NCAA March Madness: Best bets for every NCAA tournament game

By VSiN Staff  ( 

March 21, 2023 07:30 AM

The 2023 NCAA tournament is finally here, and VSiN has you covered with best bets on every single game throughout the month of March Madness.

Are we seeing another Cinderella being born in No. 15 Princeton?  Here are our experts' best wagers for the Sweet 16 games. 

Record: 33-31 ATS

Thursday's Sweet 16 games

No. 7 Michigan State (-2, 137.5) vs. No. 3 Kansas State

6:30 p.m. ET

Burke: I went against Sparty on Sunday and lost with Marquette, but I’ll give it another go this week against Kansas State. The handicap is pretty similar to me, but hopefully with a different outcome. Michigan State relies a ton on jump shots, as over 70% of their shot attempts are mid-range 2s or 3s. Their shot share on Close Twos is only 29.1% per Bart Torvik. The weakest part of Kansas State’s defense is rim protection, so we’ll see if Michigan State changes up the offensive philosophy.

Kansas State’s shot share on Close Twos is 43.4%, which represents an even bigger gap than what we had in the Marquette game. One big difference, though, is that Kansas State held opponents to just 29.7% on 3s and really closed out well on the perimeter. Also, Kansas State got to the free throw line a lot during the season and ranks 48th in FT Rate. Michigan State ranks 318th.

A lot of people will likely gravitate towards Tom Izzo and Michigan State here for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they rank fifth in the nation in 3P%, yet only went 2-of-16 in the win over Marquette and are 7-of-30 for the tournament. Keep in mind that this is a team that was 49-of-85 (57.6%) over the final four regular season games to skew the numbers a bit. They were above average, but they went nuclear at the end of the regular season. In the last three neutral-site games, regression has hit in a big way.

Kansas State is also only shooting 9-of-36 from 3 in two games, yet had two really efficient performances on 2s. They were just below the national average in 3P%, but they were certainly better than 25%. I think you can wait on this line and maybe get a little bit better of a price, but I like how the Wildcats match up here.

Pick: Kansas State +1

Dave Tuley: The No. 3-seeded Kansas State Wildcats were disrespected as 3-point underdogs vs. No. 6 Kentucky in Sunday’s Round of 32, but point guard Markquis Nowell led the way along with the KSU defense (No. 19 in defensive efficiency by Some books opened K-State as the favorite here or at pick-’em, but early money has pushed No. 7-seeded Michigan State to favoritism. I understand that Tom Izzo gets his teams to peak in March, but I still have the Wildcats as the better overall team and will take any points (or point) we can get.

Pick: Kansas State +2

No. 8 Arkansas vs. No. 4 UConn (-3.5, 139.5)

7:15 p.m. ET

Greg Peterson: Connecticut has a huge advantage on the boards, leading the nation in road rebound rate while Arkansas does not have a single player averaging more than 5.5 rebounds per game. Arkansas ranks 319th in the country in 3-point shooting percentage, going against a UConn bunch that is 61st in the country in 3-point shooting percentage away from home. The Huskies are ninth in the country in points scored per possession on offense and 13th in points allowed per possession, with each of their top four scorers shooting at least 37% from 3-point range. UConn enters 20-9-1 against the spread this season as a favorite of more than three points.

Pick: UConn -3.5

No. 9 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 4 Tennessee (-5.5, 131.5)

9:00 p.m. ET

Greg Peterson: Tennessee is the top team in the country in points allowed per possession, and has balance across the board. The Volunteers have five separate players averaging at least 4.6 rebounds per game and are overall fourth in the country in road rebound rate. The Volunteers also are No. 1 in the country in opponent 3-point shooting percentage, while Florida Atlantic’s offense gets 43.8% of its points from made 3-point shots, the second-most of any team remaining in the field.

Pick: Tennessee -5

Tim Murray: Tennessee was one of the most faded teams in the Round of 32. Some sportsbooks were reporting over 80% of the action was on Duke -3.5 against the Volunteers. What happened? Tennessee knocked off the Blue Devils, 65-52. Following that victory, the perception has seemed to flip on the Volunteers. Tennessee is the favorite at DraftKings Sportsbook (+130) to win the East Region. Despite a win (and cover) against Duke, Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes is just 3-14 ATS over his last 17 NCAA tourney games. 

Tennessee is a veteran bunch with four senior starters but the Vols continue to play without their starting PG Zakai Zielger, who was lost on February 28 with a torn ACL. In the win over Duke, the Vols shot 9-of-21 (42.4%) from behind the arc. Entering that game, Tennessee was shooting 33% from long range on the year and went just 4-of-16 against Louisiana in the first round. 

