The NCAA Tournament returns to action on Thursday night as the East and South regions play their Sweet 16 games to tip off the second weekend of March Madness action.
From the tournament favorite to one of college basketball’s greatest coaches ever, there are plenty of highlights on the Thursday slate. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect from the first night of the Sweet 16, with all odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.
Gonzaga (-9.5) vs. Arkansas
No. 1 seed Gonzaga didn’t put together the most dominant display last weekend, but the Bulldogs remain alive – and the +220 overall tournament favorite – as they continue to chase the school’s first national title.
"I don't want you getting on this plane tomorrow if you don't think in your every fiber in your body that we're going to win this game." – Eric Musselman
— March Madness Men’s Basketball TV (@MM_MBB_TV) March 24, 2022
While Arkansas comes in as a serious underdog in this Sweet 16 matchup, the Razorbacks can play defense and have the potential to get Gonzaga into foul trouble. If that happens, the Zags relative lack of depth could open the door to a major upset.
Villanova (-5) vs. Michigan
While Michigan doesn’t feel like a Cinderella, the Wolverines are one of the four remaining double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16. Still, oddsmakers give them enough credit to make No. 2 seed Villanova just a five-point favorite in this matchup.
The Wildcats will try to hit plenty of threes and jump out to another early lead in this one. If Michigan can weather the storm, it has already proven it can grind out wins against supposedly superior opponents in the second half.
Texas Tech (pk) vs. Duke
Mike Krzyzewski will retire after this season, meaning Duke’s next loss will be his final game. That raises the stakes for this highly anticipated battle between Texas Tech and Duke. The Red Raiders boast arguably the best defense in the nation this season, while Duke sports an explosive offense behind freshman superstar Paolo Banchero.
Coach K says AJ Griffin will play tomorrow night.
He did suffer a sprained ankle but practiced without any soreness.
— Ryan Lommen (@TheDukeNation) March 23, 2022
Blue Devils freshman AJ Griffin will also play despite spraining his ankle against Michigan State, something that could help Duke stretch the Texas Tech offense and open up more opportunities both from behind the arc and in the paint.
Arizona (-1.5) vs. Houston
It’s hard to regard a team as a dark horse when everyone seems to know that it’s among the best teams in the country. Houston may have only earned a No. 5 seed, but KenPom.com rates the Cougars as the No. 2 team in the country behind Gonzaga. That would make them a deserving favorite against most teams. But Arizona earned its No. 1 seed by dominating the Pac-12 this season and sits right behind Houston at No. 3 in the KenPom rankings.
Houston has yet to face a test in the tournament, while the Wildcats needed overtime to get past TCU in the second round. This is truly a tossup, a Sweet 16 matchup that would have been every bit worthy of being a national championship game.