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March Madness: Ranking the men's Sweet 16 games from most to least watchable

Nick Bromberg
·5-min read

Welcome to the second weekend of the 2021 NCAA men's tournament, which continues its unique schedule after the first round began a day later than normal. Instead of the Sweet 16 tipping off on its traditional Thursday start date, games will begin on Saturday. Both Saturday and Sunday will have four games staggered apart from each other while there will be two Elite Eight games each on Monday evening and Tuesday evening.

Below is our ranking of the eight Sweet 16 games from most to least watchable. All times are Eastern and all betting odds are provided by BetMGM.

No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 4 Florida State (East)

Sunday, 5 p.m., CBS

Michigan -2.5, O/U 143.5

The Wolverines are the last team standing from the Big Ten despite not having Isaiah Livers for the tournament. Eli Brooks has shot 8-of-15 from three in the Wolverines’ first two tournament games and will be counted on to keep that hot streak going. FSU has won its two tournament games by a combined 28 points as Anthony Polite scored 22 in the Seminoles’ win over Colorado in the second round.

No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 5 Villanova (South)

Saturday, 5:15 p.m., CBS

Baylor -7, O/U 140.5

Baylor blitzed Wisconsin in the second round as three players had at least 16 points and the Bears turned the ball over just four times. Villanova easily beat Winthrop in the first round and beat North Texas by 23 in the second round despite the absence of point guard Collin Gillespie. Both of these teams are extremely efficient on offense and Baylor leads the nation in 3-point percentage. The over may not be a bad play here.

No. 6 USC vs. No. 7 Oregon (West)

Sunday, 9:45 p.m., TBS

USC -2, O/U 139

Well, we’re guaranteed to have a Pac-12 team lose in the Sweet 16. The conference’s one-loss run is going to get to two no matter what as these two square off. USC won the regular-season matchup 72-58 on Feb. 22 and are favored by two here after each team had an incredibly impressive second-round win over a Midwestern opponent. The Ducks have five capable scorers across their starting lineup while USC’s offensive focus is on Evan and Isaiah Mobley.

No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 11 UCLA (East)

Sunday, 7:15 p.m., TBS

Alabama -6.5, O/U 145.5

UCLA is going for its fourth tournament win since being selected for a play-in game on Selection Sunday and would be the ninth No. 11 seed to make the Elite Eight with a victory. Alabama beat Maryland by 19 in the second round by shooting a blistering 16-of-33 from three. The Crimson Tide shoot the fourth-most threes in the country at 30 per game while UCLA gives up over 20 attempts per game. The Bruins will have a hard time if Alabama can replicate its second-round shooting performance.

No. 8 Loyola Chicago vs. No. 12 Oregon State (Midwest)

Saturday, 2:40 p.m., CBS

Loyola Chicago -6.5, O/U 125.5

Loyola shut down Illinois in the second round to make the Illini the only No. 1 seed to not advance to the Sweet 16. The Ramblers’ defense is the best in the country and is on a remarkable run since a 76-71 loss to Indiana State on Jan. 10. Loyola has given up 60 points or fewer in 19 of its 20 games since that loss. Oregon State would tie an NCAA record as the lowest seed to make the Elite Eight with a win and has won each of its last four games by nine points or more.

No. 2 Houston vs. No. 11 Syracuse (Midwest)

Saturday, 9:55 p.m., TBS

Houston -6, O/U 140

Will Houston be the first team in the tournament to have an answer for Syracuse’s zone and a way to combat the Orange’s hot shooting from three? The key to success may come on the offensive glass. Houston is the second-best offensive rebounding team in the country per KenPom.com while Syracuse is 340th in the country in opponent offensive rebound percentage. Orange guard Buddy Boeheim has scored at least 25 points in each of the team’s last four games and Syracuse is 9-2 when he goes for 20 or more.

No. 3 Arkansas vs. No 15. Oral Roberts (South)

Saturday, 7:25 p.m., TBS

Arkansas -11, O/U 159

Can Oral Roberts afford to get in a shootout with Arkansas? The Razorbacks are the fastest and most potent offensive team the Eagles have faced in the tournament, and ORU has given up nearly 76 points per game in 2020-21. The Eagles have also played star players Max Abmas and Kevin Obanor in every minute of the tournament so far. Arkansas’ 68-66 win over Texas Tech in the second round was the first time the Razorbacks failed to hit 70 points since a Feb. 2 win over Mississippi State.

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 5 Creighton (West)

Sunday, 1:10 p.m., CBS

Gonzaga -13, O/U 158

Will this be another easy win for the presumptive tournament favorite? Gonzaga never felt threatened against Oklahoma in the second round despite a hot start from the Sooners. If Creighton wants to pull the upset it’ll have to shoot well from the field and from the free-throw line. The Blue Jays are one of the worst free-throw shooting teams in the country at 65%.

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