Several elite teams barely survived scares to advance past the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. But for Connecticut and dominant 7-foot-3-inch Hasheem Thabeet, there was no sweat and no chance of being upset.
The Huskies, seeded No. 1 in the West, crushed Chattanooga and Texas A&M by a combined 82 points to reach the Sweet 16. Good teams win, and great teams easily cover the spread.
The other top seeds -- Louisville, North Carolina and Pittsburgh -- had a tougher go of it. The Cardinals and Panthers were a combined 0-4 against the spread.
With fewer upsets than usual during this NCAA Tournament, the betting public survived the battle against the sports books last week.
"It definitely has been a public favorite tournament," MGM Mirage sports book director Jay Rood said. "The public did really well."
Fourteen of the remaining teams are seeded No. 4 or better, with 12th-seeded Arizona qualifying as the only Cinderella story. The Wildcats are 9-point underdogs to Louisville on Friday in Indianapolis.
There are no bad matchups and no double-digit favorites in the Sweet 16, which starts today with Connecticut playing fifth-seeded Purdue.
"There is quite a bit of parity on the board," Rood said. "It should be good action both ways."
Four handicappers offer their best Sweet 16 bets:
• Connecticut (-7) over Purdue: At this stage of the tournament, defense is the key to winning. The Huskies' Thabeet is the best shot blocker in college basketball, and his presence will force the Boilermakers to make jump shots instead of driving the lane.
Connecticut's front line is strong and athletic, with Thabeet supported by 6-foot-9-inch Stanley Robinson and 6-7 Jeff Adrien. Senior guard A.J. Price is a smooth shooter who gives the Huskies an outside threat.
Purdue is a young team led by sophomores Robbie Hummel, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson. If the 6-10 Johnson gets in foul trouble, the Boilermakers will struggle because they lack depth inside. Purdue is from the slower Big Ten and will be outclassed by a Big East power.
-- Mike Scalleat Ecappermall.com
• Villanova (+21/2) over Duke: My power ratings make Villanova a 2-point favorite, so we're getting great value by turning a favorite into an underdog. Junior Scottie Reynolds and the Wildcats' guards will cause a lot of problems for Duke by breaking the Blue Devils' pressure and getting to the basket easily.
Gerald Henderson, Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer are consistent offensive threats for Duke. But don't underestimate the fact this game is in Boston. That's Big East country, so the Wildcats will have the crowd behind them. Villanova gets the straight-up win.
-- Jamie Tursini, VegasInsider.com
• Kansas (+2) over Michigan State: The Jayhawks must get scoring from guard Sherron Collins and center Cole Aldrich, but they also have several effective role players. The offensive superiority of Kansas should make the difference in a close game.
These teams match up fairly evenly on defense, but Kansas is a better offensive team, averaging 76.8 points with a 47.8 field-goal percentage. The Jayhawks are 20-8 against the spread this season, including 19-5 ATS versus opponents with a winning record.
-- Doug Fitz, Systemplays.com
• Gonzaga (+81/2) over North Carolina: The Bulldogs have lost once by more than 10 points in the past two seasons, an 18-point loss to Memphis in early February. Gonzaga, shooting 49 percent from the field and averaging 79 points, has athletes and is an excellent shooting team.
Point guard Ty Lawson's toe injury is a concern for North Carolina, which has covered in only three of its past 10 games. The Tar Heels' weakness is defense, and they will be challenged by Gonzaga's height and diverse offense. This should be a close one, so take the points.
-- Joseph D'Amico, Allamericansports.info
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.