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The NCAA tournament is under way, and the madness of March has already started. Upsets have happened, and Cinderella stories are beginning to form. No. 13 seed Furman upset fourth-seeded Virginia in the final seconds, 68-67. Charleston, a No. 12 seed, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a No. 13, both brought higher-seeded opponents San Diego State and Tennessee down to the wire, but couldn’t pull off upsets. The 15th-seeded Princeton Tigers upset second-seeded Arizona in the final minutes, 59-55, and busted a lot of brackets. If your bracket is still perfect, you’re among a very small percentage of people, so congratulations to you. But the show must go on! Here are my favorite bets for the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Best College Basketball Bets Today – NCAA Tournament Odds, Predictions and Parlays for Second Round on March 18: 4-Leg Parlay Picks (+538) Duke vs. Tennessee Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – NCAAB Betting Lines 3/18

Moneyline: Duke -165, Tennessee +140
Spread: Duke -3.5, Tennessee +3.5
Total: Over/Under 128.5
Duke vs. Tennessee Prediction and Pick

Duke is one of the hottest teams in the tournament. The Blue Devils have not lost since Feb. 11, when they fell to Virginia 69-62 in overtime. They will face a stingy defense against Tennessee on Saturday. The Volunteers have the No. 3 defense in college basketball – allowing just 57.9 points per game. Luckily for the Blue Devils, they know what it means to go against teams that prioritize defense and love to slow down the pace, since their season schedule included two games against Virginia. While the Volunteers’ defense is one of the best in the NCAA, they have let some games get away from them. This will be another game that gets away from them, because the Blue Devils are one of the hottest teams in the country right now. 

Leg-1 Parlay Pick: Duke ML (165)   

Princeton vs. Missouri Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – NCAAB Betting Lines 3/18

Moneyline: Princeton +230, Missouri -275
Spread: Princeton +6.5, Missouri -6.5
Total: Over/Under 149.5

Princeton vs Missouri Prediction and Pick

Princeton’s upset victory over Arizona on Thursday marked its first tournament win since 1998. The upset was impressive, since Princeton was a +850 underdog as the 15th seed, but Arizona beat itself when the Wildcats went almost five minutes without a basket in the second half. That offensive futility opened the door for Princeton to pull off the upset. Princeton won’t have such an open-door opportunity on Saturday, because Missouri was a well-oiled machine in its Thursday win over Utah State -- scoring 35 points in the first half and 41 more in the second.

Holding Arizona to just 55 points might make it seem that Princeton had an impressive defensive performance in its opener, but that wasn’t the case. Princeton’s 127th-ranked defense has held opponents to fewer than 60 points just seven times this season. Princeton’s Tigers will struggle defending Missouri’s Tigers on Saturday.

Missouri is battle-tested -- having faced some of the toughest defenses in college basketball this season. Iowa State ranks 18th in the nation defensively, but Missouri scored 78 points against the Cyclones. In two games against Tennessee, whose defense ranks third in the nation, Missouri scored 86 and 79 points for a pair of victories. Princeton had an impressive opening-round game in beating Arizona, but Princeton is not this year’s Cinderella. The Ivy Leaguers tried on the glass slipper, but it didn’t fit. Missouri wins big in this one, sending Princeton back to New Jersey.

Leg-2 Parlay Pick: Missouri -6.5 (110)

Auburn vs. Houston Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – NCAAB Betting Lines 3/18Moneyline: Auburn +210, Houston -250
Spread: Auburn +5.5, Houston -5.5
Total: Over/Under 132

Auburn vs Houston Prediction and Pick

Star guard and leading scorer Marcus Sasser returned from a groin injury to start Houston’s game against Northern Kentucky on Thursday night. The Cougars managed to claim victory in a low-scoring battle and advanced to the second round, but Sasser reinjured his groin and didn’t return to the game. If Sasser can’t go in Houston’s second-round game on Saturday, the door is open for a hungry Auburn team that is essentially playing a home game. That’s because Legacy Arena in Birmingham, Ala., is only about two hours away from the Tigers’ campus.

Auburn advanced to the second round in a high scoring affair against Iowa on Thursday night -- winning 83-75. However, Iowa’s defense is nothing like Houston’s. The Cougars’ 63-52 win marked the 22nd time this season that Houston held an opponent to 60 points or fewer. Houston has the second-best defense in the nation and will pose a true test for Auburn on Saturday. While most teams are shell-shocked when they face a defense like Houston’s, Auburn has seen a similar style of defense from conference opponent Tennessee, which is right behind Houston at third in the nation.

If Sasser can’t play in this game, it’ll be a big blow for a Houston team that’s the odds-on favorites to win the national championship. Yet even if Sasser is sidelined, this Houston team is deep enough to still tread water. J’Wan Roberts, Jarace Walker and Jamal Shead are all proficient scorers. Shead, coming off one of his worst games of the year with a season-high six turnovers, will have a bounce-back performance on Saturday when the Cougars look to advance. Sasser’s status is vital in picking this matchup, but if he can’t take the court, Houston can still pull off the victory. They are a deep team and their defense is gut-wrenching for opponents.

Leg-3 Parlay Pick: Houston ML (-250)

Penn State vs. Texas Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – NCAAB Betting Lines 3/18

Moneyline: Penn State +195, Texas -230
Spread: Princeton +5.5, Missouri -5.5
Total: Over/Under 139.5

Penn State vs. Texas Prediction and Pick

Penn State and Texas both had great opening-night performances in first-round games on Thursday, with both teams winning by double-digit margins. Penn State has caught fire in the month of March. The Nittany Lions’ run to the Big Ten championship game, where they fell to Purdue 67-65, is one of the main reasons they made it into the NCAA tournament. They show no signs of slowing down, but Texas will stall that momentum, because the Longhorns have held their last five opponents to an average of just 56.6 points per game. And those last five opponents – Kansas twice, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Colgate -- were no slouches.

Texas has four players averaging double-digit scoring, including senior guard Marcus Carr. One of the most prolific scorers in college basketball, Carr went for 41 points in a game earlier this season. These Longhorns have been putting opponents in the torture chamber with phenomenal defense. They have all the intangibles needed to be this year’s national champions, and they will show it again on Saturday with another big win over Penn State.

Leg-4 Parlay Pick: Texas ML (-230)

Odds are subject to change*

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