Villanova Favored Over Michigan In Sweet 16 Battle Thursday Night

No, this one is not for the National Championship, as it was in 2018. But it’s for the right to keep moving toward one.

The Villanova Wildcats, who toppled Michigan 79-62 to win the NCAA title in 2018, face the Wolverines again as a solid five-point favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook on Thursday night in the 2022 Sweet 16.

The connection to 2018 isn’t remote for New Jersey bettors.

Villanova’s Collin Gillespie and Michigan’s Eli Brooks guarded each other in the final minute of that championship game. They later took the COVID-19 waiver to prolong their college careers and find themselves as team leaders in a potential last dance at the Big Dance.

New Jersey Bettors Back Wildcats

DraftKings figures Tuesday night indicated that 77% of the handle was going on Villanova at -4.5, even with only 58% of the tickets being wagered on Villanova.

That means the players with bigger bets weighed in on Villanova. Those percentages helped the line get nudged to -5 on Wednesday morning.

The bettors favor the over 135.5 by a 60-40 margin.

Villanova received 69% of the moneyline bets, even at an unattractive -220. Michigan’s 31% revolved around a moneyline of +175.

“This will write more money than any other game on Thursday in my opinion,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told NJGS. “This is one of those intriguing matchups on both sides.”

“Villanova coach Jay Wright has been around the block (having won two national championships) and he knows how to get teams ready for the tournament games. Michigan grabs a lot of money because it has a tough schedule and came in as a high seed, but then beat Colorado and Tennessee.”

Avello continued:

“You don’t have too many 17-win teams even get into the tournament, let alone win some big games and the Michigan victory over Tennessee was really substantial. It beat the team everybody was talking about. Tennessee looked like it was capable of winning the whole thing.”

The Wildcats remain a good long-range betting value.

DraftKings listed them as +240 to reach the Final Four. That would require a victory over Michigan and then the winner between Arizona and Houston.

Villanova is +1400 to capture the championship. Gonzaga remains the chalk across most of the NJ sportsbooks.

Villanova Vs. Michigan Sweet 16 Preview

Villanova faces a team that has waged a tougher tournament journey.

The No. 2 seed Wildcats beat up on No. 15 Delaware and then outgunned No. 7 Ohio State.

Michigan, showing toughness in its past two wins, is playing with house money.

The Wildcats feature balanced scoring with four players usually in double figures. Against Ohio State, Gillespie had 20, Jermaine Samuels dropped in 17, Caleb Daniels had 11, and Justin Moore scored eight.

Michigan got 27 points from Hunter Dickinson, 23 from Brooks, and 13 by Moussa Diabate in its last victory.

Villanova takes more threes than Michigan (26 a game compared to 18.5), is the best foul-shooting team in the country at 83%, and has kept its turnovers down. This is a veteran, battle-tested team.

The over-under of 135 will be a target for over bettors, as each team has delivered 151 points, or a 75.5 average, in their two postseason wins.

The game is intriguing on several levels.

Villanova gained momentum from a tough, character-building Big East tournament victory and has rolled in the Big Dance.

As Big East favorites, the Wildcats trailed St. John’s by 17 points in the second half before storming back to snare a 66-65 triumph. They outlasted UConn in a 63-60 thriller and slipped past Creighton 54-48 to win the conference.

Coming back against St. John’s has propelled Villanova to another speed.

Michigan entered with a 17-15 record, arguably not good enough to reach the tournament. The Wolverines then issued a mild surprise in beating Colorado State and a major one by shocking Tennessee, the hottest team in the country at the time.

Talk about getting hot when it matters.

Sweet 16 Odds At NJ Sportsbooks

There’s a lot to look at regarding other Thursday games in the Sweet 16, too.

Gonzaga obtained 57% of the handle at -9 against Arkansas.

Duke gained 70% of the money at +1 against Texas Tech, but 82% of the moneyline price of -105 in an essential pick’em game.

Arizona has 71% of the money against Houston at -2 and 80% of the moneyline at -125.

“The second-round lineup is fantastic and I expect the betting to be very strong,” Avello noted. “Look at all these great teams. Who doesn’t love to bet Duke as an underdog?”

“And what happens now is that the amount of money goes up. Fewer games, bigger bets, that’s always how it works out. It’s often double. The person betting $20,000 goes to $40,000. The person betting $100,000 is up to $200,000. And the $200,000 bettor now goes to $500,000. It’s hard to beat what we did in the first round, but you never know.”

March Madness Opening Weekend Recap

The first round was exceptional not only for volume, but results.

No. 1 seed Baylor went down. St. Peter’s of Jersey City took down Kentucky in the opening game, although the Peacocks burned the books by beating Murray State in the second matchup.

They were 4-1 underdogs and heavily played on the moneyline.

“The first round of betting was off the charts,” Avello asserted. “We knew it was going to be tremendous during the first round of the tournament, but it exceeded my expectations. We had the right mix of favorites and underdogs play out and we got some upsets.”

Avello chuckled over the DraftKings giveaway that nearly became a takeaway. The book offered a $50 max on Gonzaga at +100 against Georgia State in the first game. It was a layup, bet $50 and get $100 back.

But the layup nearly spilled out of the New Jersey bettors’ collection baskets.

Halfway through the second half, Gonzaga, a 23-point favorite, actually trailed before pulling away to win.

“Our customers were very happy at the offer,” Avello said. “We love to give money away and that’s what we were doing there, but the people almost didn’t get it.”

In the end, they did. And here comes Round 2.


(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

About the Author

Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo, a multiple national award-winning boxing commentator and writer, authors NFL betting columns for the Press of Atlantic City and IGaming Player, among others.