Forty-eight teams packed their bags over the past four days of March Madness, leaving only sixteen to play on. Covers checks in on the opening lines, early action and odds movement for a quartet of the Sweet 16’s eight games, with insights from John Murray, director of the SuperBook at Westgate in Las Vegas.
No. 3 Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. No. 2 Michigan Wolverines (-1)
Michigan easily advanced in the Big Dance with a pair of double-digit victories in the West Region. After rolling over No. 15 seed Montana on Thursday, the Wolverines (30-6 SU, 21-15 ATS) dispatched No. 10 seed Florida 65-49 as 5.5-point favorites Saturday.
Likewise, Texas Tech had little trouble reaching the Round of 16, winning and covering in the first and second rounds. The Red Raiders (28-6 SU, 17-16-1 ATS) coasted past No. 14 Northern Kentucky, then punched out No. 6 seed Buffalo 78-58 as 3.5-point faves Sunday.
“I think the best game of (next) weekend is Texas Tech-Michigan,” Murray said of this 9:35 p.m. ET clash on Thursday. “It’s a pick ‘em game to me. Two of the very best coaches in all of college basketball.”
The SuperBook opened the Wolverines at -1 Sunday evening and got to -2 within about an hour.
No. 4 Virginia Tech Hokies vs. No. 1 Duke Blue Devils (-8)
Duke is extremely fortunate to be playing in this 9:35 p.m. ET Friday tipoff in the East Region. On Sunday, the Blue Devils (31-5 SU, 18-17-1 ATS) trailed late against No. 9 seed Central Florida, regained the lead in the waning seconds and survived a jumper and tip-in attempt by UCF to snare a 77-76 win laying 13 points.
Virginia Tech already owns a win over Duke, winning and cashing as a 3.5-point home pup a month ago, though the Blue Devils didn't have Zion Williamson and will have him this time. The Hokies (26-8 SU, 17-15-1 ATS) got a stern test from No. 12 seed Liberty on Sunday, pulling away in the second half for a 67-58 victory giving 9.5 points.
“This will be a heavily bet game for sure. A lot of moneyline parlays with Duke in them next week,” Murray said. “We opened it a little high at -8, because we know Duke money will come. Duke was very lucky to escape (Sunday), and I definitely give the coaching edge to Virginia Tech and Buzz Williams.”
No. 12 Oregon Ducks vs. No. 1 Virginia Cavaliers (-7.5)
Oregon came from the No. 6 seed to win the Pac-12 tournament and now finds itself in the Sweet 16 as a 12 seed in the South Region. The Ducks (24-12 SU, 21-15 ATS) blew all of a 12-point halftime lead plus two Sunday against No. 13 seed UC Irvine, then went nuts over the last 12 minutes to win easily 73-54 as 4.5-point favorites.
Virginia, which as a No. 1 seed last year shockingly got knocked out by No. 16 seed Maryland-Baltimore County, got through the first weekend this time around, though not without incident. The Cavaliers (31-3 SU, 24-10 ATS) trailed No. 16 seed Gardner-Webb 36-30 at half, then clamped down for a 71-56 win as hefty 22.5-point faves Friday.
On Sunday against No. 9 seed Oklahoma, Virginia was up nine at the half and notched a relatively uneventful 63-51 win as 10.5-point chalk.
“Oregon-Virginia is a terrific coaching matchup,” Murray said of Thursday’s 9:55 p.m. ET meeting. “Two great defensive teams. We opened 7.5 and total of 119. I love Dana Altman, and Payton Pritchard is a steady point man, but this should be the end of the road for the Ducks.”
North Carolina got a surprisingly stern test in its Midwest Region opener, then had much less trouble in the second round. The Tar Heels (29-6 SU, 22-11-2 ATS) trailed No. 16 seed Iona 38-33 at recess, then put up 55 second-half points to win 88-73 as healthy 24.5-point favorites Friday. Roy Williams’ troops then blasted No. 9 seed Washington 81-59 giving 11 points Sunday.
Auburn built on its run to the Southeastern Conference tournament title with two more wins, running its win streak to 10 (6-4 ATS). After squeaking past No. 12 seed New Mexico State 78-77 as 5.5-point faves Thursday, the Tigers (28-9 SU, 19-16-1 ATS) rumbled over No. 4 seed Kansas 89-75 laying 2 points Saturday.
“Auburn-North Carolina is the complete opposite of Oregon-Virginia – all offense,” Murray said of this 7:25 p.m. ET Friday matchup. “Two coaches I don’t think much of, to say the least. But that should be a fun watch. We will likely need the Under. The total is sitting at 161 now.”
That’s up a point from the opener of 160, while the line dipped from Tar Heels -5.5 to -5 Sunday evening.
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.