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March Madness: Best bets for Friday in the Sweet 16

Justin Casterline / Getty Images Sport / Getty

From the two remaining 1-seeds to the last of the Cinderellas with No. 15 Princeton, Friday's second grouping of Sweet 16 games at the NCAA Tournament isn't without storylines

. But with four contests all with 4.5-point spreads or higher, how competitive will they be?

From a betting standpoint, that's what lines are for. Of course, after a first weekend with its fair share of upsets, maybe a few of these underdogs are live to win outright, meaning their bandwagon won't turn into a pumpkin just yet.

(5) San Diego State vs. (1) Alabama (-7.5, 136.5)

Pre-tournament ratings made this a 4.5-point spread. Despite two strong games from San Diego State, you can sell me on a line of Alabama -5. The point spread touched -8 before seeing buy-back on the Aztecs.

On the court, this feels like a matchup of width versus length. The Crimson Tide have long players at the rim, ready to block shots against teams unwilling to play offense in the mid-range. However, San Diego State had, by its own standards, stronger-than-usual offensive metrics despite only taking 70% of its shots at the rim or 3-point line. Meanwhile, the broad-shouldered Aztecs do their defensive work by using their strength to constrict offenses, pushing them away from where they want to take shots.

Lastly, a game played between two of the top five teams in Kenpom's defensive efficiency means that every point is that much more valuable, so 7.5 points is a tougher cover here than in a contest with a higher total.

Pick: San Diego State +7.5

(5) Miami vs. (1) Houston (-7, 138.5)

For a moment it looked like Houston was in real trouble. Its pair of star guards came into the second-round game against Auburn with injury issues, and then it faced a 10-point halftime deficit. But the Cougars then put together arguably the most impressive half - on both ends - of the tournament so far.

Why are they the bet against Miami, which has won and covered in each of its tournament games? Because Houston has the ability to blitz opponents with steals and rebounds that turn into a massive run.

Miami's 108th-ranked defensive efficiency, per Kenpom, won't stop the Cougars when they get going. The Hurricanes were +4 in rebounding per game in the ACC, but that won't hold up when Houston crashes the glass, creating extra possessions, and Miami won't make up for that from beyond the 3-point line, as it made just the eighth-most threes in the ACC this season.

Pick: Houston (-7)

(15) Princeton vs. (6) Creighton (-10, 140.5)

If Princeton's first-round win over Arizona was a fluke then the school would have lost in the second round like most of the other 15-seeds to pull off a big upset. Trouncing Missouri in the second didn't just advance the Tigers to the Sweet 16 but also means we can trust them to give Creighton a run on Friday.

The previous three 15-seeds in the third round all hung around with their 3-seed opponents in what is the toughest possible matchup at this point in the bracket. Those teams were also imbalanced, rating poorly on either offense (Florida Gulf Coast, Saint Peter's) or defense (Oral Roberts). Princeton is in the top 100 in adjusted efficiency in each category. Plus, the school is fourth in the country in percentage of shots at the rim or from three.

Now, the Tigers get 10 points against Creighton - a team that's lacked consistency at times this season and has a coach in Greg McDermott who's never made it past this round in the tournament. Take the points with the Tigers, expecting them to be highly competitive like the past 15-seeds legitimate enough to play on the second weekend.

Pick: Princeton (+10)

(3) Xavier vs. (2) Texas (-4.5, 149.5)

As the total has risen, the point spread has crept out to Texas -4.5. However, I'll play back on the underdog. The Longhorns survived Penn State thanks to a career performance from big man Dylan Disu, who now has to deal with Xavier's 7-footer, Jack Nunge.

Our pre-tournament ratings suggest a 3.5-point spread for this game, but maybe Texas' wins over Colgate and Penn State are more impressive than Xavier edging Kennesaw State and dominating Pittsburgh, leading to a slightly exaggerated spread for Texas.

Pick: Xavier +4.5

Matt Russell is a betting writer for theScore. If there’s a bad beat to be had, Matt will find it. Find him on Twitter @mrussauthentic.

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March Madness: Best bets for Friday in the Sweet 16
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