NCAA Tournament Day Two Preview: March Madness Upsets, Picks, and Bets for March 22, 2024

NCAA Tournament Day Two Preview: March Madness Upsets, Picks, and Bets for March 22, 2024

This is March! The storylines are all over the place in every bracket, and the talent is extravagant. I know we probably say this every March, but this feels different. The lower seeds continue to get better, and that’s indicated by the point spreads in a ton of these games. Let’s get into my March Madness upsets, picks, and bets for March 22, 2024.

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NCAA Tournament Day Two Preview: March Madness Upsets, Picks, and Bets for March 22, 2024

(8) Florida Atlantic (25-8) vs. (9) Northwestern (21-11)

Spread: Florida Atlantic -2.5

Total: 141.5

Time: 12:15 PM EST

Network: CBS

After underperforming all year, it is put up or shut time for the Owls. They opened an underdog, but much like the entire season, the money has poured in on them. Is it warranted? Has it moved too much? I happen to think it’s still some meat on the bone.

Northwestern limped to the finish line, down two starters and solely relying on Boo Buie. While we have seen Buie carry the Wildcats all year, this FAU team has a bevy of guards who will take turns wearing him down defensively.

Northwestern’s biggest disadvantage is that they will not be able to hide Buie on the defensive end. FAU plays a four-guard lineup with Golden in the middle, which will force Buie to exert some energy on the defensive end.

Offensively, the Wildcats rely heavily on the three. They make them at the third-best percentage in the country, but FAU’s size and length could present issues. And then what? Well, the Wildcats don’t have many other options and rank outside the top 280 in offensive rebound percentage, so they don’t create second shots.

This essentially means that if the threes are not falling for the Wildcats, they could get blown off the floor. The FAU offense will be able to score at every level, and it may be close early, but I think Buie can only take them so far. I think we see a laser-focused Owls team that dismantles the Wildcats by double figures.

The Pick: FAU -2.5

(8) Nebraska (23-10) vs. (9) Texas A&M (20-14)

Spread: Nebraska -1.5

Total: 147.5

Time: 6:50 PM EST

Network: TNT

The Aggies have not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2018. It seems like an eternity, but imagine not having a single win in school history. Nebraska comes in looking to make history with a win.

Each team possesses their respective advantages matchup-wise but I think Nebraska has the slight edge due to a few key components. First is the depth of Nebraska. They have four players who average double figures and seven who average between seven and eight. In addition to those averages, six of their players shoot 36% or above from distance.

Secondly, the Aggies are due for some negative shooting regression. Their season-long shooting metrics are horrible. They are outside the top 300 in two-point percentage and outside the top 340 in effective field goal percentage and three-point percentage.

In the Aggies’ last six games (5-1 straight up), they shot 36.5% from deep. The data suggests they are likely in line for a sub-32% performance from beyond the arc. Another feather in the Cornhuskers’ cap is that they are among the top 65 in three-point defense.

Offensive rebounds and free throws are ultimately how the Aggies win games. Nebraska does a good job of defending without fouling but could have some trouble on the glass.

Stylistically, they have not played many teams who fit the Aggies profile but I believe the depth and offensive firepower can outlast the Aggies. Nebraska has been in several tightly-lined games and has flourished in this role. Japanese Curry is a perfect March story. I think he leads the Cornhuskers to the right side of history.

The Pick: Nebraska -1.5

(1) Houston (30-4) vs. (16) Longwood (21-13)

Spread: Houston -24.5

Total: 127.5

Time: 9:20 PM EST

Network: TNT

Instant gratification with this one. This is a horrific matchup for the Lancers. Their strength is their ability to get downhill with Napper and Christmas. The Cougars are elite across the board defensively, especially defending the paint.

77% of Longwood’s points come from two-point range and the free throw line. Houston does a good job of defending without fouling and forcing teams to beat them from the outside. Unfortunately for the Lancers, they are not good from behind the arc.

Houston was +10.4 in the first half this season. I know what you’re thinking, well that is not going to get it done laying 15. Let’s not forget they did this in the B12 which is arguably the best conference in the nation.

In the first halves against non-B12 teams, the Cougars’ average margin of victory was around 15.5. They led by double figures in 9 of the 13 non-conference games which includes multiple games leading by 20 or more in the first half.

