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College basketball best bets.
College basketball best bets.

The South and Midwest regions will determine their Elite Eight matchups with four exciting Sweet 16 games on Friday's slate. Read on for our March Madness best bets for Friday's Sweet 16 action based on the top NCAAB odds.

A day after just one top-two seed played its Sweet 16 matchup, there are two No. 1 seeds (Alabama and Houston) and another No. 2 seed (Texas) in action on Friday. The fans of the teams in the South region will be especially on edge, as three of the four schools have never made a Final Four appearance, while the one that has (Princeton) was last there in 1965.

Here are our March Madness best bets for Friday (odds via DraftKings, Wynn, and Caesars; pick confidence based on a 1-to-5-star scale).

Friday’s March Madness schedule and odds

(odds courtesy of Caesars)

  • San Diego State vs. Alabama (-7.5)
  • Miami vs. Houston (-7.5)
  • Princeton vs. Creighton (-9.5)
  • Xavier vs. Texas (-4)

March Madness best bets for Friday

  • Spread: Houston -7.5 vs. Miami (-108 via Wynn) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Spread: Creighton -9.5 vs. Princeton (-110 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐
  • Player prop: Tyrese Hunter (Texas) Over 10.5 points vs. Xavier (+100 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐
  • Moneyline parlay: Creighton/Alabama ML Parlay (-180 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

March Madness top picks

Spread: Houston -7.5 vs. Miami (-108 via Wynn) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This may seem like a big number to lay with a team facing the ACC regular season champion and one that ranks 27th in D-I experience. However, that is our respect for Houston, which no longer seems hampered by injuries, specifically guard Marcus Sasser. Sasser scored 22 points in 31 minutes against Auburn and had his best offensive rating (per KenPom) in any of his previous six games. 

Houston uncharacteristically allowed 41 points in the first half against the Tigers. It then showed why it ranks in the top four nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, effective field goal percentage defense, 2-point percentage allowed, and 3-point percentage allowed when holding Auburn to 23 second-half points. 

Check out our Houston vs. Miami prediction

This is a four-star play, as the undersized Hurricanes will have difficulty keeping Houston off the offensive glass (the Cougars rank fourth nationally in offensive rebounding percentage at 37.4%). Head coach Kelvin Sampson's team is 10-5 ATS in non-conference games this year, while Miami is a modest 2-2 ATS against ranked opponents.

We do not feel as comfortable laying eight points or more, so Wynn makes the most sense for Houston backers, as it is the only sportsbook offering the -7.5 at less than the standard -110 juice.

Spread: Creighton -9.5 vs. Princeton (-110 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐

There was no "luck" in Princeton earning its spot in the Sweet 16, as it masterfully created two gameplans to slow down fast-tempo teams (Arizona and Missouri) and make them play at its tempo. The problem is that Creighton has fewer offensive liabilities to exploit than the Wildcats and Tigers. The Bluejays are as balanced as any team in the country, with five players averaging double figures. In addition, Creighton is comfortable playing at a slow tempo if needed, as it is 3-1 straight up in its last four games when scoring 66 points or fewer. 

Check out our Princeton vs. Creighton prediction

Creighton was the Big East's best team in terms of adjusted defensive efficiency, in large part because it controlled the defensive glass (23.2% offensive rebounding rate allowed was tops in league play), held its opponents to the league's lowest free-throw rate, and allowed just 44.5% from 2-point range thanks to center Ryan Kalkbrenner's elite rim protection. The Bluejays also do an excellent job of running teams off the 3-point line (tops in the Big East in 3-point rate allowed), and we would not expect the Tigers to have much of a chance in this game if they shoot 4-for-25 from 3-point range as they did against Arizona.

This has us willing to back Creighton at anything lower than -10, which currently only Caesars offers.

Player prop: Tyrese Hunter Over 10.5 points vs. Xavier (+100 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐

Given that this game has by far the highest O/U of any of Friday's Sweet 16 games, there should be plenty of opportunities to cash in on various player props. Xavier has just one player in the starting lineup that is trustworthy enough to match up defensively against Longhorns leading scorer Marcus Carr (15.8 points per game). That leaves two guards that are massive defensive liabilities, Souley Boum and Adam Kunkel, to deal with Texas's talented tandem of Tyrese Hunter and Sir'Jabari Rice.

