Sweet 16 Bracet Preview: Can UConn Ride Kemba Walker Past San Diego State?

In the case of the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 match-up between UConn vs San Diego State in Thursday's West Region semifinal, the Huskies have gone from 1-point underdogs to 1.5-point favorites. Call it The Kemba Walker Effect.

When your fancy scores prediction machine projects one team to win by six points, yet the point spread is now actually favoring the OTHER team, you know there is an unusual circumstance. Sometimes that circumstance is an injury, a nasty flu bug circulating in the dressing room or a significant revenge or coaching advantage angle. With UConn and San Diego State, it's Kemba.

The Aztecs opened as 1-point favorites here Monday, with oddsmakers pegging the No. 2 seed just ahead of the No. 3-seeded Huskies. By Thursday, the line had UConn favored by 1.5 points, a full 2.5-point swing which is significant.

"This is crunch time and great players make great plays to turn great games into great victories," said Mark Presley of OddsShark.com in explaining the line move. "Our scores predictor has the final 81-76 for San Diego State, so seeing so much betting on UConn really underscores the value of that single player."

(For updated lines and info on all eight of the games in this round and every game the rest of the way, check out SB Nation’s lines partner Odds Shark.)

No. 3 Connecticut Huskies vs. No. 2 San Diego State Aztecs (+1.5)

San Diego State was one of three teams (along with Kansas and Ohio State) tied with the best record in the nation in the regular season at 32-2; Connecticut is red-hot, and has arguably the best player in college basketball right now.

The Spartans answered questions about their poise and toughness in a gutsy win in double-OT against 7-seed Temple. It was an ugly win, but San Diego State’s big men did a great job on the boards and got the job done on both ends of the court in the trenches.

The Aztecs’ success, especially away from home where they have rewarded backers with a 15-4-1 ATS run in the past 20 games, is built around their outstanding defense. And it will be put to the test Thursday. [ Trends on every Sweet 16 game ]

Connecticut won five games in five nights to win the Big East crown, earning the team a 3-seed and a head start into the tournament. All the hype around the Big East’s 11 tournament teams quickly fizzled as just UConn and Marquette remain.

But the Huskies haven’t looked back, crushing Bucknell 81-52 in the first round and beating Cincinnati 69-59 in the second round, backed by Kemba Walker’s 33 points. It’s just starting to look like no one has a chance of stopping this guy, as he can beat you so many ways; especially with his step-back jumper.

San Diego State’s offense is streaky, but they have only lost two games this season because of their tough defense. Thursday night, they won’t be able to afford an off-night offensively. The Aztecs have the size and the strength to manufacture enough opportunities to win, but they need to make them count; because we all know Kemba Walker will.

The other three Sweet 16 matchups taking place today are another 2-vs-3 special with 3-seed BYU (+3.0) vs Florida (-3.0), 8-seed Butler (+4.5) vs. 4-seed Wisconsin (-4.5), and 5-seed Arizona (+8.5) vs. 1-seed Duke (-8.5).

Live odds, matchups, links to remaining bracket games and more every day, visit Odds Shark.

Check the full NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 schedule, and see predictions and previews for each game.

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