March Madness: What you need to know to bet all eight Sweet 16 games

We could be in for a heck of a weekend of college basketball.

Six of the eight men’s Sweet 16 games on Thursday and Friday night have point spreads fewer than seven points as 14 of the 16 teams still alive in the NCAA tournament are No. 5 seeds or higher. All eight No. 1 and No. 2 seeds are still alive in the tournament. It’s the first time since 2019 that the top eight seeds have all made it to the second weekend.

No. 6 Clemson and No. 11 NC State are the only two teams still playing that weren’t among the top 20 seeds on selection Sunday. The Tigers are 7.5-point underdogs to No. 2 Arizona on Thursday night, while NC State is a 6.5-point underdog against No. 2 Marquette.

The biggest underdog of the round is No. 5 San Diego State. The Aztecs meet UConn on Thursday in a rematch of last season’s title game. And just like UConn’s win a season ago, oddsmakers are bullish on the Huskies. The national title favorites are 10.5-point favorites over San Diego State.

Here’s what you need to know about all eight Sweet 16 games, especially if you’re looking to make a wager or three at BetMGM.

Thursday’s games

No. 2 Arizona (-7.5) vs. No. 6 Clemson (7 p.m., CBS)

  • Over/under: 151.5 points

The Wildcats have bounced back nicely from their first-round exit a season ago. Arizona beat Long Beach State by 20 in the first round and Dayton by 10 in the second round. Clemson took down New Mexico to open the tournament and then held off an attempted rally by Baylor on Sunday night to get to the Sweet 16. The Wildcats are 22-13 ATS this year, while Clemson is 19-14-1.

A March Madness repeat: Donovan Clingan and UConn meet San Diego State on Thursday in a rematch of the 2023 national title game. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
A March Madness repeat: Donovan Clingan and UConn meet San Diego State on Thursday in a rematch of the 2023 national title game. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) (Carmen Mandato via Getty Images)

No. 1 UConn (-10.5) vs. No. 5 San Diego State (7:30 p.m., TBS)

  • O/U: 135.5

UConn is the prohibitive favorite to win the national title at +200. Conversely, San Diego State has the longest odds of anyone to make the Final Four at +1400. The Huskies beat everyone by double-digits to win the NCAA tournament a season ago and have covered the spread in two-thirds of their games this season. SDSU, meanwhile, is just 14-20 against the spread this season.

No. 1 North Carolina (-4.5) vs. No. 4 Alabama (9:30 p.m., CBS)

  • O/U: 173.5

UNC is the most-bet team to make the Final Four. Over 9% of Final Four tickets are on the Tar Heels as their odds have dropped from +300 before the tournament to +175 now. Alabama got through a chaotic second-round game against Grand Canyon on Sunday and is 19-15 against the spread this year; UNC is 21-15. At 173.5, this game has the highest total of any Sweet 16 game by far. The next-closest total is 154.5 in Purdue vs. Gonzaga.

No. 2 Iowa State (-1.5) vs. No. 3 llinois (10 p.m., TBS)

  • O/U: 146.5

The matchup of midwestern teams has the closest spread of any game in the Sweet 16. You’re probably better off taking the money line in this one. Each team is -110 with the points, while Iowa State is -125 outright and Illinois is +105 to win. Iowa State is one of four teams in men’s college basketball this season that covered in more than 70% of its games. Illinois, meanwhile, is 20-13-3 ATS.

Friday’s games

No. 2 Marquette (-6.5) vs. No. 11 NC State (7 p.m., CBS)

  • O/U: 151.5

The Golden Eagles have looked great through the first two games of the tournament with the return of point guard Tyler Kolek from an oblique injury. Kolek posted a double-double in both the first and second round. NC State has won seven straight games as it became the first team to win five games in five days at the ACC tournament. Despite the late season surge, NC State is still just 18-19-1 ATS this season.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 24: Zach Edey #15 and Myles Colvin #5 of the Purdue Boilermakers high five against the Utah State Aggies during the first half in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on March 24, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Purdue blew out Utah State in the second round to set up a Sweet 16 matchup against Gonzaga. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) (Andy Lyons via Getty Images)

No. 1 Purdue (-5.5) vs. No. 5 Gonzaga (7:30 p.m., TBS)

  • O/U: 154.5

Both teams have excellent win-loss records but haven’t been very good against the spread this season. Purdue is 18-15-2, while Gonzaga is 17-16. The Bulldogs have covered the spread in five of their last six games. Purdue failed to cover in five of its last six games before the NCAA tournament but covered by one against Grambling State and by 27.5 against Utah State.

No. 1 Houston (-3.5) vs. No. 4 Duke (9:30 p.m., CBS)

  • O/U: 134.5

Houston won the Big 12 easily in its first season in the conference but is 17-17-2 ATS this season. Duke is 20-13-1 despite being a team that is appealing for casual bettors because of its name recognition. The last time the Blue Devils failed to cover against a team not from North Carolina came all the way back on Jan. 20 against Pitt.

No. 2 Tennessee (-2.5) vs. No. 3 Creighton (10 p.m., TBS)

  • O/U: 144.5

We’ve talked a lot about Rick Barnes’ porous record ATS in the NCAA tournament and Tennessee is 1-1 against the spread in this year’s tournament. The Vols covered easily against Saint Peter’s but failed to cover against Texas. On the season, Tennessee is 17-16-1 against the spread. Creighton is 19-15 against the number and has covered in nine of its last 11 games. It’s just the fourth time all season the Blue Jays have been an underdog and they are 1-2 both straight up and ATS in the previous three games.