NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 best bets

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Gonzaga is an NCAA Tournament best bet
Gonzaga guard Julian Strawther reacts after hitting a 3-point basket in the second half of a second-round college basketball game against TCU in the men’s NCAA tournament Saturday, March 19, 2023, in Denver. (AP Photo/John Leyba)

We’re into our second week of March Madness. We’ve seen some Cinderella upsets and some top dogs stumble early as the NCAA Tournament has continued to produce its usual excitement. 

On the betting front, some of our early darlings faltered (Drake) while others look to be going strong (San Diego State, Creighton). Today we’re going to turn our attention to some of our best bets for Thursday and Friday’s Sweet 16 action. 

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NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 Best Bets

All odds listed are from DraftKings Sportsbook, click here for up-to-the-minute odds



Kansas State ML over Michigan State (+115)

Despite being the 3rd-seed Kansas State Wildcats was a three-point underdog against 6th-seed Kentucky on Sunday before winning 75-69. Point guard Markquis Nowell led the way and continued his tremendous tournament, joining Ja Morant as the only two players since 1990 with 40+ points and 20+ assists prior to the Sweet 16 in a single Men’s NCAA Tournament.

However, in addition to Nowell, Kansas State boasts the 19th-ranked defense according to KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric. The Wildcats held opponents to just 29.7% on three-point shots this year, which works perfectly to their advantage in this matchup since Michigan State relies a ton on jump shots with over 70% of their shots coming from beyond the arc or from mid-range.

Lastly, if this game is close at the end, Kansas State got to the free throw line the 48th most in the nation, while Michigan State, who doesn’t really attack the basket much, ranked 318th. All of that points us to a Kansas State win, which would technically be an upset again because they can’t get any respect in this NCAA tournament.  


Tennessee (-5.5) over Florida Atlantic (-110)

We mentioned how good Kansas State’s defense is, but Tennessee has the top overall KenPom ranking in defensive efficiency and has succeeded in grinding their opponents to a halt while playing at the 278th-fastest pace in the country. That will work well against Florida Atlantic since the Owls play at the 143rd-ranked pace but don’t press or force many turnovers. That should allow Tennessee to keep this game slow and defensively focused. 

Another thing working in Tennessee’s favor is its balance and the way it controls the glass with five players averaging at least 4.6 rebounds per game. The Volunteers are also the best team in the country at limiting an opponent’s three-point shooting percentage. That plays perfectly here since Florida Atlantic gets 43.8% of its points from made three-point shots, which is the second-most of any team remaining in the NCAA Tournament.

Tennesse should control the tempo of this game and is the far more talented team, so we like them to cover this spread, but we think you can also bet the UNDER on 130.5 here too. 


Gonzaga/UCLA UNDER 145.5 (-110)

Gonzaga scores 87.3 PPG and has the number one offense in KenPom’s offensive efficiency, so you might be surprised to see us taking the under here. However, the unders have been tremendously profitable in the NCAA tournament, and I expect that to continue here. 

Part of it has to do with the fact that UCLA ranks 2nd in KenPom’s defensive efficiency and gives up only 60.2 points per game. With UCLA without Jaylen Clark and potentially David Singleton, the Bruins will likely want to slow the tempo down even more. Since they’re shorthanded, they can’t keep up with Gonzaga in a track meet.

I expect UCLA to lean heavily on its defense here, trying to control possessions and limit transition opportunities for Gonzaga. Even though the Bruins have solid scorers in Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez, this game could easily come in under 140 points. 

Kansas State is a best bet in the NCAA tournament
Kansas State guard Markquis Nowell celebrates after their win over Kentucky in a second-round college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Greensboro, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)



Houston/Miami (FL) OVER 138 points (-115)

Many people had Miami losing to Drake in the first round, but here the Hurricanes are in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Miami boasts a balanced offense that ranks inside the top 35 in both two-point field goal% and three-point%. While Houston has a solid defense ranking third in two-point field goal% allowed and second in three-point% allowed, they have been battling some injuries and have not been as efficient in the NCAA tournament, giving up 64 points or .993 points per possession to a mediocre Auburn team in the second round. 

Considering Miami has a much better offense than Auburn, I expect them to be able to top the Tigers’ effort. Yet, Miami also has the 108th-ranked defense by KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, so Houston should also be able to put points on the board here. I wouldn’t be shocked if this one went over 140. 


Texas (-4) over Xavier (-110)

This is a bet on Texas as much as it is against an overrated Xavier squad. Texas is top-15 in both KenPom’s adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency and ranks as his 5th-best team overall. Meanwhile, Xavier has a top-10 offense, but the 64th-ranked defense by KenPom and really struggles to defend shots beyond the arc.

On the other hand, Texas’ defense is a menace, holding opponents to just 27% from deep during postseason play and posting a 22.4% turnover rate, which was tops in the Big 12. That’s a problem for Xavier since no team in the Big East posted strong defensive turnover rates, which means Xavier might not be ready for the Longhorn pressure. 

To top it off, Texas has an experienced roster and will be playing at the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City where they just won the Big 12 Tournament less than two weeks ago. So they’re the better all-around team, with more experienced players, in a more comfortable setting. All of that makes me fairly confident that the Longhorns will advance to the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. 

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