As for Florida Atlantic, the Owls snuck past Memphis in the First Round, 66-65, and beat 16-seed Fairleigh Dickinson (but didn’t cover). Florida Atlantic was in a unique spot against FDU, as the Owls were a heavy favorite. The role of underdog seems to fit Florida Atlantic much better. FAU did not shoot well in the opening weekend, combining to shoot just 17-of-59 from 3. The Owls entered the NCAA Tournament shooting 37.2% from long range, 30th best in the nation. 

Florida Atlantic will be challenged offensively on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. Tennessee is tops in the nation in defensive efficiency and opponent 3-point percentage. But the Owls are one of the deepest teams in the tournament and head coach Dusty May has done a terrific job this season pushing the right buttons en route to 33 wins. Over the five games Tennessee has played without Ziegler, the Vols rank 87th in offensive efficiency per Bart Torvik. I’ll take the points with the underdog in a game that features a role reversal for both teams from the previous round.

Pick: Florida Atlantic +5.5

No. 3 Gonzaga vs. No. 2 UCLA (-2, 145.5)

9:45 p.m. ET

Youmans: The better defensive team needs to dictate the pace of this game. The Zags are always looking to run, and the Bruins should stop that from happening. Gonzaga (No. 1 in offensive efficiency, per scores 87.3 PPG and UCLA (No. 2 in defensive efficiency) surrenders 60.2. With a roster lacking depth, the last thing Bruins coach Mick Cronin wants is an up-tempo track meet.

UCLA is obviously without Jaylen Clark, one of the nation’s toughest defenders. If Clark were playing, I would be all over the Bruins in this matchup because of his ability to help contain Gonzaga’s Drew Timme, who had 28 points in an 84-81 victory over TCU in the second round. Without Clark, the Bruins are not as strong defensively (or offensively), so Cronin will focus more on managing the game by controlling possessions and limiting transition opportunities for the Zags.

David Singleton, UCLA’s top 3-point shooter at 42.5%, is questionable with an ankle injury. The injury situation means the Bruins will patiently run their half-court offense through point guard Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez, who can score inside and out. Cronin will want improved shot selection and fewer 3s, and he probably has a plan to win a 70-65 type of game.

Pick: Under 146

Zachary Cohen: UCLA is ranked second in the nation in Bart Torvik’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, but the team is just 13th in that category in the games it has played without Jaylen Clark. That small drop could make all the difference in the world in a meeting with a Gonzaga team that is first in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. Clark would likely have been the guy responsible for shutting down Bulldogs wing Julian Strawther, who is averaging 15.3 PPG on 48.3/42.3/77.8 shooting splits this year. It’s also a little hard to imagine UCLA slowing Drew Timme down without leaving Gonzaga’s perimeter player open for wide open 3s. 

While the Bulldogs haven’t been great defensively this season, they know what’s at stake in this game. And they also are familiar with what the Bruins want to run, as this is not a very imaginative UCLA offense and these teams are meeting for the third time in three years. Also, over the last two seasons, the Bruins are 0-7 ATS when playing away from home against teams that shoot at least 48% from the field. They have lost those games by an average of 8.5 points per game. 

Pick: Gonzaga +2 

Friday's Sweet 16 games

No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 1 Alabama (-7.5, 137.5)

6:30 p.m. ET

Matt Youmans: With an elite defense that’s athletic and long, the Aztecs can give Alabama some trouble. San Diego State ranks No. 1 in defensive efficiency since the beginning of February, according to, and coach Brian Dutcher’s team excels in the areas of transition and 3-point shooting defense. The Crimson Tide wants to run and jack up 3s, so this is an intriguing stylistic matchup from that perspective.

Alabama plays fast and averages 73 possessions per game. San Diego State operates its half-court offense and averages about 65 possessions per game. The Aztecs are taking a big step up in class, however, because this is not a Mountain West opponent and it’s not Charleston or Furman, either. Brandon Miller is the best player in this tournament, and he’s probably what gets the Tide over the top in this game.

Forget the Mountain West’s losing reputation in this tournament for a moment. In the past 10 years, the Aztecs are 6-6 in NCAA play and the rest of the conference is 3-19. San Diego State has the talent to make this a competitive game to the wire, but its tendency to go through scoring droughts is a concern and probably will prove costly in this matchup. I’ll project Alabama wins by five points. I took +8 with the Aztecs — the line has dipped to 7.5 but it likely goes back to 8 this week — and will make a half-unit play Under the total of 137.5.

Pick: San Diego State +8, Under 137.5 (half-unit each)

Tim Murray: I echo a lot of what Matt Youmans said so I will try not to repeat it. Looking at how the South and East Region shook out over the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament, San Diego St. could pose the most difficult challenge to the Crimson Tide before the National Championship game. Alabama is an elite defensive team (third nationally in defensive efficiency) but so are the Aztecs. San Diego St. is fifth in the nation in defensive efficiency. San Diego St. is going to make the Crimson Tide work for their points on Friday in Louisville. The Aztecs rank 263rd in the nation in adjusted tempo and their opponents' possessions on average last 18.5 seconds (346th in the nation). Alabama, on the other hand, is lightning-fast offensively. The Crimson Tide rank fifth nationally in adjusted tempo and sixth in average length of possession. The Aztecs must control the tempo and play the game at their pace to stay within the number. 

