If you're looking for long-term Sweet 16 betting trends, there's not a lot to discuss. Dating back to 1998, favorites are 59-57 against the spread in the Sweet 16. But we've seen the 'dogs show plenty of bite in this round in recent seasons, as they went 6-2 ATS last season and 5-3 ATS in 2011. That being said, from 2008 to 2010, favorites were 17-7 against the spread in the Sweet 16, a clear indicator that the betting markets are dynamic entities, not static ones.
The easiest strategy for picking point-spread winners is picking straight-up winners. North Carolina A&T won but didn't cover against Liberty on Tuesday. On Thursday, Marquette won but failed to cover against Davidson while Gonzaga did the same versus Southern. Duke won but didn't get the money against Albany on Friday, as did Kansas against Western Kentucky and Indiana versus James Madison. On Saturday, Syracuse won but didn't cover against California. And we saw three favorites win but fail to cover on Sunday: Miami, Ohio State and Indiana. Add it up and we're talking about a 42-10 ATS mark for the straight-up winners of every game so far in the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Of course, anyone who filled out a bracket will tell you that picking straight-up winners isn't necessarily much easier than picking point-spread winners in March. I personally went a disappointing 1-2 with my "best bets" in my Sunday Big Dance preview column while going 4-4 with my broader recommendations. I'm looking to improve on those results in Friday's Sweet 16 games.
The games below are listed in Las Vegas rotation order. While I'll offer a pick on every game, my best bets are marked with an asterisk, so you'll know which games I'll be betting (or have already bet) with my own money in Vegas.
No. 1 Louisville Cardinals versus No. 12 Oregon Ducks
Vegas consensus line: Louisville minus-10
To say that Rick Pitino has been a point-spread juggernaut in the postseason is something of an understatement. Since the start of the Big East tournament in 2012, the Cardinals have gone 13-0-1 against the closing point spread in Las Vegas in their 14 tournament games, winning a pair of Big East tourney titles and reaching the Final Four in the process. And since their epic five-overtime loss to Notre Dame in early February, Louisville has won 12 straight games while going 10-2 ATS. Both point-spread losses came in double-digit victories over St. John's and Seton Hall -- games in which the Cardinals were asked to win by 17.5 and 18.5 points, respectively. Here, they'll need to win by 11 to cover the line.
Oregon also is a red-hot point-spread team, reeling off five straight wins and four straight ATS covers since the start of the Pac-12 tournament. Dana Altman is a postseason winner and a great underdog coach (10-1 ATS in 11 tries as 'dogs of 4.5 points or higher in his two seasons in Eugene). The Ducks' low-post duo of Arsalan Kazemi and Tony Woods can bang in the paint with the likes of Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell. But the Ducks' point guard duo of freshman Dominic Artis and undersized junior Johnathan Loyd has struggled with turnovers all season -- which is bad news against the aggressive Louisville press.
The bottom line is that I have no interest betting against the team that I expect to win it all, even with the Ducks' strong track record in this role under Altman.
The ATS pick: Louisville