Check out our Xavier vs. Texas prediction

DraftKings' O/U of 10.5 points may seem curiously low, considering Hunter has not topped that in any of his last four games (all against NCAA Tournament competition). However, before that, he beat that projected total in five consecutive games while averaging 14.8 points and connecting on 14 of 25 3-point attempts (56%). Look for Longhorns head coach Rodney Terry to unleash Hunter in this matchup as he hunts (no pun intended) the weakest opposing defender, with most of the attention likely paid to Carr.

Moneyline Parlay: Creighton/Alabama ML Parlay (-180 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Bluejays were 8-5 ATS in non-conference games this year and covered in each of their previous four NCAA Tournament games. Since we already like them to cover a near double-digit spread, Caesars offers a great price to back the No. 1 overall seed on the moneyline as part of a small two-team parlay.

Alabama cruised to two 21-plus-point victories through the first two rounds. That is made out to be even more impressive when considering SEC Player of the Year Brandon Miller was held scoreless over 19 minutes in the team's first game, yet the Crimson Tide still scored 96 points and averaged 1.32 points per possession. San Diego State will look to keep the game close with a methodical tempo (263rd in adjusted tempo, per KenPom) but does not shoot it consistently enough (174th in 3-point percentage, 207th in 2-point percentage) to hang with the high-powered Crimson Tide for 40 minutes. 

Check out our San Diego State vs. Alabama prediction

DraftKings offers a slightly better payout than PointsBet (-185), for example, as DraftKings has a much better number than competing sportsbooks on Creighton's moneyline (-500) than all others who are at -520 or lower.

College basketball best bets made 3/24/2023 at 6:19 a.m. ET.

Sweet 16 expert picks

Sweet 16 expert picks made by Phil Wood and Shane Jackson.

Phil WoodMiami +7 (-105)DraftKings⭐⭐⭐⭐
Shane JacksonSan Diego State +7.5 (-110)DraftKings⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Miami +7 (-105 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I absolutely love the Canes as 7-point underdogs against Houston. It's confusing to see this line so large considering what the Canes did to the Indiana Hoosiers in the second round. Meanwhile, the Cougars got a lot of help from 17 missed free throws by the Auburn Tigers. 

The Hurricanes were a popular pick to lose in the first round, then they were a popular pick to lose in the second. They're still here, and while they will be facing their toughest opponent yet, this isn't a terrible matchup for Miami. 

The Cougars are a defensive-minded team, but the Hurricanes' offense is good enough to score on anyone. Miami can win this game outright. But even if the Hurricanes lose, this is going to be a low-scoring game. The Hurricanes lost exactly one game by more than seven points this season, and that was in November. They should stay within this spread from start to finish. - Wood

San Diego State +7.5 (-110 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Lamont Butler #5 of the San Diego State Aztecs as we look at our Sweet 16 expert picks
Lamont Butler #5 of the San Diego State Aztecs dribbles the ball against the Furman Paladins during the second half in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Amway Center on March 18, 2023 in Orlando, Florida. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images via AFP

This line touched as high as 8 earlier this week, when I grabbed it, but this spread is playable at anything +7 or better. I make this line 5.5, KenPom sets it at 6, and ShotQuality actually has a 2.4-point margin between these two teams. We are getting a favorable number here due to the Crimson Tide’s impressive play in the opening weekend.

But San Diego State is arguably best equipped to limit Alabama as much as anyone in this entire region. According to Bart Torvik, the Aztecs have had the top-ranked adjusted defensive efficiency in the country since Jan. 15. They defend the 3-point range at the fourth-best clip in the sport, while also having a knack for halting teams in transition.

Alabama wants to beat teams with the 3-ball and take advantage of easy opportunities in transition. The Crimson Tide attempt the eighth-most 3-pointers in the nation and are getting 36.8% of their production from there. They are also fifth in adjusted tempo compared to San Diego State’s pace of 263rd.

This matchup is clearly a showdown between contrasting styles, and perhaps Alabama’s talent ultimately prevails in this one. That isn’t going to stop me from taking the points and betting on San Diego State to keep this within striking distance. For my first five-star bet of the college hoops season, I’m riding with my Aztecs. - Jackson

Here are our best March Madness betting sites:

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