaga will cover the 13.5 points against Creighton (22-8). Then, comes a tantalizing joust with someone from its own coast.

We’ll take USC (24-7), giving only 1.5 points against Oregon (21-6). Of the eight Sweet 16 games, this is the one with the greatest disparity from a set of metrics that says the Trojans should be giving the Ducks four points.

That’s 2.5 points of expected value that has worked in our favor in recent weeks. What Gonzaga has been planning for weeks or months (actually, years) is about to come to fruition, however, which no foe can stop.

See our complete guide to NCAA And March Madness Betting

About the Author
Rob Miech

Rob Miech

Rob Miech is a writer and contributor for Gaming Today, covering soccer and producing sports betting features. He has written about college hoops for the Las Vegas Sun, CBS SportsLine and the Pasadena Star-News. He is the author of four books, including Sports Betting for Winners.

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