The Lancers do not have the shooting or size to deal with an angry Cougars team that has been sitting on that Iowa St beatdown for a week. Houston’s defensive pressure will lead to easy baskets, as Longwood has issues with turnovers. I would not be surprised if this is 35-15 going into the half.

The Pick: Houston 1st half -15

(14) Colgate (25-9) vs. (3) Baylor (23-10)

Spread: Baylor -14.5

Total: 138.5

Time: 12:40 PM

Network: TruTV

This is not your typical Colgate team, and I would more than likely be betting on them. The Raiders are a notch down this year but still ran through a bad Patriot League. This matchup favors the Bears and Scott Drew. Their supreme athleticism and shot-making are something Colgate has seen only twice this year.

In those two games (Illinois and Arizona), the Raiders lost by a combined 44 points. The Bears should dominate the glass, and Walter and Dennis’s shot-making is likely to overwhelm the Raiders.

Baylor does have to be careful defending the three because Colgate can still shoot it at a high level. The Bears’ defense should be able to make it tough and run them off the three-point line. If the threes are not falling, the Raiders are in trouble.

The Pick: Baylor -14.5

(12) UAB (23-11) vs. (5) San Diego St (24-10)

Spread: San Diego St – 7.5

Total: 138.5

Time: 1:45 PM EST

Network: TNT

The Blazers are coming in as hot as anyone in the country. They have won five in a row, with four by double figures. As for the Aztecs, it starts and ends with their defense. At any given moment, they can shut you down for minutes at a time, as they are elite in nearly all of the advanced defensive metrics.

Offensively, they leave a lot to be desired. It is pretty much LeDee or nothing. Can the Blazers make it tough on LeDee is the biggest concern because they have not played many forwards of his caliber. UAB certainly has the bodies to throw at LeDee and make it tough, but having and doing is a huge difference.

UAB plays seven players, and I think their backcourt is superior to the Aztecs’. The issue is that this is likely the best defense that Gaines and Vasquez have played. They did have success against Maryland, which is a top-15 defense, so the Blazers’ confidence should be sky-high.

I do not trust this Aztec offense to score on a consistent basis, and the depth of the Blazers could give the Aztecs some issues, especially at the guard position. While having a good defense is great, if you can’t score, it is tough to win in today’s era of college basketball. I’ll take the points, but I think UAB wins outright.

The Pick: UAB +7.5

(15) Western Kentucky (22-11) vs. (2) Marquette (25-9)

Spread: Marquette -14.5

Total: 158.5

Time: 2:00 PM EST

Network: TBS

How healthy is Tyler Kolek? At full strength, I think this number would be closer to 16, but the unknown of how effective he will be makes this handicap challenging. The Hilltoppers play at the fastest pace in the country, so will Kolek be able to keep up with that injured Oblique? Especially with Don McHenry being the Hilltoppers’ go-to player.

What has me second guessing taking the points is the strength of schedule for Western Kentucky. They did not play anyone inside the top 110 all year, so this is a huge step up in class for them. Their defensive numbers say they are above average, but I think that has more to do with the weak C-USA they play in.

Maquette’s versatility on both ends could overwhelm the Hilltoppers, especially if Kolek is back to himself. I will be staying off the side, but I do think we see a lot of points on both sides, especially with the pace each team plays with. I would not be surprised if Maquette puts up 90 on an overinflated Western Kentucky defense.

The Pick: Over 158.5

(16) Stetson (22-12) vs. (1) Uconn (31-3)

Spread: Uconn -26.5

Total: 145.5

Time: 2:45 PM EST

Network: CBS

If you are looking for a Cinderella story, keep it moving. This is not going to be a repeat of Purdue from last year. This Huskies team should score anytime and anywhere they want. Stetson offensively can shoot, but they lack the positional size to even come close to the Huskies.

Instead of laying a big number, let’s attack this a different way. Uconn has dismantled non-power six schools, scoring 92.3 points per game. They have exceeded this specific team total in five of the six games versus non-power six schools. Expect triple digits from the Huskies, even if they have to go to the backups.

