March Madness odds, lines, point spreads: Sweet 16 best bets, ATS picks and parlays

The first weekend of the 2024 NCAA March Madness tournament has come and gone, and what a wild stretch of hoops it turned out to be! Kentucky got dropped by Oakland, James Madison took care of Wisconsin, Yale upset Auburn, and Duquesne got past BYU. Cinderellas everywhere… at least the second round when favorites mostly handled their business.

Now it’s time to look ahead to the Sweet 16, when the cream usually rises to the top and mid-major upsets become far more rare. This is when the true contenders start catching the eye of the millions of basketball fans and bettors watching the road to the national championship. 

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As the competition has started to tighten up, so too have the spreads. We won’t see many teams favored by 10-20 points from here on out, which means we must be extra diligent when it comes to researching odds and analyzing betting trends

If you’re looking for the best bets for the Sweet 16, you’ve come to the right place. Sporting News has you covered with our advice, picks, and sleepers as March Madness gears up for its second weekend of action.

March Madness odds, lines and point spreads for Sweet 16

Below are the current March Madness odds for the Sweet 16, including point spreads, money lines, and over-under totals for every game. All odds are courtesy of BetMGM.

Spread Moneyline Over/Under
Illinois vs. Iowa St. (-2.5) Iowa St -145; Illinois +120 146.5
Creighton vs. Tennessee (-2.5) Tennessee -145; Creighton +120 143.5
North Carolina (-4.5) vs. Alabama North Carolina -185; Alabama +150 173.5
Arizona (-7.5) vs. Clemson Arizona -350; Clemson +260 151.5
N.C. State vs. Marquette (-6.5) Marquette -300; N.C. State +240 150.5
Gonzaga vs. Purdue (-4.5) Purdue -185; Gonzaga +150 154.5
Duke vs. Houston (-4) Houston -192; Duke +160 133.5
UConn (-10) vs. San Diego St. UConn -485; San Diego St. +370 135.5

March Madness best bets for Sweet 16

Tennessee moneyline (-145) vs. Creighton

We featured Tennessee as one of the safer bets to advance through the opening weekend of March Madness, and we like Dalton Knecht and the Vols to continue their run at a national championship with a win over Creighton on Friday. 

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Think about this: Rick Barnes’ Volunteers haven’t played nearly as well as they’re capable of playing this tournament, yet they’re still standing. They had 15 turnovers against St. Peter’s in the first round, yet they won 83-49. They shot 33.8 percent from the field and 3-of-25 from deep against Texas, yet beat Barnes’ old squad 62-58. 

How!? How is Tennessee still alive, you ask? Defense. The Vols forced the Longhorns into 16 turnovers on Saturday, two days after limiting St. Peter’s to an unfathomably bad 16-of-55 from the floor (29.1%) and 4-of-24 from three-point land (16.7%).

That’s the real key for this Tennessee-Creighton matchup: three-point defense. The Kentucky Wildcats leveled UT from deep in its final game of the regular season, with UK shooting 15-of-29 from three. In the Volunteers’ three games since then, they have surrendered just 15 treys total on 60 attempts (25%). That’s crucial, because Creighton needs the three-ball to succeed.

Across the Bluejays’ 25 wins this season, they have averaged 11.7 three-pointers. Over their nine losses, they have averaged just eight. In each of their most recent two losses away from home — a neutral-site loss to conference-rival Providence in the Big East tourney, and a regular-season L at St. John’s — Greg McDermott’s squad maxed out at six triples. 

Tennessee is a stifling unit defensively, and Knecht’s confidence continues to grow as his NBA Draft stock rises. If the Vols can get some complementary players going, like junior guard Zakai Ziegler and junior big man Jonas Aidoo, Barnes’ team should be able to scoot past Creighton and into the Elite Eight. 

FINAL SCORE PREDICTION: Tennessee 73, Creighton 68

MORE: NBA mock draft predicts where Dalton Knecht, other March Madness stars will land

Houston ATS (-4) vs. Duke

It feels like Jon Scheyer’s Blue Devils are playing with house money, cruising through the first two rounds thanks in large part to solid three-point shooting as well as hapless opposing numbers from Vermont and James Madison. Those two mid-majors combined to score 102 points against Duke, terrible preparation for Scheyer’s squad ahead of a meeting with high-powered Houston. 

