Best NCAAB Sweet 16 picks against the spread
Alex Buck reveals his 2023 NCAA Tournament picks against the spread for Sweet 16, with four best bets.
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The Sweet Sixteen Round of March Madness will tip off on Thursday night with several fascinating matchups, including Kansas vs Michigan State, Gonzaga vs UCLA, and one of the favorites for the tournament Alabama facing a San Diego State team looking to cause an upset.
No. 15 seed Princeton, the lowest-seeded team remaining in the tournament, hopes to continue its unprecedented run into the Elite Eight after stunning second-seeded Arizona in the first round and knocking off Missouri by 15 points in Round 2.
The Tigers, currently 9.5-point underdogs, will face Creighton in the Sweet Sixteen round. We are left wondering if Princeton is one of the more favorable NCAAB picks against the spread or if their Cinderella story is coming to a close.
These are my best-value NCAA tournament picks against the spread, with four games highlighted from the Sweet 16 round.
2023 NCAA Tournament – March Madness Best Bets Today: Sweet 16 picks against the spread
Tennessee vs Florida Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – Sweet 16 Betting Lines March 23rd
Moneyline: Tennessee -240, FAU +200
Spread: Tennessee -5.5, FAU +5.5
Total: Over/Under 131.5
Tennessee vs FAU Prediction and Pick
The No. 4 seed Tennessee Volunteers now face the ninth-seeded Florida Atlantic Owls after a rocky start to their NCAA tournament ride.
The Vols had a scare against Louisiana-Lafayette in the opening round. They struggled offensively and barely made it past the Ragin’ Cajuns despite going into the game as 11.5-point favorites.
An inspired, season-high 27-point performance from Olivier Nkamhoua led the Volunteers to victory in Round 2 vs. Duke, as the senior forward shot 10-for-13 from the floor and 3-for-4 from 3-point range.
Tennessee is playing without starting point guard Zakai Zeigler, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Arkansas on Feb. 28. Fortunately, the Vols’ elite defense helped them through the first two rounds, and Tennessee will look to lean on its defensive prowess once again against FAU.
The Owls are 34-3 this season and haven’t lost a game since mid-February, but I have my concerns about them scoring against a defense of Tennessee’s caliber. FAU scraped past Memphis by a single point in Round 1 and caught a break by getting to face the No. 16 seed, Fairleigh Dickinson, in Round 2.
While FAU beat FDU by eight points, I expect this to be a much lower-scoring game that feeds into the Volunteers’ style of play. I expect Tennessee to advance to the Elite Eight in this first of my college basketball picks against the spread. I feel good about the under-betting market in this game too.
The Pick: Tennessee Volunteers -5.5 (-110)
Gonzaga vs UCLA Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – Sweet 16 Betting Lines March 23rd
Moneyline: Gonzaga +115, UCLA -135
Spread: Gonzaga +2.5, UCLA -2.5
Total: Over/Under 145.5
Gonzaga vs UCLA Prediction and Pick
This is a great matchup. UCLA is outstanding, and its starting five is as talented as that of any other tournament team.
The Bruins were not tested in the first round, winning by over 30 points against the 15th-seeded UNC Asheville Bulldogs. They played a tougher opponent in Round 2, but Northwestern was nowhere near as dangerous as Gonzaga is at either end of the floor.
UCLA is not a high-volume 3-point shooting team. They find success driving into the paint and scoring inside. However, that is going to be a greater challenge against Gonzaga, whose interior defense has been a key factor in its success throughout this season and in past years.
The Bruins must find a way through that interior defense and allow their guards to get to the basket. Gonzaga is going to score because they are the highest-scoring team in the nation, averaging 87 points per game and shooting 52.6 percent from the floor. UCLA needs to find a way to slow the Bulldogs down (as much as anybody can, at least), and then keep up at the other end of the floor.
