Sweet 16 lines hit the board following wild March Madness opening weekend


Sunday night was a spectacular way to cap the avalanche of college hoops that the first four days of the NCAA Tournament provides. A buzzer-beating cover by Southern California, though Baylor moved on. Then another USC – South Carolina – knocked off perennial power Duke outright. Now we’re down to the Sweet 16, and Covers takes a look at a few of the opening lines, with insights from Scott Cooley of offshore sportsbook Bookmaker.eu.

No. 4 Purdue Boilermakers vs. No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks (-4)

Kansas had little trouble through the first two rounds in the Midwest Region, rumbling to blowout wins and covers in both games. The Jayhawks (30-4 SU, 13-18-1 ATS) boatraced No. 16 seed UC Davis 100-62 as a 22.5-point favorite Friday, then rolled No. 9 Michigan State 90-70 as a 7.5-point chalk Sunday.

Purdue (27-7 SU, 19-10-2 ATS) also won and covered twice to reach the Sweet 16. The Boilermakers dropped No. 13 seed Vermont 80-70 laying 8.5 points Thursday, then held off a huge rally by No. 5 Iowa State to win 80-76 giving 1 point Saturday.

“The public is going to jump all over Kansas, as they’ll see this is a low number,” Cooley said of the 9:35 p.m. ET Thursday matchup. “But we don’t want to give the Boilermakers too much value, since they’ve been very strong through the first two legs of the tourney.”

Late Sunday night, action indeed took the line to Kansas -4.5 at Bookmaker.eu.

No. 11 Xavier Musketeers vs. No. 2 Arizona Wildcats (-7.5)

Xavier is riding high as the only double-digit seed to survive the first weekend. The Musketeers (23-13 SU, 17-18 ATS) stopped No. 6 seed Maryland 76-65 as a 2-point underdog Thursday, then steamrolled No. 3 seed Florida State 91-66 as a 7-point pup Saturday.

Meanwhile, Arizona is right where everyone expected it would be in the West Region, playing in this Thursday contest at 10 p.m. ET. The Wildcats (32-4 SU, 19-14-3 ATS) cruised past No. 15 North Dakota 100-82 on last Thursday, pushing as an 18-point favorite, then fended off St. Mary’s 69-60 giving 4.5 points Saturday.

“Early smart money has come in on the underdog, so we’ve already dropped a half-point, but that’s not an indicator it will continue to plummet,” Cooley said of lowering Arizona a tick to -7. “Xavier has been impressive, but bettors haven’t respected their conference during the Big Dance thus far.”

No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers vs. No. 4 Florida Gators (-1.5)

Wisconsin wasn’t expected to make it through the first weekend in the East Region. As the No. 8 seed, that had to come at big expense to somebody – in this case, overall No. 1 seed and defending national champion Villanova. The Badgers (27-9 SU, 17-16 ATS) dispatched No. 9 Virginia Tech 84-74 as a 6-point fave Thursday, then shocked ‘Nova 65-62 as a 5.5-point ‘dog Saturday.

Florida (26-8 SU, 19-13 ATS) entered the NCAA Tournament off back-to-back losses to Vanderbilt – once on the road to end the regular season, then in the quarterfinals of the SEC tournament. But the Gators ironed out the kinks by Thursday, beating No. 13 East Tennessee State 80-65 as a 10-point chalk. Florida followed with a stifling 65-39 victory over No. 5 Virginia giving 2 points.

“We’re giving the under-appreciated Badgers a bunch of respect here, and again, the squares will likely look toward Florida,” Cooley said. “But Wisconsin is a dangerous team, and the wiseguys know that this is a team that can beat anyone because of its system. This number could climb initially, but I don’t think we’ll see it any higher come tipoff.”

Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.

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