3 March Madness Upset Picks for Sweet 16 Round of NCAA Tournament

Three best Sweet 16 upset picks for March Madness 2021 NCAA tournament, including Syracuse, Florida State and Oregon.
Three best Sweet 16 upset picks for March Madness 2021 NCAA tournament, including Syracuse, Florida State and Oregon. / Soobum Im/Getty Images

The Sweet 16 pairings and odds are set, and the match-ups are quite different from the last NCAA Tournament in 2019 when all 16 favorites won in the Round of 32. That was a first-time occurrence in the history of the NCAA Tournament.

But this year's tournament still features a number of longshots and Cinderella stories

The odds to win the college basketball championship have been adjusted by FanDuel Sportsbook, and Gonzaga, Michigan and Baylor remain popular bets as No. 1 seeds. There are still four double-digit seed teams remaining, along with an 8, 7 and 6 seed.

With that in mind, here are 3 potential upset picks who can play within the point spread or advance to the Elite 8.

March Madness Upset Picks: Sweet 16

3. No. 11 Syracuse Over No. 2 Houston

The 3-point shot can be a great equalizer in college basketball, and No. 11 seed Syracuse has used it to pull off a pair of NCAA Tournament wins. The Orange have nailed 29 three-pointers in two games, and made double-digit 3's in four of their last five contests. The Syracuse zone defense also baffled both San Diego State and West Virginia, holding them below 40% shooting. It will be a tougher challenge against No. 2 seed Houston, who has the No. 1 effective FG% defense in the country, according to KenPom. But the Cougars shooting is suspect, and nearly cost them last round when they pulled victory from the jaws of defeat against Rutgers. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim's son Buddy is averaging 28 points per game over the Orange's last four contests. Those were all victories with three in the underdog role. Another hot shooting night keeps Cinderella Syracuse alive in the Big Dance.

2. No. 7 Oregon Over No. 6 USC

The Pac-12 has four teams remaining in the NCAA Tournament and the 'Conference of Champions' produced a 9-1 record (both straight up and against the spread) in the opening rounds. This Pac-12 match-up will send the winner to the Elite 8, and No. 6 seed USC is taking the money with a line move up from -1 to -2.5. The Trojans' 85-51 blowout win over Kansas was arguably the most impressive result in the Round of 32. USC's defense is a real strength, ranking top-5 in adjusted efficiency ratings and No. 1 in 2-point FG%, according to KenPom. But Oregon is incredibly well coached as well, and the Ducks offense is top-10 in efficiency with strong perimeter shooters. Four players scored at least 23 points in the 95-80 win over Iowa last round. Oregon's only loss in its final 11 regular season games was at Los Angeles against USC, but it was a tough scheduling spot and third game in five days for Oregon, who can better prepare its match-up zone for this rematch. The Ducks will need another strong shooting night to win, as USC has the stronger rebounding and defense, but if they get hot then an upset win could certainly be in the cards.

1. No. 4 Florida State Over No. 1 Michigan

Florida State took out well-coached No. 5 seed Colorado last round. That was the Pac-12's highest seeded team and only loser in the tournament. No. 4 seed Florida State has the athletes and length to handle No. 1 Michigan, who is he last of nine Big Ten teams remaining in the tournament and is playing without star injured forward Isaiah Livers. Florida State has held each of its last four opponents under 36% FG shooting, and if the Seminoles can overcome turnover issues and usually suspect coaching by Leonard Hamilton, they can advance. Michigan's 7-foot star Hunter Dickinson needs to be handled, but Illinois was able to do it late in the season when they buried Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines generate turnovers at the 20th lowest rate in the country, and only had three against LSU last round in a back-and-forth game that Michigan was able to pull away and win late. Florida State is far better defensively than LSU and can adjust to Michigan's interior players and perimeter shooters.

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