Upset Picks for Sweet 16 of the March Madness Tournament – Oregon State, Syracuse Still Worth Backing

Jimmy Butler dribbling

The Miami Heat’s Jimmy Butler walking the ball up the floor. (Photo by Schuler/Imago/Icon Sportswire)

  • Stop us if you have heard this before — Oregon State, Syracuse remain strong value plays
  • Oral Roberts has earned a chance to avenge an early-season loss to Arkansas
  • Betting results after two rounds — 6-2 (+4.6 units); see below for upset picks in the Sweet 16

The first two rounds of March Madness have been great for underdogs, who went 20-31 straight up. If you had bet one unit on every ‘dog in the first 51 games (including the First Four, minus the cancelled VCU vs Oregon game) you would be up 14.3 units so far.

Will the trend continue in the Sweet 16?

NCAA Second Round Upset Picks

Matchup Spread Moneyline Pick Units
Oregon State Beavers vs Loyola Chicago Ramblers LOY -6.5 +225 Beavers 2
Oral Roberts Golden Eagles vs Arkansas Razorbacks  AR -11.5 +460 Golden Eagles 2
Syracuse Orange vs. Houston Cougars HOU -6 +210 Orange 1

Odds from FanDuel on March 23. 

Midwest No. 12 seed Oregon State (19-12) is from a small media market in a league that received little respect entering the NCAA Tournament. Like the Pac-12 as a whole, the Beavers have proven themselves worthy with relatively easy victories over Tennessee and Oklahoma State.

Midwest No. 11 seed Syracuse (18-9) has won twice thanks to the long-range marksmanship of Buddy Boeheim, who has made 13-of-23 three-pointers while channeling Gerry McNamara, the distance shooter who complemented Carmelo Anthony and Hakim Warrick in the Orange’s run to the 2003 national championship.

South No. 15 seed Oral Roberts (18-10) followed the biggest upset of the tournament, a 75-72 over No. 2 seed Ohio State in the first round, by coming back from 11 points down midway through the second half to beat Florida 81-78 in the second round.

Oregon State Clamps Down

The Beavers won the Pac-12 tournament by beating NCAA Tournament teams UCLA, Oregon and Colorado, and they have been even better in the first two rounds of this tournament.

They Beavers have won five games in a row and eight of their last nine, and they are an overwhelming 17-3-1 ATS since suffering a 34-point home loss to Arizona on Jan. 14. They have covered their last eight games, all as an underdog of at least 5.5 points.

Oregon State’s defense starred in the 70-56 victory over Tennessee and the 80-70 victory Oklahoma State. The Volunteers shot 33.3% from the field and the Cowboys shot 27.7%, and those two combined to make 13-of-55 three-pointers, 23.6%.

The Beavers contest the perimeter with active guards Ethan Thompson and Jarod Lucas and rely on 6’7 Warith Alatishe and 7’1 Roman Silva to clog the inside. (It is a style 6’10 head coach Wayne Tinkle embraces.)

Thompson had 26 points and made 15-of-16 foul shots against Oklahoma State, when the Beavers were 32-of-35 from the line. The Beavers out-rebounded Oklahoma State 52-32, with Alatishe and Silva getting 12 rebounds apiece. They had 11 blocked shots.

Oregon State is harder to game plan against because of its multiple threats. Six different players have led the team in scoring in the last eight games and four different players have led or tied in rebounding in the last five. Senior Silva had career highs with 16 points and three blocked shots against Tennessee.

The public likes an emotional story, and Sister Jean Schmidt and Loyola Chicago are that, even though the Ramblers’ defense is first in KenPom in adjusted defensive efficiency. That notwithstanding, the has skewed the line a little too far in the Ramblers’ direction in a game that will be played at a slow pace.

Syracuse’s Buddy on a Roll

Buddy Boeheim and his cadre of long-range shooters has carried Syracuse to the Sweet 16, which is nothing new for the Orange.

Boeheim has scored 55 points and made 13-of-23 three-pointers and his teammates have followed suit, shooting 53.3% from the field in a first-round victory over San Diego State and 51.9% in a tight victory over West Virginia.

With Joseph Girard III adding seven three-pointers, the Orange are 29-of-58 from distance in the tourney, a long-range accuracy that has given Syracuse a remarkable effective field goal percentage of 68.2%. To put that in perspective, Gonzaga leads NCAA Division I with an effective field goal percentage of 61.0.

On the other side, Houston leads Division I by limiting opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 43.1 and is second in scoring defense, giving up 57.9 points per game, while playing at a deliberate pace.

The Orange has reached the Sweet 16 in five of its last seven tournament appearances made the Elite Eight as a 10 seed in 2016. The ‘Cuse has covered its last six games, and its hot streak will continue.

Oral Roberts in a Good Spot

Oral Roberts has won seven in a row and covered its last six while thriving in a one-and-done scenario. The Golden Eagles won the final two games of the Summit League tournament as a slight dog before springing their two NCAA upsets.

The Golden Eagles have been here before. They held a 10-point halftime lead in Fayetteville on Dec. 20 before Arkansas used a 57-point second half for an 87-76 victory. The Razorbacks scored the final five points of the game as the Golden Eagles easily covered as a 19.5-point dog.

Oral Roberts was not as its best in that game because guard Max Abmas got into foul trouble early. Abmas, who leads Division I with a 24.5 scoring average, sat out the final 3:39 of the first half after picking up his third foul and spent two minutes on the bench after getting his fourth midway through the second half. He had 11 points, four assists and three steals.

Iron men Kevin Obanor and Abmas, who both have played the full 85 tournament minutes, have carried the Golden Eagles, the second No. 15 seed to win two tournament games. Florida Gulf Coast did it in 2013 before losing in the Sweet 16.

Forward Obanor had 30 points and 11 rebounds against Ohio State and 28 and 11 against Florida while making nine three-pointers. Abmas has 55 points and seven threes.

Obanor had 21 points and 10 rebounds in the first game against Arkansas. Both teams have gotten better since, and the Hogs understand better what they are up against. But the 11.5-point spread is too high, just as the total (159) seems a bit low.

Jack Magruder

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