March Madness Second Round Predictions & Picks

Doug Bonjour
Last Updated: Mar 22, 2024

The opening day of the NCAA Tournament is in the books.

It was relatively light on drama, at least compared to previous years. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

What can we expect from the Round of 32? Here are some of our second-round best bets as the Big Dance rolls on.

March Madness Second Round Predictions

College basketball odds used for these NCAA Tournament predictions are current as of Thursday, March 21, and courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Illinois vs Duquesne Prediction

Best Bet: Illinois -8.5 (-110)

Third-seeded Illinois is an offensive dynamo, capable of scoring in bunches when in rhythm.

Brad Underwood’s team trailed by double digits in all three of its Big Ten Tournament wins and fell behind 9-0 in its first-round triumph over No. 14 seed Morehead State. Its average victory over that span? Nine points.

Duquesne limited high-powered BYU to 67 points, well below its season average of 81.8, on 38.6% shooting.

The Dukes have been solid all year in terms of their two-point defense, so it’s not as if that effort came out of nowhere.

But the Fighting Illini’s talent and athleticism may be too much for them to handle, led by Terrance Shannon Jr. who is averaging 30.6 points over his last five games.

Look for the Fighting Illini — who have covered in three straight and four of their last five — to move on to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2005.

[pick id="179195"]

Creighton vs Oregon Prediction

Best Bet: Over 147 (-110)

Creighton is one of the top offenses in the country, averaging 80.4 points and ranking 12th in efficiency.

The Bluejays attempt a lot of 3-pointers — 29.3 per game, ninth most in Division I — but are also proficient from inside the arc thanks to 6-foot-7 Baylor Scheierman and 7-foot-1 Ryan Kalkbrenner.

The third-seeded Bluejays are just 16-17 to the Over this season but have gone Over the total in 10 of their last 15 games.

While Oregon has improved defensively of late, it also possesses the guard play needed to keep pace here and maybe even pull off the upset.

Jermaine Couisnard exploded for a program tournament record 40 points in a first-round win over South Carolina, fueling an offense that shot almost 60% from the field.

The 11th-seeded Ducks have hit the Over in six of their last eight games and are 21-14 to the Over this season.

[pick id="179196"]

Arizona vs Dayton Prediction

Best Bet: Under 151 (-110)

Dayton averages 74.7 points per game and is 22nd in the country in efficiency, but its best chance to stick with heavily favored Arizona in this matchup may be to slow things down and grind it out in the half-court.

The seventh-seeded Flyers are generally effective at that, ranking 336th in tempo. In comparison, Arizona is 16th.

While Dayton is 18-13-1 to the Over this season, this is somewhat uncharted territory in that they’ve had just one game with a projected total of at least 150 points.

I’m leery of going above that number.

[pick id="179198"]

North Carolina vs Michigan State Prediction

Best Bet: North Carolina -4 (-110)

After winning his NCAA Tournament record 17th game as a lower seed, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has his sights on another Sweet 16.

The ninth-seeded Spartans pushed Purdue to the wire in the Big Ten Tournament and led for the entirety of their first-round win over Mississippi State. Izzo’s teams have relished the underdog role over the years, and this one seems to be following suit.

That said, I can’t pick them here. North Carolina is deeper and more balanced, and as a No. 1 seed, it has the built-in advantage of playing a virtual home game in Charlotte, N.C.

At this price, it feels like Michigan State is getting a bit too much respect.

[pick id="179200"]

Iowa State vs Washington State Prediction

Best Bet: Iowa State -8.5 (-110)

No. 2 seed Iowa State has covered in four straight and is 24-10-1 against the spread – the best ATS record among remaining tournament teams – after disposing of South Dakota State.

Washington State may be able to match the Cyclones’ defensive intensity, but that only goes so far. Iowa State went 13-5 in the country’s toughest conference and won the Big 12 Tournament to boot.

Few teams are on the Cyclones’ level right now, and the seventh-seeded Cougars aren’t one of them.

[pick id="179201"]


Doug Bonjour

Doug covered college and prep sports in Connecticut for more than a decade, including stints as the UConn women’s basketball and UConn football beat reporter for Hearst Connecticut Media. During his time reporting on the 11-time national champion Huskies, he covered three NCAA Final Fours. He also has written for the Associated Press and New York Times.

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