March Madness odds, lines, predictions: Expert picks for 2024 NCAA Tournament games on Day 2 (March 22)

The first round of the 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is here, and Day 2 features three Final Four teams from 2023-24. 

UConn begins its national championship defense as No. 1 seed against No. 16 Wagner, but the Huskies won’t be the top seed everybody is zoned in on. 

Will No. 1 Purdue take care of business in the Midwest Region after last year’s shocking loss to No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson. 

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No. 8 FAU starts the day at No. 9 Northwestern, and No. 5 San Diego State faces No. 12 UAB. The Blazers aren’t the trendiest 5-12 upset pick either. That honor belongs to No. 12 James Madison, which catches No. 5 Wisconsin. 

It’s a loaded schedule with 16 games. Will the chalk dominate? Odds according to BetMGM.com.  

Sporting News picked every first-round game Here are our picks for Day 2: 

March Madness picks, predictions for Round 1

  • No. 8 FAU (-2.5) vs. No. 9 Northwestern (East)

FAU is back after last year’s Final Four run, and Johnell Davis (18.2 ppg.) and 7-1 center Vladislav Goldin (15.2 ppg.) are back from that team. It’s a tricky matchup against Northwestern – which is led by veteran guard Boo Buie (19.2 ppg.). The Wildcats are 3-4 S/U as an underdog of five points or less, so this one will come to the last few minutes. Davis – an 85.8% free-throw shooter – might be the closer here. 

Pick: FAU 70, Northwestern 67 

  • No. 3 Baylor (-14) vs. No. 14 Colgate (West) 

Colgate is a tournament regular, making its fifth appearance since 2019. The Raiders are less reliant on the 3-pointer this year – but they will shoot over their season total of 36.1%. Baylor has offensive balance with six players who average double digits, led by freshman guard Ja’Kobe Walker (14.2 ppg.). The Bears are 4-2 ATS when favored by 10 or more points.  

Pick: Baylor 75, Colgate 62

  • No. 5 San Diego State (-7) vs. No. 12 UAB Baylor (East) 

The Blazers are hot at the right time under coach Andy Kennedy – who led this team to the NIT championship last season. The individual matchup between UAB forward Yaxel Lendenborg (13.8 ppg., 10.5 rpg.) and San Diego State’s Jaedon Ledee (21.1 ppg., 8.4 rpg.), will be must-see TV, and the Aztecs’ defense will wear on UAB. Can the Blazer win the rebounding battle? If not, then there will be trouble. San Diego State is 10-0 when it scores 80 or more points. That’s the magic number. 

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Pick: San Diego State 80, UAB 68 

EXPERT PICKS: DeCourcy (UConn) | Bender (UConn) | Iyer (UConn) | Yanchulis (South Carolina women)

  • No. 2 Marquette (-14.5) vs. No. 15 Western Kentucky (South) 

Tyler Kolek (oblique) has been practicing, but his status is uncertain. The Golden Eagles might keep it inside knowing they shoot 56% inside the arc. Oso Ishodaro and Kameron Jones will pick up the scoring. Western Kentucky lost its last four regular-season games before winning the C-USA tournament. Guard Don McHenry (15.2 ppg.) will need to have a big game. 

Pick: Marquette 79, Western Kentucky 61

  • No. 1 UConn (-26.5) vs. No. 16 Stetson (East) 

UConn begins their national championship defense against Stetson – which would need another all-world performance from Jalen Blackmon. The junior guard scored 43 points in the Atlantic Sun championship. UConn beat Iona by 24 points in the first round last year. The Huskies are 8-0 S/U and 5-3 ATS when favored by 20 points or more. 

Pick: UConn 84, Stetson 59 

  • No. 11 New Mexico (-2.5) vs. No.6 Clemson (West) 

This line has bumped up, and the Lobos are emerging as a trendy bracket-buster pick as a result. Richard Pitino has this team playing at the top of his game, and Jaelen House (16. 1 ppg.) and Jamal Mashburn (14.4 ppg.) have NBA bloodlines that will be fun to revisit. Clemson lost three of its last five games, but the tournament offers new life. 

Pick: New Mexico 74, Clemson 68

UPSET PICKS: 10 seeds | 11 seeds | 12 seeds | 13 seeds

  • No. 4 Auburn (-12.5) vs. No. 13 Yale (East) 

Yale won the Ivy League tournament at the buzzer, but this team will have matchup issues against Auburn – which averaged 83.2 points per game this season. The Bulldogs also had 15-point losses to Kansas and Gonzaga. Auburn forward Johni Broome had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the SEC championship game and is one of those matchup problems. Auburn was 10-1 ATS when favored between 10-20 points this season. 