Alabama’s freshman Brandon Miller is the most talented player left in the NCAA Tournament but the Crimson Tide as a unit is quite inexperienced. Miller and F Noah Clowney are both freshmen. Miller is tops on the team in scoring and rebounding while Clowney is third on the team in scoring and second to Miller in rebounding. San Diego State starts four seniors and no player in their rotation is younger than a junior. Per Ken Pom, the Aztecs average 2.96 years of Division 1 experience on their roster, 21st best in the country. 

There is no denying that Alabama will be the more talented roster on the floor but as the old saying goes “Styles Make Fights.” If San Diego State can dictate tempo and muck things up against the Crimson Tide, the Aztecs can cover.

Pick: San Diego State +7.5

No. 5 Miami vs. No. 1 Houston (-7.5, 138.5)

7:15 p.m. ET

Adam Burke: Miami’s balance on offense could make the Sweet 16 game against Houston a little too close for comfort for the Cougars. Miami ranks in the top 35 in both 2P% and 3P%, something that no AAC team can say. In fact, no AAC team ranks in the top 100% in 3P% or in the top 55 in 2P%. This was not the most gifted of offensive conferences.

Obviously, Houston’s defense is a big step up for Miami’s offense. The Cougars do rank third in 2P% and second in 3P%, but they really didn’t face many top-tier offenses. Memphis scored .967, 1.011 and 1.151 points per possession on them, though the AAC Tournament final deserves an asterisk for Houston’s injury problems. Northern Kentucky is a poor offensive team and Auburn is very inefficient shooting the basketball, yet the Tigers had .993 PPP, which is not a bad number given Houston’s defensive prowess.

Against a good offensive team, I really don’t like that over 70% of Houston’s shots are jumpers. That makes it a little bit more difficult to win by margin, even if Miami’s defense is a little bit suspect. Furthermore, five of Miami’s seven losses have been by six or fewer points because their offense is so good that it keeps them in games. I think that’ll be the case here.

Pick: Miami +7.5

No. 15 Princeton vs. No. 6 Creighton (-10, 140)

9:00 p.m. ET

Greg Peterson: Princeton is one of the few teams in the country giving up fewer points per possession away from home than at home, giving up three points fewer per 100 possessions in games away from home. Both teams are very similar in the number of points they allow per possession, with Creighton ranking 71st in this category and Princeton 77th. The Blue Jays can’t afford foul trouble, as only one reserve averages more than 9.4 minutes per game and Princeton is solid on the glass. Princeton is 20th in the country in rebound rate and Creighton only rebounds 22.2% of their missed shots in games away from home.

Pick: Princeton +10

Dave Tuley: This is similar to the Florida Atlantic-Fairleigh Dickinson game where there’s no way there the fledgling Florida Atlantic program should have been favored by 15.5 points against Fairleigh Dickinson after its upset of Purdue. Princeton’s run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed seems to be overshadowed by FDU’s performance, but we don’t believe the Tigers should be 10-point dogs after going toe-to-toe with and beating No. 2 seed Arizona and No 7 Missouri. Creighton came through for yours truly on Sunday, but the Bluejays are more likely to just try to grind out the win here to earn a trip to the Elite Eight.

Pick: Princeton +10

No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 2 Texas (-4, 147.5)

9:45 p.m. ET

Burke: Texas will be in a familiar setting for Friday’s nightcap in the Sweet 16, as they’ll be right back at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City where they won the Big 12 Tournament less than two weeks ago. In that event, Texas held Oklahoma State, TCU and Kansas to .687, .898 and .826 points per possession. Obviously, those are teams that they know well, but head coach Rodney Terry and a tremendously experienced roster have several days to break down Xavier.

I do think the familiarity will help Texas, but that’s far from the only reason I like the Longhorns. Xavier doesn’t see a ton of ball pressure in the Big East, but the Big 12 was known for turnovers, boasting the second-highest TO% on defense at 20.6%. Texas was a huge part of that with a TO% of 22.4%. The Longhorns also take good care of the ball, so I’d expect some extra possessions in this game. Xavier is great with the ball, but not as great without it.

Texas is top-20 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency, while Xavier has a top-10 offense, but the 73rd-ranked defense per Torvik. Xavier has a blind spot defending the 3 that could come to the forefront, especially if Texas’s defense does what it has done against the 3 of late. During this six-game winning streak, opponents are only shooting 33-of-122 from 3 (27%). 

Texas is just the better all-around team and this is a pretty short number with what should be a Texas-heavy crowd and a team that ranks fifth in Torvik’s rankings since Feb. 1.

Pick: Texas -4


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