UCLA makes few turnovers and doesn’t give points away easily with cheap fouls – two things that could work in the Bruins’ favor on Thursday night.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs are a 2.5-point underdog, but I have them winning this one. If they reach 80 points, the game is theirs, and I’ll take the 2.5 points as a bonus. The Bulldogs are 28-0 this season when they score at least 75 points. UCLA knows its route to the Elite Eight requires the Bruins to slow down the Gonzaga offense, but that’s easier said than done.
The Pick: Gonzaga Bulldogs +2.5 (-110)
Alabama vs San Diego State Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – Sweet 16 Betting Lines March 24th
Moneyline: Alabama -350, San Diego State +275
Spread: Alabama -7.5, San Diego State +7.5
Total: Over/Under 137.5
Alabama vs San Diego State Prediction and Pick
The Alabama Crimson Tide are one of the experts’ most-chosen NCAA basketball picks against the spread in this year’s March Madness Sweet 16. In fact, many believe Alabama is now the team to beat at the tournament.
The Tide look unstoppable and have ripped through their opponents so far. They held eighth-ranked Maryland to 51 points and beat the Terrapins by 22 in the second round. They now face a challenging San Diego State team -- making this far from a cakewalk for Alabama.
Alabama is a national top-five scoring team this season. The Tide average 82.3 points per game and get to the free-throw line as much as anybody -- shooting 23 free throws per game. Brandon Miller leads the team with 19.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game after scoring 19 points in the win over Maryland. He’s among the most talented players at the tournament, and his performance will be key to Alabama surviving one of the nation’s best defenses.
San Diego State’s brand is based on forcing bad shots and frustrating their opponent’s offense. They’re experienced and tough, which seems to be a recurring theme among winning teams at this year's tournament. The Mountain West champions haven’t allowed an opponent to score more than 57 points through the first two rounds, and while Alabama poses a significantly bigger threat, San Diego State will be ready for it.
‘Bama is this year’s team to beat, but all of those headlines hyping them up to win can be a burden. The Tide will need to stay focused and avoid reading any of the current media speculation about their team to avoid falling into an SDSU-shaped trap.
In my opinion, Alabama will advance, but I anticipate a closely contested match with fewer points and a more tenacious style of play than what Alabama typically encounters. Margins tend to narrow as the tournament’s best come together, and I’m backing the Aztecs to cover.
The Pick: San Diego State +7.5 (-110)
Princeton vs Creighton Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – Sweet 16 Betting Lines March 24th
Moneyline: Princeton +400, Creighton -550
Spread: Princeton +9.5, Creighton -9.5
Total: Over/Under 140.5
Princeton vs Creighton Prediction and Pick
Princeton, which last made the Sweet 16 round in 1967, has now become the Cinderella team of this year's NCAA tournament.
Their most formidable tournament game to date will come against Creighton, because the Tigers face a difficult task in contending with Ryan Kalkbrenner, the Bluejays' towering 7-foot-1 center. Kalkbrenner boasts an average of more than 15 points per game, along with 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. He is considered one of the top players in college basketball when it comes to defending with his back to the basket.
Princeton forward Tosan Evbuomwan will have a tough time scoring inside, so the Tigers will need to take advantage of their 3-point opportunities if they hope to win this game. Points won’t be easy to come by in the paint, so when the ball gets kicked out to the corners or beyond the arc, Princeton shooters need to hit those threes with great consistency.
Against Missouri in Round 2, Tigers guard Ryan Langborg attempted 12 shots from 3-point range and managed to sink four. That made him the sole Princeton starter with multiple threes, but Blake Peters came off the bench and proved to be a game-changer -- hitting five of eight 3-point attempts in a mere 15 minutes of playing time. If Princeton plans to defeat Creighton, it will require similarly impressive and motivated performances.
Creighton can also shoot well from 3-point range, however, and when they’re hot, they’re very hot. The Bluejays have multiple players who can drain threes, and if those guys are in top form, Creighton will to be tough to beat.
The Bluejays have the advantage inside, but I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen from Princeton at the tournament so far. It is a heavy margin at 9.5 points, so I’m backing the Tigers to cover. Who doesn’t love a Cinderella story that sees them reaching the Elite Eight?
The Pick: Princeton +9.5 (-105)
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