March Madness 2015: Thursday's Sweet Sixteen Best Bets

I admire confidence. I despise stupidity. And I have no idea what category West Virginia freshman Daxter Miles' "guarantee" of a Mountaineer win over Kentucky falls under. I do know that I'm glad it happened, as it added some juice to an otherwise potentially juice-less game.

In case you missed it, Miles was asked a question about his team's upcoming opponent in the Sweet Sixteen Midwest Regional, and here's what he had to say:

So what effect does this have on the game tonight between the Mountaineers and the Wildcats? Will the Mountaineers be running off the court wagging a number one finger like Joe Namath, or will the Wildcats be disgustedly shaking their heads at a bloodied West Virginia like Ivan Drago to Apollo Creed?

Let's pick that one and the rest of tonight's games:

Kentucky -13.5 over West Virginia My personal feeling, I think Miles' comments were ill-advised, even if they represent the exact type of bravado you need just to belong on the court with this Kentucky team. He also had comments about the focus of this Kentucky group and I will admit, they play bored sometimes. That's what happens when you're forecasted as a coin flipper to win the whole tournament. The Mountaineers' use of full court pressure is well documented, but I frankly think it will be a welcome development for Coach Cal's group to get out and run a little bit after being in a backyard brawl with Cincinnati. Kentucky has performed well this season as a big favorite, 11-0 SU and 8-2-1 ATS in their last 11 games as a double digit spread. I think this becomes a methodical thrashing in the second half, and Kentucky says "If they die, they die."

Notre Dame +2 over Wichita State Let's be honest, any selection of Notre Dame beyond this point in the tournament is a leap of faith, from an historical standpoint. The Irish have only been this far in the tournament once under Mike Brey and it was 12 years ago. Twitter and Facebook were a gleam in our social media eye back then. (Actually, did the term "social media" even exist back then?) That said, I think this Notre Dame group will relish the underdog role (a 3 seed as a dog to a 7 seed!) the same way they did in the ACC tournament. They're 6-2 ATS in their last eight as an underdog. Style-wise, Wichita State is a good matchup for Notre Dame as they're a more perimeter based team, so the Irish's lack of size can't haunt really haunt them. Notre Dame's offense is the most efficient in the country, led by All American Jerian Grant, and their defense is underrated, and this is one team where Wichita State won't have an edge at point guard the way they have most of the season. I'll take Demetrius Jackson over Fred VanVleet. Irish march on.

Wisconsin -6 over North Carolina This is a North Carolina team that's played better basketball as the season has gone on, making it to the ACC Finals, and coming one huge Notre Dame run from winning the toughest conference in the land. In the round of 32, they caught a great matchup, with an Arkansas team that likes to run, run, run. North Carolina obliged, and obliterated. Wisconsin will make the Heels earn everything, and the Badgers have the size up front with Frank Kaminsky and others to combat the Heels' big front line. The Badgers' tempo is among the slowest in the country. We haven't seen Wisconsin's A-game in a while. I think we see it tonight.

Arizona -10.5 over Xavier Kentucky is still the odds-on favorite to win this whole thing, but the fact is they're not even playing the best basketball out of the teams named "Wildcats" right now! Arizona has been a machine over the last month, rolling through the Pac-12, and storming into the Sweet 16, somehow as a two seed (You should be ashamed Villanova, your one seed was a phony.). This will be an immovable object/irresistible force situation from an ATS standpoint, with Arizona 11-3 ATS in their last 14 games as a double digit favorite and Xavier 12-3 ATS in their last 15 games as an underdog. I'll take all that NBA talent and point guard T.J. McConnell.

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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast