NCAA Bracket 2015: March Madness Odds and Predictions for Sweet 16 Slate

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NCAA Bracket 2015: March Madness Odds and Predictions for Sweet 16 Slate

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It wasn’t a good weekend for some NCAA tournament favorites.

The round of 32 produced plenty of compelling college hoops and reminded us once again why it’s called March Madness. Villanova was the first top-seeded squad to be sent packing, and the Wildcats were joined by No. 2 seeds Virginia and Kansas. Round 3 struggles weren’t only had by favorites, though, as Cinderella teams didn’t fare so well either. Following the departures of Dayton, Georgia State, Ohio State and UAB, No. 11 UCLA is now the last squad standing that’s higher than a No. 8 seed. After a couple days of much-needed rest, the Big Dance’s remaining 16 teams will take the hardwood in an effort to earn berths in the Elite Eight. Based on recent performances from the surviving squads, we should be in for some more edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting action. But which teams have the upper hand?

Here’s a look at the odds for all of the eight impending contests and a predicted winner for each.

Remember when Connecticut began to make a brilliant run through the NCAA tournament in 2014? If so, look at the 2015 Wichita State Shockers. Wichita State entered the Big Dance on the heels of a surprising loss to Illinois State in the MVC tournament. That defeat, however, may have been the spark that ignited a talented Shockers squad. The Shockers rolled past Indiana in Round 2 before pummeling Kansas to gain entry into the Sweet 16.

The Shockers were absolutely on fire during their 78-65 drubbing of the Jayhawks. As a team, they shot 49.0 percent from the floor, 50.0 percent from downtown and 75.0 percent from the line. Every starter scored double-digit points in a well-rounded effort. Tekele Cotton led the charge, accumulating 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Evan Wessel was dynamic from downtown, bucketing four of his six attempts from distance, and Fred VanVleet was solid as always, racking up 17 points, six assists and four steals on the game. That kind of continued effort from all five starters will make the Shockers a force for the remainder of the tournament. If Wichita State had any weakness in that contest, it was its inability to compete on the inside, as Kansas racked up 38 rebounds to the Shockers’ 32. Fourteen of the Jayhawks’ boards came on the offensive end of the court, giving them many second-chance opportunities, and Wichita State was fortunate its opponent was struggling with accuracy.

Which team gets the win?

The versatile and athletic lineup of Notre Dame will prove to be a huge test for the Shockers. The Fighting Irish took down Butler in an overtime thriller, and the team’s strengths were on display during the win. Zach Auguste may have only tallied seven points, but he was a force down low for the Irish, coming away with 13 rebounds. A trio of guards lit it up on the offensive end of the court, as Steve Vasturia scored a team-high 20 points, Jerian Grant came away with 16, and Demetrius Jackson was solid with 13.

Defensively, Pat Connaughton stole the show. He may have only accumulated seven points, but he tallied nine rebounds and an impressive five blocks. His efforts allowed Notre Dame to win the battle of the boards and emerge victorious despite Butler attempting 12 more field goals over the course of the game.

While the Irish defense did step up against the Bulldogs, allowing them to shoot just 33.3 percent from the floor, Butler isn’t exactly known for its offensive prowess or shooting accuracy. While Wichita State has been more of a defensive team this season, the Shockers have recently caught fire on the offensive end of the court, and their momentum should keep that streak alive. Notre Dame is officially on notice. Both of these teams are well-rounded and highly athletic. This contest should prove to be one of the most enthralling we see during this year’s Sweet 16. The squad that will come away with the win will have to show great consistency on the defensive end of the court and control the pace of the game. The upper hand goes to Wichita State in that regard.

Prediction: Wichita State 72, Notre Dame 68

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