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Why Michigan State Can Make a Run for the Final Four

Publish Date: 03/20/2023
Fact checked by: Allan Howe

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The Sweet 16 is set for March Madness, and now we have three days to prepare our March Madness basketball betting strategy for the next games in the NCAA Tournament.

A Big 10 powerhouse with one of the best coaches in college hoops is in a great position to rattle off the two wins it needs to make the Final Four. That team is Michigan State, and they’re so respected that some Michigan sportsbooks have the Spartans as favorites in its Thursday game against Kansas State.

Let’s look at that South region matchup and three more from the Sweet 16 round, as we identify opportunities for earning wins on our college bets in this tournament.

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Michigan State (7) vs. Kansas State (3)

There’s an old adage that players win the NBA, and coaches win in college hoops. It’s old for a reason: it rings true. Few teams have a coach who can even come close to matching up with Tom Izzo of Michigan State. In his 28 seasons at MSU, Izzo has guided the Spartans to the Sweet 16 half (14) of the time.

Izzo has a no-name team without a true superstar. He may not have one player on his roster this season who will play at the next level. But that doesn’t matter: Izzo squeezes more out of less than any coach in college basketball.

Kansas State has gone from a 14-17 mark a year ago to 25 wins (and counting) this season. What’s the secret? New faces. The team added Florida transfer Keyontae Johnson and JUCO transfer Nae'Qwan Tomlin, who reshaped the front court. Add in new head coach Jerome Tang, and K State has a completely new culture built on competition every day for everything you earn.

This Sweet 16 game sees MSU as a -1 (-120) favorite according to DraftKings sports betting app. But we expect it to be a tossup by tipoff. Bet the $120 on the Spartans to win $100. In Izzo we trust.

Gonzaga (3) vs. UCLA (2)

Three things are certain: death, taxes, and Gonzaga underperforming in the NCAA Tournament. Last year, as a No. 1 seed, the Zags were eliminated in the Sweet 16 by Arkansas. They also exited the tournament in the Sweet 16 in 2018 and 2016. Four times since 2017, Gonzaga has been a No. 1 seed but failed to win a national title.

That’s a bit unfair, since it’s difficult to sustain success in March Madness. But, Gonzaga still hasn’t cut down the nets in the Final Four yet, and this year will be no different. We expect the Bruins, who present a tough matchup for the Zags, to slip into the Elite Eight. Look for a tight game, maybe even OT to decide this heavyweight matchup.

Miami (5) vs. Houston (1)

The Sweet 16 contest most likely to be a high-scoring game is this one between the underestimated Hurricanes and the enigmatic Cougars.

It doesn’t seem like Houston is playing crisp basketball as the season winds to a conclusion. In each of its wins in this tournament, the Cougars have been uneven, with its offense suffering scoreless droughts. Miami is too good of a shooting team for that to go unpunished.

Still, we think Houston will get themselves to the Elite Eight for a third consecutive season. The team has immense experience: the Cougars have won nine of their last 11 games in March Madness. We like Houston to break out with a dominant win over the Hurricanes.

Princeton (15) vs. Creighton (6)

The lowest seed matchup in the round of 16 is this delicious game between the eggheads at Princeton and the Creighton Bluejays of Omaha. The Tigers can become just the second No. 15 seed to make the Elite Eight if they can pull off another upset. It would be the second straight year it’s happened (Saint Peter’s did it in 2022).

But if Princeton is going to carry its Cinderella slipper into the next round, they will need to improve on their three-point shooting, and hold their own in the paint rebounding the ball. Creighton is hard-nosed and has speed in the backcourt. If the Bluejays go small with a three-guard set, this could be a blowout.

Betting tip: give the points (10 from DraftKings) and pick Creighton to make its first Elite Eight.

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