NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview: March Madness Upsets, Picks, and Bets for March 28, 2024

NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview: March Madness Upsets, Picks, and Bets for March 28, 2024

March Madness returns for action on Thursday night, and the Sports Gambling Podcast Network will break down the action with our NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 preview and best bets for March 28!

The opening game of the round is in the West Region, with (2) Arizona and (6) Clemson meeting in Los Angeles. The next tip is the rematch of last season’s title game between (1) Connecticut and (5) San Diego State in Boston.

In the nightcap, (1) North Carolina and (4) Alabama will battle for a place in the Elite 8. The final contest on Thursday is (2) Iowa State and (3) Illinois playing to advance to the East Region final.

We may not have many Cinderellas in this tournament, but it gives us these great matchups of the top teams in the country. So, let’s dive into the action for our NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 preview and best bets.

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NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Preview: March Madness Upsets, Picks, and Bets for March 28, 2024

(6) Clemson vs (2) Arizona

Spread: Arizona -7.5
Total: 152
Time: 7:09 PM ET
Network: CBS

In this first matchup, I see more advantages for both defenses to be able to slow down the key attacks from the offense.

So, my first Sweet 16 best bet is for this contest to fall under the total of 152, which I would play down to 149. I also don’t hate a look at the first half under.

The key to both offenses is to either play through a post player or drive to the basket for close-range shots.

If you start first with Arizona, the Wildcats rank in the top 10 offensively by Haslametrics in both near-proximity rate per 100 possessions and second-chance conversion rate. However, the Tigers are among the 10 best teams in the country in those stats defensively.

Meanwhile, Clemson also prioritizes those same metrics on offense to go along with ranking eighth in the nation in free-throw rate. This goes up against an Arizona defense that is in the top 25 in not giving up offensive rebounds or free throws to opponents.

This has also been a profitable bet for both teams away from home. The under has hit in six of the last seven games on the road or neutral floors for Arizona and in eight of the previous 12 type contests for the Tigers.

(5) San Diego State vs (1) UConn

Spread: UConn -11
Total: 136
Time: 7:39 PM ET
Network: TBS

On one hand, I feel the Huskies are a bit overvalued here. On the other, I’m not trying to bet against the best team in the country.

I think the best value for my second Sweet 16 best bet is for SDSU to fall under its team total of 62.5 at DraftKings.

The Aztecs love to take advantage of opportunities offensively from second chances and turnovers. However, UConn limits those chances to opponents.

San Diego State’s best player is a big man in Jaedon LeDee. He’ll have to try to score against Donovan Clingan and a Huskies’ defense that is second in the country by Haslametrics in opponents’ near-proximity shooting percentage.

Overall, Connecticut has held seven of its last nine foes under this same team total. The Aztecs also failed to reach this total in the championship game last year.

I thought this SDSU team was better, and I don’t see any drop-off from the Huskies. This could be a long night offensively for San Diego State.

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(4) Alabama vs (1) North Carolina

Spread: North Carolina -4.5
Total: 173.5
Time: 30 minutes after Game 1
Network: CBS

I have been impressed with Alabama’s defense in the first two games of the tournament. However, I still do not trust the Tide on that end of the floor against elite competition.

That said, my next Sweet 16 best bet is for North Carolina to cover the spread of -4.5 at FanDuel. This is playable to me at -6.

One major weakness for the Crimson Tide is the inability to defend without fouling. Since February, Alabama ranks 357th out of 362 Division 1 teams in opponents’ free-throw rate.

This is not good going up against a North Carolina squad that is 65th in the country in the percentage of a team’s points that comes from the charity stripe.

The Tar Heels are also in the top 25 in second-chance conversion percentage. This is another advantage against a Tide defense that is 309th in defensive rebounding since February.

On the other end of the floor, UNC has to be able to defend the rim and three-point attacks from Alabama. According to Haslametrics, North Carolina is in the top 30 in opponents’ shooting percentages from near-proximity and three-pointers.

I expect coach Hubert Davis to make this more of a half-court game, and I like UNC to advance to the Elite Eight with a win.

(3) Illinois vs (2) Iowa State

Spread: Iowa State -1.5
Total: 146
Time: 20 minutes after Game 2
Network: TBS

This is the hardest game to call in this NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 preview. The oddsmakers even have this close to a coin flip based on the odds.

Ultimately, I’m going to side with the better offense here. My last Sweet 16 best bet will be on Illinois to cover the +1.5.

There is no questioning how elite this Iowa State defense is, but I do see a couple of glaring weaknesses. The first is the fact that the Cyclones rank 200th in defensive rebounding by BartTorvik.

This is not good going up against an Illinois team that is 15th in the country in grabbing offensive boards. I also expect the Fighting Illini to get to the charity stripe against ISU, who is outside the top 220 in giving up opponents’ free throws.

Speaking of foul shots, Iowa State is 271st in the nation in free-throw shooting percentage. If this game comes down to late-game fouling, I trust Illinois much more.

Another key here is the fact that the Illini do not turn the ball over. The Cyclones are the top team in potential quick points from steals.

As long as Illinois can have as many or more shot attempts, I think Brad Underwood’s team can pull off the upset.

 

 

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