The seventh-seeded Wichita State Shockers were extra motivated in knocking out the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks in the round of 32 and now need to refocus on beating the No. 3 Notre Dame Fighting Irish when they meet Thursday in a Midwest Region Sweet 16 matchup.
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The Shockers topped their in-state rival Kansas 78-65 in a pick’em game to advance, while the Fighting Irish got by the pesky No. 6 Butler Bulldogs in a 67-64 overtime victory but failed to cover the spread as 4.5-point favorites.
The Shockers opened as one-point favorites. (Compare lines and consensus on the Odds Shark matchup report.)
Why pick Wichita State to cover the spread
Motivation is a real handicapping factor for teams in the Big Dance, as the Jayhawks found out the hard way after failing to make Wichita State a regular opponent on their schedule in the past. The tough part for the Shockers right now is realizing how good Notre Dame is and taking the Fighting Irish seriously in between Kansas and possibly the Kentucky Wildcats in the Midwest Regional Final. As a higher seed and the ACC tournament champions, that should not be too difficult.
Wichita State has lost only twice since Christmas and knows what it takes to win during this time in the tournament after advancing to the Final Four in 2013. The Shockers have also thrived as favorites between one and three points, going a remarkable 14-3 against the spread since 2010.
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Why pick Notre Dame to cover the spread
Notre Dame has not done anything overly impressive to get to the Sweet 16 except win two games in resilient fashion. The Fighting Irish have earned their moniker so far by staving off the best shots from the 14th-seeded Northeastern Huskies and Bulldogs en route to victory, playing tough defense and coming through in the clutch offensively when needed as well.
For example, Notre Dame swingman Pat Connaughton blocked a potential game-winning three-pointer from Butler’s Kellen Dunham at the end of regulation and then hit his first three-point shot in OT after missing his first five attempts. Connaughton may exemplify the team’s spirit more than any other player and rightfully so since he has played in a school-record 137 games.
The Irish are also 6-2 ATS in their last eight games as underdogs, including two straight-up wins over the Duke Blue Devils, two over the North Carolina Tar Heels and one over the Louisville Cardinals—all Sweet 16 teams.
Smart betting pick
Notre Dame has failed to cover the spread in eight straight games during the Big Dance, but seven of those have seen the Irish favored. As mentioned earlier, they play extremely well as underdogs, which is why they are the pick here.
Wichita State is a good team but simply should not be favored against a team seeded four spots higher. The win for the Shockers over Kansas is overvalued, with some oddsmakers realizing this and opening Notre Dame as the favorite. The betting public might think otherwise, but the Fighting Irish are the better team and will move on.
Power rankings (per Odds Shark power rankings)
Wichita State Shockers: No. 4
Notre Dame Fighting Irish: No. 87
March Madness betting trends
Notre Dame is 6-2 ATS in its past eight games as underdogs.
Notre Dame is 0-8 ATS in its past eight March Madness games.
Wichita State is 7-2 ATS in its past nine March Madness games.
Note: All spread and betting line data powered by Odds Shark. Download the free Lines and Bet Tracker app in the Apple Store and on Google Play.
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