Jamal Shead and the Cougars played suffocating defense all season, the main reason Houston has 17 Quadrant 1 wins on the campaign (Duke has gone just 5-4 in Quad 1 play). But Kelvin Sampson’s squad has also been scoring almost effortlessly over its first two victories in the Big Dance, putting up a combined 186 points over Longwood and Texas A&M. 

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Duke’s a lot better than those two squads, but Houston is also a lot better than Duke. When the Cougars have enough time to prepare — which they do ahead of the Sweet 16 — they’re tough to score on, never mind beat. They won’t give up nearly as many open looks from outside as the Blue Devils have been afforded, nor will they let Duke out of the building with single-digit turnovers like JMU and Vermont did.

Oh, and did we mention that this game will be played in Dallas, Texas? That’s about 3.5-4 hours by car, an hour by plane, Cougar Nation. Bet on Houston to take care of business in what will most likely feel like a home game. 

FINAL SCORE PREDICTION: Houston 85, Duke 75

MORE: Jim Nantz cheers on beloved Houston Cougars during March Madness run

March Madness best parlays for Sweet 16

Illinois vs. Iowa State: Illini +2.5 + OVER 146.5 (+264)

This should be a fantastic game to watch, as both of these squads can shoot lights-out from beyond the three-point arc and score boatloads of points. Illinois ranks ninth in the nation in scoring (84.6 PPG) while shooting 35.3 percent from deep, and Iowa State averages 75.5 PPG with a 35.6 percent rate from long distance. 

Sure, the Cyclones had the fourth-best scoring defense this season (allowing 61.3 PPG), but Terrence Shannon and the Illini have put plenty of points on plenty of strong defenses. Illinois’ offense will make Iowa State’s D bend far more than the Cyclones’ D will make the Illini’s offense break. 

What gives us the confidence to say that? Illinois has played four straight neutral-site games — against Nebraska and Wisconsin in the Big 10 tournament, and Morehead State and Duquesne in the first and second rounds of March Madness — and it has scored 98, 93, 85, and 89. All better than its season average of 84.6.

Creighton, meanwhile, has surrendered 69 PPG over its five neutral-site games. That’s 7.7 PPG worse than its season-long average. The Bluejays have also lost the rebounding battle in two of their past three games, while Illinois has been a +35 on the glass over its past four games. 

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Back the faster-paced, better shooting, better rebounding Illinois squad and bet the OVER with confidence.

FINAL SCORE PREDICTION: Illinois 77, Iowa State 74

Clemson vs. Arizona: Clemson +7.5 + UNDER 151.5 (+264)

We’re not quite sure why oddsmakers are giving the Clemson Tigers more points than any other Sweet 16 team, or for that matter why anyone could possibly trust a recently-inconsistent Arizona squad to mount the largest victory of the round. However, we’ll take what should be an easy cover, and we recommend you do the same before this line moves.

Across its first two tournament victories over New Mexico and Baylor, Clemson has shot very well from all three levels and taken very good care of the basketball. Their combined shooting splits: 46.4/34.2/79.1. Their per-game assists and turnovers numbers during that run: 16 and 10 (1.6 A:TO). 

Now consider the fact that Arizona is just a couple weeks removed from a 67-59 loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 tournament. The Wildcats also turned the ball over 15 times in their second-round March Madness win over Dayton, and allowed the Flyers to mount multiple scoring runs. If Dayton had a bench, it would’ve advanced.

Clemson isn’t crazy deep, but we like the balanced scoring we’ve seen from the Tigers over their run through the first two rounds. They’re efficient from two (54.3%) and from three (35.3%), they crash the boards (27.3 DRPG), they hit their free throws (78.8%), and they score a bunch (75.5 PPG).

Arizona will probably win this game — Tommy Lloyd’s squad is too strong from both sides to get upset here — but Brad Brownell’s team can at least stay within seven points in this one.

FINAL SCORE PREDICTION: Arizona 74, Clemson 69

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