LAS VEGAS -- The opening weekend of the NCAA tournament lived up to all the excitement we expect from March Madness.
There were some blowouts, but it was made up for with the volume of down-to-the-buzzer excitement. Even if games were well in hand for the teams looking to survive and advance, bettors were still on the edge of their seats with point spreads and totals still in doubt.
If you're reading this Friday, here's hoping that the Sweet 16 games of Thursday were just as exciting. If you're reading this before Thursday night, don't miss Ted Sevransky's breakdown of Thursday's games, plus a best bet (and a lean on the over/under) from Dave Tuley and two picks from PJ Walsh of sportsinsights.com. Now onto Friday's action.
Games are listed in Las Vegas rotation order, and best bets are noted with an asterisk.
No. 3 Iowa State Cyclones versus No. 7 Connecticut Huskies
LVH line: Iowa State minus-2
PickCenter consensus pick: Iowa State 54 percent
It's a bit of a surprise that both of these teams made the Sweet 16. UConn survived its opening game against Saint Joseph's on Thursday, winning (and covering) in overtime after being outplayed most of the game. Last Friday, Iowa State routed NC Central 93-75 but lost versatile forward Georges Niang with a broken foot. On Saturday, UConn had to face No. 2 Villanova and again looked out of it early, but the Huskies rallied and took control in the second half behind Shabazz Napier to pull the 77-65 upset. On Sunday, Iowa State gutted out a tough 85-83 victory against No. 6 seed North Carolina to cover the 1.5-point spread.
Wondering which side to take? Check out PickCenter and do your research before making that critical decision. PickCenter
This game is priced about the same, but I think UConn is the more likely winner. Napier gives the Huskies the edge at guard, as he's taken his game to a new level. The loss of Niang was seen against North Carolina's front line, and it could prove more costly against UConn.