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College basketball best bets.
College basketball best bets.

Fairleigh Dickinson is the second No. 16 seed ever to be playing in the Round of 32, which sums up everything you need to know about the NCAA Tournament thus far. Read on for our March Madness best bets and predictions for Sunday based on the top NCAAB odds.

Fairleigh Dickinson's win over Purdue was the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history, as the Knights won outright despite being 23-point underdogs (the previous record was Norfolk State beating Missouri as a 21.5-point underdog in 2012).

It also improved the record of No. 16 seeds in the NCAA Tournament to 2-150. In addition, it was the first-ever tournament victory for the Northeast Conference, and now the Knights aim to do what no No. 16 has ever done and advance to the Round of 32.

To think that there are seven other games on the Sunday March Madness schedule means we are in for a thrilling day of basketball.

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

Sunday’s March Madness schedule and odds

(odds courtesy of Caesars as of Sunday, March 19 at 9 a.m. ET)

  • Pittsburgh vs. Xavier (-5.5)
  • Kentucky (-3) vs. Kansas State
  • Michigan State vs. Marquette (-2.5)
  • Saint Mary’s vs. UConn (-4)
  • Creighton vs. Baylor (-1)
  • Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Florida Atlantic (-15.5)
  • Miami vs. Indiana (-2)
  • TCU vs. Gonzaga (-4.5)

March Madness conference tournament best bets for Sunday

  • Spread: Pittsburgh +5.5 vs. Xavier (-110 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐
  • Moneyline: Marquette ML vs. Michigan State (-145 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  • Total: Fairleigh Dickinson-Florida Atlantic Over 149.5 (-110 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐
  • Upset: Creighton ML vs. Baylor (+100 via BetMGM) ⭐⭐⭐

March Madness top picks

Spread: Pittsburgh +5.5 vs. Xavier (-110 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐

This line keeps moving away from Pittsburgh, which opened as a +4.5 point underdog. While we likely would have been comfortable playing the Panthers at that number, we are making a play at +5.5 only a three-star play, in fear that the early line movement is justified.

Check out our Pittsburgh vs. Xavier prediction for more on this matchup

While Xavier is considered the much more polished offensive team, and rightfully so, as it ranks eighth in adjusted offensive efficiency, Pittsburgh is not far behind at 26th. Its offensive success is in large part because it has four players averaging in double figures, and its top three players in terms of 3-point attempts all shoot 36% or better from 3-point range. In addition, Pittsburgh has beaten two teams with defenses in the top seven in KenPom's adjusted defensive efficiency in the last two games and shot a combined 15-for-38 (39.5%) from beyond the arc.

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There is precedent for a First Four team to get hot and go on a run in the NCAA Tournament, as the Panthers seek to become the sixth team that played in the First Four to reach the Sweet 16 or beyond. We trust Pittsburgh, which is 11-4-1 ATS as an underdog, to battle an Xavier team that has won just seven of its previous 11 games.

Moneyline: Marquette ML vs. Michigan State (-145 via DraftKings) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

It still feels like Marquette is not being given much respect despite dominating a solid Big East all season, then winning the regular season and conference championships. 

Check out our Michigan State vs. Marquette prediction for more on this matchup

Per Ken Pomeroy on Twitter, there is a dubious trend surrounding Marquette, as no team that entered the NCAA Tournament as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed after not being ranked in the preseason AP poll ever made a Final Four; those teams also averaged fewer than two wins per tournament. Purdue was the other team in this same position this year, and it was on the wrong side of history on Friday night.

However, we have faith in a Golden Eagles team that ranks sixth in adjusted offensive efficiency. That should not waver even though point guard Tyler Kolek briefly left their opening-round win against Vermont due to a hand injury.

Total: Fairleigh Dickinson-Florida Atlantic Over 149.5 (-110 via Caesars) ⭐⭐⭐

Fairleigh Dickinson had a great game plan against Purdue, using its pressure defense, and small and quick guards to harass Purdue's slower and bigger team. The Knights successfully limited everyone outside of Boilermakers big man Zach Edey.

In particular, the Boilermakers' freshman backcourt duo of Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer combined for 10 of the team's 16 turnovers. However, Florida Atlantic is a much deeper team than Purdue (ranks 13th in bench minutes) and an experienced team (ranks 24th in minutes continuity). Conference USA also did a better job of preparing the Owls for the style of play that they will face against the Knights than the Big Ten did in preparing Purdue.

The Under cashed in each of Florida Atlantic's and Fairleigh Dickinson's last four games, but this is a contrarian play and goes against the overreaction that we are in for a slugfest after both teams held their opponents to an average of 61.5 points in their first round upsets.  

Check out our Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Florida Atlantic prediction

Upset: Creighton ML vs. Baylor (+100 via BetMGM) ⭐⭐⭐

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee did not do Creighton any favors, as its first two opponents (NC State and Baylor) have two of the better backcourts in the country. However, the Bluejays had an outstanding game plan against the Wolfpack, as they consistently ran them off the 3-point line (three made 3-pointers on just 14 attempts) and forced them into contested twos.

In addition, Creighton has the luxury of one of the best rim protectors in the country in Ryan Kalkbrenner. As a result, it eventually wore down NC State's Terquavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner by forcing them to make tough shots at the rim or finish over Kalkbrenner. Look for Bluejays head coach Greg McDermott to employ the same strategy against Baylor's trio of Adam Flagler, LJ Cryer, and Keyonte George.

Check out our Creighton vs. Baylor prediction for more on this matchup

Creighton's elite offense should run circles around an overrated Baylor team that ranked last in the Big 12 in adjusted defensive efficiency and effective field goal percentage defense. The NCAA Game Simulator agrees as Creighton beat Baylor 52.9% of the time in 2,222 simulations of games where there is no home-court advantage.

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Making this wager at BetMGM is a no-brainer as it is the only place where one can back the Bluejays at even odds.

College basketball best bets made 3/18/2023 at 8:03 a.m. ET.

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