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Sweet 16: time to pop rubber band

Mar 20, 2001 6:22 AM

By Adam Soboleski and David Stratton

One good thing about the wait for the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament: there’s time to prepare to make some big bets.

Thursday’s games have the East Region at Philadelphia; the West, at Anaheim, Calif. Friday’s games have the South Region at Atlanta; the Midwest, at San Antonio.

The East has an interesting dilemma shaping up. If No. 1 seed Duke defeats No. 4 UCLA and No. 2 Kentucky defeats No. 6 Southern Cal, it pits a rematch between Duke and Kentucky from their 1993 Final 8 double-overtime classic. Duke’s Christian Laettner hit a buzzer-beater then to beat the Wildcats.

East Region

Kentucky –4½ vs. USC: Kentucky coach Tubby Smith has his team playing its best of the season, except for that Holy Cross game. Kentucky led the SEC in field goal defense at 40.1 percent and shot 51.3 in the first two tourney games.

Meanwhile, Southern Cal beat an Oklahoma State team it had an athletic edge against. The Trojans have little bench support. Boston College, USC’s second-round victim, wasn’t that strong. B.C.’s conference, the Big East, has only one school left. This is a good number to lay. Play Kentucky – 4½.

UCLA +11½ vs. Duke: This line is too high. UCLA defeated Stanford once and Duke lost to Stanford. Both games were played at a Stanford home court, so this line looks a little high. UCLA center Dan Gadzuric should match up with Shane Battier, but he needs to stay the paint. UCLA also had five players score 20 points in a game this season. The Pac-10 may be the best conference with four teams in the Sweet 16. Duke is shooting only 68.5 percent from the free-throw line this year. That is not a good sign to win it all. Play UCLA +11½.

West Region

Georgetown +7 vs. Maryland: Everyone should realize this is a geographic rivalry. These schools share the media market (Washington, D.C.), so this should make the game close. Maryland has historically been a tournament underachiever. The Terps’ last regional final appearance was in 1975. They’ve never made the Final Four. Georgetown has out-rebounded its opponents 92-53 in the first two tourney games. The Hoyas have held opponents to 37 percent from the field. Play Georgetown +7.

Stanford – 8½ vs. Cincinnati: The Cardinal is 18-0 on the road this year and 40-5 since the 1997-98 season. As we know, teams with the best road records going into the tournament are good bets to go far. Stanford is the best team from the best conference in the tournament. Cincinnati played Kent and BYU in the first two rounds. Cincinnati matches up well against those teams, but the Bearcats don’t rebound well. The Bearcats are 16-1 against teams they get out-rebounded. Stanford matches up with the Bearcats and don’t expect Cincinnati to out-rebound Stanford. Play Stanford – 8½.

South Region

Michigan State –10 vs. Gonzaga: Michigan State is getting the job done quietly this year. They’ve been to the Final Four the last two years, including a national championship last year. Gonzaga is good, but not at the very level it was two years ago when it lost to Connecticut in the Final 8. The Bulldogs could have easily lost to Virginia and caught a break by facing Indiana State in the second round. Michigan State leads the nation in rebounding at +15.3. The Spartans are deep, too. Play Michigan State –10.

Temple –3½ vs. Penn State: If you haven’t noticed over the years, you don’t want to give Temple coach John Chaney a lot of time to prepare. The Owls are peaking. They went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line against Florida in the second half. In this nine-game win streak, Temple has shot 42.6 percent from 3-point land. Penn State matched up well with an overrated North Carolina team. Play Temple – 3½.

Midwest Region

Arizona – 9½ vs. Mississippi: Arizona’s athleticism should be too much for Ole Miss. The Wildcats have five starters who average double digits, and have a strong bench. The Pac 10 is also 8-1 in the tournament. Mississippi was last in the SEC in rebounding at 34.8 per game. Ole Miss also is poor from the free-throw line. It shot 65.1 percent from the stripe this year and went 14-for-21 there against first-round opponent Iona. That is not a good sign for the tournament. Play Arizona – 9½.

Illinois –1½ vs. Kansas: The Illini are laying a low number here. Kansas matched up well with Syracuse. Kansas turned the ball over 35 times in its first two games; opponents turned it over 15. Not a good sign. Illinois is athletic and has a nine-man rotation. So Illinois can mix and chose its match-ups. Six different players scored double digits in its first-round win over Northwestern State. Play Illinois – 1½.

NCAA

Future odds

Current odds as of this week to win the 2001 NCAA men’s college basketball championship at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis.

(Semifinals: East vs. West, South vs. Midwest)

Open Current
Duke 5-2 Even
Stanford 4-1 9-2
Michigan State 4-1 4-1
Arizona 6-1 4-1
Illinois 8-1 5-1
Maryland 10-1 6-1
Kentucky 12-1 8-1
Kansas 20-1 12-1
UCLA 25-1 8-1
Mississippi 25-1 8-1
USC 40-1 50-1
Cincinnati 75-1 40-1
Temple 100-1 40-1
Georgetown 100-1 75-1
Gonzaga 200-1 75-1
Penn State 250-1 125-1