The second day of the Sweet 16 always feels a little anti-climactic, and that is definitely the case this season.
I love a Cinderella, but there is a very real chance the Peacocks are out of their game against Purdue by the midway point of the first half. Sorry if that is harsh, Peacocks fans, but Purdue is a whole other kind of animal than the likes of Kentucky and Murray State.
The other games also have more blowout potential than the contests on Thursday. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kansas and UCLA won by more than 15 points, and the game between Miami and Iowa State could finish 50-40 for the Cyclones or 80-65 for the Hurricanes. (I only just got the weather thing after staring at this matchup all week.)
Here is a deeper look at the sides I like for Friday.
Friday best bets
Saint Peter’s Peacocks vs. Purdue Boilermakers
Line: Purdue -12.5
I am not going to pretend I am suddenly in the know about St. Peter’s. All I can say is that yes, this team is tough, and yes it did not fluke its way to wins over Kentucky and Murray State; the Peacocks beat those teams. They could play another strong game and still lose by double digits. That is just the way it is with Purdue, one of the best offensive teams in the country. The Boilermakers defense is still worrisome, and it might prevent them from winning a title, but against the Peacocks, they should be able to dominate with their size advantage at both ends of the floor. This is the largest spread of the day and for good reason. In the nonconference part of their schedule, when Purdue was playing teams closer to the level of the Peacocks, it was 13-0 and 9-4 ATS. St. Peter’s is still a great story even if this one gets a little ugly.
Providence Friars vs. Kansas Jayhawks
Line: Jayhawks -7.5
This game feels like it has the widest range of possibilities in terms of style and outcome. There is no doubt that Kansas is the superior team, but Providence has been awesome as an underdog this season, 7-2 SU and 8-1 ATS. The Friars have size and experience to match up with Kansas, and they have been so good in close games. The question is whether they can slow down the pace of this game sufficiently. With lead guard Remy Martin emerging for Kansas, the Jayhawks can be a lethal team in transition, and that is the way they want to play. In terms of style, the closest thing to Kansas in the Big East is St. John’s, a team that Providence beat twice during the season, scoring better than 80 points both times. The Red Storm were able to speed up the Friars. If Kansas can do the same it is going to win with ease. That is what I see happening.
North Carolina Tar Heels vs. UCLA Bruins
Line: Bruins -2.5
Two big brands collide here. Both have been labeled disappointments this season. UCLA because it was supposed to be as good as it was last March all season long, and UNC because there were times it looked like the team might not even make the NCAA Tournament. What we have seen from the Tar Heels is that when forward Brady Manek plays well, they can be very, very good. They are strong up front, but at some point, you have to think their guards are going to have to show up, right? The Bruins are very strong on the perimeter, but Johnny Juzang, last year’s top player is struggling right now. That has created more opportunities for fellow wing Jamie Jacquez Jr., and he is running with it. If they can get both players going, another trip to the Final Four is possible. I like the ceiling of the Bruins more than North Carolina right now, and think they can get the W and cover.
Iowa State Cyclones vs. Miami Hurricanes
Line: Hurricanes -2.5
These might be two power conference squads, but nobody really expected them to be in the hunt at this point. Now, one is going to be in the Elite Eight. For the Cyclones, it is all about defense. They know how to shut teams down, and even though they have a new coach and a lot of new players, this is not an inexperienced group. If they get the style of play they want, they are going to be a tough out. The Hurricanes are also super experienced all over the floor, and they have a coach who has been here before. The Hurricanes are excellent on the perimeter, and that is going to be the reason they are the play. Even if this winds up being a low-scoring game, they have guys like Isaiah Wong, who have been good in the clutch all season long.