The first round of the 2021-22 NCAA tournament kicks off on Thursday as all of college basketball’s top programs compete for the pleasure of cutting down the nets and bringing home a national championship. Each of the No. 1 seeds enter this tournament with very high expectations. It’s easy to project those teams into the Sweet 16 and the odds reflect that. But which less obvious Sweet 16 picks present real betting value?
We’ll try to uncover which of these 64 teams will be this year’s Cinderella.
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Sweet 16 Value Picks
Prices listed come from DraftKings Sportsbook.
East Region No. 12 Indiana (+600)
After winning their First Four matchup Tuesday night versus Wyoming, the Hoosiers receive an opportunity to compete against the fifth-seeded St. Mary’s Gaels.
All-American forward and fringe NBA draft prospect Trayce Jackson-Davis leads the way. In the regular season, the 6-foot-9 forward put up an impressive 18.5 PPG in addition to grabbing over 8 RPG. Jackson-Davis may present the Gaels with some serious matchup issues, and if the Hoosiers make a run to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2016, it will happen on the back of their leader and star.
At +600, sufficient value exists to back the No. 12-seeded Indiana Hoosiers to make the Sweet 16.
South Region No. 6 Colorado State (+650)
The Colorado State Rams meet the No. 11-seeded Michigan Wolverines to earn a spot in the second round. Then, they would face the winner of No. 3 Tennessee versus another Cinderella hopeful, the Longwood Lancers. In what could shape up as a very competitive first round matchup, the Rams will do everything they can to stop Michigan. In this case that means containing F Hunter Dickinson.
Luckily for the Rams, they have just the guy for the task. David Roddy, their 6-foot-8 forward and Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, gets the job. He averaged nearly 20 PPG and 7.5 RPG himself. Despite Dickinson’s impressive skills with the ball, physical defenders have rattled him in the past. Indiana’s Jackson-Davis comes to mind in the Big Ten tournament.
A win against Michigan would lead to a likely matchup with the Volunteers. Although Rick Barnes’ team capped off its season with an SEC conference title, winning 12 of their last 13, Colorado State most definitely can upset Tennessee and advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1969.
South Region No. 12 UAB (+1000)
The UAB Blazers will play their first NCAA tournament game since 2015. The program has a lot on the line when they meet up with last year’s Final Four team, the fifth-seeded Houston Cougars. While finishing the regular season 27-7, the Blazers won their last seven games, capping off an unbelievable season with a Conference USA title.
Behind the leadership of star G Jon “Jelly” Walker, who averaged 20/3/4, UAB looks to build upon its streak. To make the Sweet 16, the Blazers will also have to defeat the winner of the South Region’s matchup between No. 4 Illinois and No. 13 Chattanooga. That matchup that has the potential to be a lot closer than most think. There is certainly sufficient value to back the No. 12-seeded Blazers at +1000 given how well they’re playing.
East Region No. 9 North Carolina (+400)
As they say, “if the shoe fits,” or in this case, the slipper. North Carolina does not typically occupy the underdog role. But in the 2022 NCAA tournament, first-year coach and Tar Heel alum Hubert Davis has his team ready to embrace just that.
With a win against its arch-rival Duke, North Carolina finished the regular season on a very positive note, although the ACC tournament went less well. Still, by beating Coach K in his last home game, the Tar Heels enter March Madness with a ton of momentum. A first round matchup with Marquette awaits with the Heels favorites.
The winner will more than likely move on to face Scott Drew’s reigning champs, the No. 1-seeded Baylor Bears. In a year where Baylor moved on from its two star players, NBA picks Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell, Drew rallied the troops, leading the Bears to a 26-6 record and a second consecutive No. 1 seed.
For the prestigious Carolina program, a second-round matchup is nothing new, and I expect the Tar Heels to live up to their reputation by delivering a dogfight until the final whistle. Although to some, North Carolina basketball is no Cinderella, there’s no doubt that the No. 9 seed in the East has a lot to prove. They should play with a massive chip on their collective shoulder. I like them to reach the Sweet 16 at +400 or higher.
West Region No. 10 Davidson (+550)
The Davidson Wildcats look to add to an already extremely impressive 2021-22 season campaign by adding an NCAA tournament Sweet 16 appearance to the history books alongside the famous 2010 run to the Elite 8 behind Stephen Curry. In the first round, Davidson matches up with a team all too familiar with the NCAA tournament, the Michigan State Spartans led by coaching legend Tom Izzo.
For the Wildcats, who finished the regular season 27-6, a regular season Atlantic 10 title is far from enough, as they set their sights much higher. In order to finish what has been an incredible season with its head held high, Davidson looks to reach the Sweet 16, even if they need to take out two Hall of Fame head coaches to get there. Coach K and the Blue Devils loom in the second round.
Examining what has constituted a typical Cinderella team in previous years, shooting efficiency, especially from beyond the arc, plays a very significant role. Luckily for the Wildcats, who rank in the top five this season in both 3-point FG% and overall shooting efficiency, they most definitely fit the mold.
At the+680 price I secured, the West Region’s 10th-seeded Wildcats are a great selection to punch their ticket into the Sweet 16. Unfortunately, the DK price sits well shy of that, so make sure you shop around.