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Tyler Kolek #11 of the Marquette Golden Eagles celebrates as we make our March Madness survivor picks ahead of the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.
Tyler Kolek #11 of the Marquette Golden Eagles celebrates after defeating the Colorado Buffaloes 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 via AFP.

We're putting together our Sweet 16 March Madness survivor pool picks and rankings as the 2024 NCAA Tournament heads down the home stretch, with odds from our best March Madness betting sites.

NCAA Tournament survivor pools provide an opportunity for college basketball fans to remain engaged in March Madness, even if their brackets have been busted.

Navigating a survivor pool is about more than just picking the winner but doing so at the right time. Generally, survivor contests allow you to pick a team only once throughout the tournament, so the thrill is picking them at the correct time - you have to avoid picking the top teams by the March Madness odds too early or be backed into a corner when they're the only options left.

Here's a look at our survivor pool picks and expert rankings ahead of the Sweet 16, using our analysis of the Sweet 16 odds and betting lines.

Don't miss our Sweet 16 expert picks, and our Sweet 16 player props and best bets for more help navigating the Round 3 action.

Survivor pool picks: Sweet 16

We're ranking the 16 remaining teams in the NCAA Tournament from the best (1) to worst (16) picks to use as your Sweet 16 survivor pick. Odds to win the NCAA Tournament via BetMGM.

TeamOdds (BetMGM)CowartPaul
North Carolina+1100(5)(3)
Iowa State+2000(4)(8)
San Diego State+8000(15)(16)
NC State+10000(16)(15)

Not intended for use in MA
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Who to take in survivor pools this week

My top pick: Marquette

There are only two teams I have full confidence will win this weekend. One is UConn, which is best saved for later in the tournament. The other is Marquette, which faces lowly NC State in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

The Wolfpack have enjoyed an all-time tournament run to this point dating back to the ACC Tournament, but Kevin Keatts' group is on borrowed time after narrowly surviving No. 14 seed Oakland in the Round of 32. I don't expect D.J. Burns to have as much success against Oso Ighodaro (6-foor-11, 235 pounds), while NC State lacks the outside shooting to take advantage of a Marquette defense that loves to press the ball and gamble in passing lanes.

While I think the Golden Eagles have Final Four potential, I don't mind using them here given the uncertainty across the board with this weekend's matchups.

-- C Jackson Cowart SBR | Twitter/X

My top pick: Marquette

Wanting to save a top-tier team like UConn for later in the survivor pool, Marquette is an obvious top choice in the Sweet 16. The Golden Eagles are playing No. 11 seed NC State, the lowest seeded team in the third round. We likely don't need to hold off on using a team like Marquette now either, with No. 1 seed Houston potentially playing them in the Elite Eight.

Guards Tyler Kolek and Kam Jones are combining to average 42.5 points per game in the NCAA Tournament and pose a difficult matchup for an NC State defense ranked 75th in adjusted efficiency.

-- Rob Paul SBR | Twitter/X

Sleeper pick: Purdue

If you're looking for an unconventional pick that could help you win your survivor pool - especially in a larger group with more consensus picks - consider backing Purdue ahead of its Sweet 16 clash with Gonzaga.

I highlighted the Zags as one of my favorite March Madness upset predictions, but in a round with so many close matchups, I still expect the Boilermakers to take care of business on Friday. Where I think they could run into trouble is the Elite Eight against Creighton, which has the requisite size and shot-making to give Purdue a run for its money.

-- Cowart

Sleeper pick: Tennessee

While it's hard to dub a No. 2 seed a sleeper, Tennessee has one of the tougher draws of the Sweet 16 against No. 3 seed Creighton - this game is probably the most evenly matched of the third round. However, the Volunteers match up well with their defense, which ranks third in adjusted efficiency. The Bluejays lean heavily on their 3-point game and Tennessee is keeping opponents to shooting just 30.9% from behind the arc.

The biggest difference for the Vols, though, is All-American Dalton Knecht. He gives coach Rick Barnes an elite scoring threat to lean on (21.1 points per game) when his defense isn't playing up to its standard. Tennessee will also be a tough team to justify picking in the Elite Eight as the program will likely play Purdue and Zach Edey, one of the March Madness MVP odds favorites. 

-- Paul

Team to fade: Houston

Three of the four No. 1 seeds have won each of their first two games by at least 16 points. The lone exception is Houston, which nearly fell in the second round after an inspired effort by Texas A&M in a 100-95 overtime loss.

That doesn't mean the Cougars aren't an elite team, but they're certainly vulnerable heading into the Sweet 16. And I don't love the way they match up with Duke and 7-foot center Kyle Filipowski, who has the size and skill to exploit one of the smallest lineups in the country.

If Houston does survive this matchup, I like the way Kelvin Sampson's team matches up with Marquette better than Friday's draw, anyway. That's usually a good sign to avoid a team in a survivor pool and turn to other options before circling back in the later rounds.

-- Cowart

Team to fade: Iowa State

Of all the Sweet 16 matchups, the Iowa State-Illinois game is the hardest to project. The Cyclones have the top team in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, but the Illini are No. 1 in adjusted offensive efficiency. Maybe this game will prove that defense does win championships, but it's hard to have confidence picking against a team with Terrence Shannon Jr. and Marcus Domask. 

Shannon has been on another level in the postseason - first during Illinois' Big Ten Tournament championship run and now through two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. He's averaging 31.6 points per game over his last five outings. Meanwhile, Domask is at 19 points, 8.2 assists, and seven rebounds per game in his last four games. If the Cyclones can't slow down Illinois, will they be able to keep up?

-- Paul

Sweet 16 predictions



What are March Madness survivor pools?

Like any sports league survivor pool, the goal is to pick a team that will win that week, or in this case, that round. Each member of a March Madness survivor pool will choose one team each round to win, but the caveat is that you can only pick each team once. So, once a team is used by a member of the survivor pool, that member cannot use that team again.

If a member of the survivor pool gets their pick correct, they survive to the next round where they will choose a different team to win. If the member's pick is incorrect, they're eliminated from the pool - unless it's a survivor pool that allows for more than one wrong pick prior to elimination. To win the survivor pool, you must be the last competitor standing. 

March Madness survivor pool strategies 

The biggest mistake when it comes to March Madness survivor pools is picking the best teams too early. Saving a No. 1 seed like UConn for later in the tournament is always the smartest way to go about a survivor pool, but that doesn't mean gambling on a lower seed early. The best move is usually to find a team you trust with a matchup you like and taking them to win. It can be especially helpful if that team is likely to have a tougher matchup in the next round, therefore making them a less attractive pick going forward.

Obviously at the end of the day, the most important aspect is to survive and advance in the pool, so for some that can mean taking an obvious winner and hoping others lose early. However, that can leave you with slim pickings if you manage to be one of the last members of the pool left - there's nothing worse than having to take a lesser team with the survivor pool pot on the line.

March Madness betting odds pages

Here are our best March Madness betting sites:

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* Bonuses not applicable in Ontario.

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