The pick: Uconn Team Total over 86.5

(11) New Mexico (26-9) vs. (6) Clemson (21-11)

Spread: New Mexico -2.5

Total: 151.5

Time: 3:10 PM EST

Network: TruTV

Clemson has to be irate at the committee. The under-seeding of the Lobos has the Tigers as nearly a three-point underdog in the opening round. Money has been non-stop on the Lobos as this opened with them laying one.

I love the Lobos and their guard play; however, I think this is more of a coin flip game. Clemson ended the season losing three of their last four but at their peak, I think their rating is being undervalued in this matchup.

Say what you want about the ACC as a whole, but one thing they had was good guard play. So, the Lobos’ backcourt should not be something they are unable to handle. Offensively, the Tigers are going to slow this game down and feed Hall in the post, which is where the Lobos’ defense is susceptible.

Hunter and Giarard are shotmakers and can get white hot from deep. If they knock shots down early, the Tigers will be able to play inside out, which keeps the Lobos’ defense off balance. All things equal, I think Clemson is undervalued and can cover and “upset” the Lobos here.

The Pick: Clemson +2.5

(13) Yale (22-9) vs. (4) Auburn (27-7)

Spread: Auburn -12.5

Total: 139.5

Time: 4:15 PM

Network: TNT

These teams are coming in with similar paths, but how they navigated to get through those paths are completely different. Auburn has won six straight en route to an SEC title, with five of those wins coming by double digits.

Yale has won five of six but was a Brown collapse and a few missed free-throws away from being in the NIT. Auburn is one of the deepest teams in the country, whereas Yale is at the bottom in bench minutes. The defense of Broome on Wolf will force Yale to depend more on its guards, which plays into the hands of Auburn’s excellent perimeter defense.

The pick: Auburn -12.5

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(10) Colorado (25-10) vs. (5) Florida (24-11)

Spread: Florida -1.5

Total: 159.5

Time: 4:30 PM EST

Network: TBS

The Buffs have a game under their belt, which would seem like a positive, but they did not play well, especially offensively, against the Broncos. The guards on both sides are fantastic and will likely decide who advances.

I trust the Gators guards slightly more in this specific matchup. Their shot-making and versatility are second to none. I also think the Buffs’ three-point defense is inflated due to their home-court advantage. Their ball pressure is non-existent, so Florida will be able to get into what they want to run with no issue.

We saw two nights ago and throughout the year that Colorado is prone to unforced errors and live ball turnovers. You cannot do that against the Gators, who thrive in transition. Florida can also control the glass offensively and get those backbreaking threes off an offensive rebound. I think that, on top of the depth of Florida, will propel them into the next round.

The Pick: Florida -1.5

13 Vermont (28-6) vs 4 Duke (24-8)

Spread: Duke -12.5

Total: 132.5

Time: 7:10 PM EST

Network: CBS

Much like the Colgate team we talked about earlier, this is not your brother’s Vermont squad. They have played at a lower level than in previous years, and this matchup is bad for them. With that being said, I am not laying this number and trusting Duke to win by a margin.

Vermont is not going to beat themselves up or be forced to do something outside of their comfort zone. They are a methodical team and play at their own pace, which just so happens to be a pace Duke does not mind playing.

The emergence of Mark Mitchell has the Blue Devils playing with two bigs and being more efficient in their half-court sets. I think we see a low-possession half-court game, and this ends with Duke in the mid-to-high 60s and Vermont in the 50s.

The Pick: Under 132.5

(16) Grambling State (21-14) vs. (1) Purdue (29-4)

Spread: Purdue -26.5

Total: 139.5

Time: 7:25 PM EST

Network: TBS

This is the most anticipated 1 versus 16 matchup since Virginia beat Towson by 30 in 2019. Let’s not forget that Virginia was trailing early in that game before dismantling the Tigers.

Ironically, Purdue draws another set of Tigers from Grambling State, who upset Montana State in Dayton a few days ago. I’ll keep this short; it’s not happening back-to-back years, not with how improved Purdue’s guards are and the addition of Lance Jones, who can take over a game by himself.

Grambling State offensively turns the ball over and struggles to shoot from outside. They live in the paint and at the free-throw line, two places Purdue dominates. They defend without fouling, and for obvious reasons, they force teams into a ton of mid-range jumpers.

After the first media timeout, when we see the Grambling State adrenaline wear off, expect Edey, Smith, and company to bury the Tigers and exercise those demons of Farleigh Dickinson.

