If you survived through the first weekend of your March Madness Survivor pool, congratulations, you deftly avoided several landmines. If you did it on the backs of 20 other teammates (like I did), two-thirds of whom were obliterated by said landmines, I take that congratulations back, you accomplished nothing. In either case, it is time to stop patting yourself on the back, and get back to work. It only gets harder from here.
Because there are “only” four games per night in the Sweet 16 (Thursday and Friday), and most people’s brackets are busted beyond recognition, I will include an against the spread pick to keep things interesting.
Survivor Pick: Oklahoma Sooners
Kansas is the “safe” pick, but you are going to need to use them later in the tournament. Now is the time to use your Oklahoma Sooners bullet, if you have not fired that one off already. Oklahoma is led by one of the best and most exciting players in the country, Buddy Hield. He just dropped 36 points on VCU to lead Oklahoma to the Sweet 16. But they are more than just Hield, as three other players average double figures. They have one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the county, and a nasty front court player in Ryan Spangler, who averaged 9.3 rpg.
Meanwhile, Texas A&M just went on an emotional rollercoaster ride, needing a miracle to beat Northern Iowa in double OT. They celebrated like they just won the national championship, and maybe rightfully so, considering the way they came back from the dead. But this looked like a team that was destined to get knocked off. And if you have seen the Final Destination movies, you know death doesn’t quit. Take the Sooners on Thursday night.
ATS Pick: Duke Blue Devils +3
I’m going to keep riding Duke, and their seemingly, surprisingly underrated trio of Brandon Ingram, Grayson Allen, and Marshall Plumlee. Maybe the 2nd half scare vs. Yale have some running for the hills, but Yale was a legitimate team with no quit in them. And Oregon struggled themselves in round 2 vs. St. Joseph’s, pulling off a narrow victory after being down seven with five minutes to play. In this Duke vs. Oregon Sweet 16 matchup, Duke will have the best player on the court, Ingram, and the best coach, Mike Krzyzewski. This should be a close game, but I like Duke to win it, and the 3 points are just gravy.
By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)