Pick: Auburn 79, Yale 64

  • No. 7 Florida (-1.5) vs. No. 10 Colorado (South) 

Colorado junior K.J. Simpson (19.6 ppg.) is a prolific scorer who shot 47.3% from 3-point range during an impressive Pac-12 tournament run that pushed the Buffaloes into the tournament. He had 19 points against Boise State in Dayton, and the Buffaloes hit 14 of 15 from the free-throw line. Florida has been up-and-down all season, but they are an efficient offense. The Gators are 2-2 S/U when favored by three points or less. This is a tough pick. 

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Pick: Florida 80, Colorado 77

  • No. 8 Nebraska (-1) vs. No. 9 Texas A&M (South) 

This is the classic tricky 8/9 matchup with coaches Fred Hoiberg and Buzz Williams going head to head. Texas A&M played off the bubble with the help of guards Wade Taylor (18.9 ppg.) and Tyrece Radford (16.0 ppg.). The Huskers have a tough back-court in Kelsei Tominaga (14.9 ppg.) and Brice Wiliams (13.1). The Aggies are seventh in the nation in rebounding margin (8), and that will be a difference-maker in a tight game. 

Pick: Texas A&M 73, Nebraska 71 

REGION-BY-REGION GUIDES: South | Midwest | West | East

  • No. 4 Duke (-12) vs. No. 13 Vermont (South) 

Vermont is 0-4 in its last four tournament appearances dating back to 2017, and they will have to contend with forward Kyle Filipowski (17.1 ppg., 8.2 rpg.). The Blue Devils were among the trendy upset victims last year – then they beat Oral Roberts 74-51. It’s the second round when we’ll start asking real questions about Duke. 

Pick: Duke 74, Vermont 60

  • No. 1 Purdue (-26)  vs. No. 16 Grambling (Midwest) 

Purdue lost to No. 16 FDU in last year’s tournament, and that question has hung over the program for the last year. Expect Zach Edey to get his, but the key stat is 3-point percentage. The Boilermakers are 16-0 when they hit 40% or more of their 3-pointers. Grambling won its first tournament game in school history Wednesday. The Tigers are 2-5 ATS as an underdog of 20 points or more. 

Pick: Purdue 82, Grambling 58

SN AWARDS: Men’s 2024 All-America teams | Player of the Year | Coach of the Year

  • No. 4 Alabama (-9.5) No. 13 Charleston (West) 

Charleston would be a trendy sleeper in just about any other game. The Cougars have won 57 games the past two seasons, and the top three scorers are back from a team that lost 63-57 to San Diego State in last year’s tournament. Alabama leads the nation with 90.8 points per game, and Mark Sears (21.1 ppg.) is one of the best scoring guards in the tournament. He can control this game, too. 

Pick: Alabama 81, Charleston 73

HISTORY OF UPSETS BY SEED:
16 vs. 115 vs. 2 | 14 vs. 3 | 13 vs. 4 | 12 vs. 5

  • No. 1 Houston  (-24.5) at No. 16 Longwood (South) 

Houston is coming off its worst performance of the season, and that’s likely bad news for Longwood. The Lancers are 1-5 S/U when held to 65 points or less. Look for a better offensive performance from Jamal Shead. The Cougars have won their last four NCAA first-round games by an average of 18.8 points per game. The Cougars are 6-2 ATS when favored between 20-30 points. 

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Pick: Houston 84, Longwood 54

  • No. 5 Wisconsin (-5.5) vs. No. 12 James Madison (South) 

This is everyone’s first-round upset pick, which makes us leery knowing the Badgers have heard that all week. Wisconsin allows 69.3 points per game, played well in the Big Ten tournament and is capable of controlling the tempo. We still like the Dukes, which average 84.4 points per game and had two high-scoring guards in Terrence Edwards (17.4 ppg.) and T.J. Bickerstaff (13.4 ppg.). James Madison beat Kent State and Michigan State as an underdog this season. 

Pick: James Madison 70, Wisconsin 66

  • No. 8 Utah State vs. No. 9 TCU (-4) (Midwest) 

Utah State was under-seeded in what was an amazing first season for coach Danny Sprinkle. The Aggies are led by 6-8 forward Great Osobor (18.0 ppg., 9.2 rpg.). TCU was an up-and-down team in the Big 12, and the Horned Frogs have won their first-round tournament game each of the last two seasons under Jamie Dixon. Guard Mike Miles (15.4) is a game changer. This is the toughest game to pick on Day 2. 

Pick: Utah State 72, TCU 70 

  • No. 5 Saint Mary’s (-5.5) vs. No. 12 Grand Canyon (West) 

This should be a fun game to cap the first round. Grand Canyon is led by March Madness legend Bryce Drew – and the Antelopes are balanced on offense and defense. Senior Tyon Grant-Foster (19.7 ppg.) will get a shot at the next level. This might be Saint Mary’s best team under long-time coach Randy Bennett. The Gaels limited opponents to 58.7 ppg. this season, and the line has ticked up in their favor. Saint Mary’s was 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games. 

Pick: Saint Mary’s 76, Grand Canyon 68

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