The Pick: Purdue -26.5

(13) Charleston (27-7) vs. (4) Alabama (21-11)

Spread: Alabama -9.5

Total: 173.5

Time: 7:35 PM EST

Network: TruTV

If body language and effort are factors in your handicap, this Crimson Tide team showed zero of either to end their season. The Tide lost four of their last six, and three of those losses were blowouts.

Charleston is unlikely to run the Tide off the floor, but they do pose serious issues on the offensive end. The Cougars’ depth helps them at the pace at which this game will be played, and their experience on this stage also helps with continuity and understanding the moment.

I can’t go anywhere near Alabama, especially not at this price. This number opened a lot higher, but the money pushed this under double digits. While some value has been bet on it, I trust the Cougars to knock down shots, crash the glass, and stay within this number.

The pick: Charleston +9.5

(12) James Madison (31-3) vs (5) Wisconsin (22-13)

Spread: Wisconsin -5.5

Total: 145.5

Time: 9:40 PM EST

Network: CBS

When the bracket was revealed, everyone circled this as a play on the 12-seed Dukes. However, I think the Badgers found something in their Big Ten Championship run. They were due for some positive shooting regression and ended the tournament shooting nearly 42% from deep.

The Dukes come in on a 13-game winning streak, BUT their strength of schedule was poor. They only played one of the top 100 teams, which they beat, but after that, there was not a lot there. Wisconsin is playing their best at the right time. Despite the loss to Illinois, they controlled that game and just fell short.

Wisconsin is going to need to be more aggressive defensively, especially defending the three which is what the Dukes do well. I would expect the Badgers to slow the tempo down and make the Dukes beat them in the halfcourt, which is not what they want to do.

The Dukes’ wings were heavily leaned on in conference play, but Wisconsin has good interior size and should be able to keep Bickerstaff and Edwards under control. I think AJ Storr is the difference maker and the reason the Badgers move on and not only win but cover this number.

The Pick: Wisconsin -5.5

(9) TCU (21-12) vs. (8) Utah State (27-6)

Spread: TCU -4.5

Total: 150.5

Time: 9:55 PM

Network: TBS

Tough handicap here. On one hand, the Moutain West as a conference has not performed well in the tournament. On the other hand, this TCU team has been inconsistent all year and can’t be trusted.

The Aggies are among the top 65 in defensive and offensive efficiency, and more importantly, they defend the three at a high level. Both teams like to get in the paint and do their work, which is why the Aggie defense is going to need to step up big time.

They are outside the top 300 in two-point percentage defense, which Is where the bulk of TCU’s offense comes from. Osobor, on the interior, will have his hands full, but he has fared well in the Mountain West, so he should be fully equipped to limit Peavy.

TCU is prone to turning the ball over, and even though the Aggies don’t force many live ball turnovers if they can turn a handful of those into easy offense, that’s an extra for them. I trust Sprinkle to come up with a defensive scheme to limit TCU’s paint success and force them into a jump-shooting team. The way the Aggies defend the three, I think they’ll have TCU right where they want them.

The Pick: Utah St +4.5

(12) Grand Canyon (29-4) vs. (5) St. Mary’s (25-7)

Spread: Saint Mary’s -5.5

Total: 131.5

Time: 10:05 PM

Network: TruTV

The committee got us again. Two bet on teams for me going into March are matched up against one another. Quiet as kept, since December there has not been many better than the Gaels. They won 22 of 27 en route to a West Coast Championship and, if we are being honest, probably didn’t play their best in the WCC tournament.

It just so happens that this Antelopes’ team is really good under Bryce Drew. They have wins against San Francisco, San Diego St, and Liberty. Despite being in a weaker WAC, they dominated in both the regular and post-season.

The Gaels are relentless on the glass and their defensive scheme is so good, I think even Tyon Grant Foster will struggle. The positional size of the Gaelz I think will be too much for Grand Canyon. It won’t look great from the Gaels offensively at times, but they get it done at a high level.

It’s not often we can say a five-seed is undervalued, but I believe that to be the case. Randy Bennett and company will cover this number and shock a lot of people when they are in the Sweet 16. I expect this to be a competitive game throughout, but in the end, the Gaels pull away with some clutch baskets from Mahaney.

The Pick: St. Mary’s -5.5

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