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Ryan Kalkbrenner #11 of the Creighton Bluejays reacts as we make our March Madness upset picks and predictions for the Sweet 16.
Ryan Kalkbrenner #11 of the Creighton Bluejays reacts during a second overtime of a game against the Oregon Ducks in the second round of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at PPG PAINTS Arena on March 23, 2024 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images via AFP.

After a crazy first round of March Madness, the upsets came to a halt in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. We're looking ahead with our best March Madness upset predictions based on the March Madness odds ahead of this weekend from our best March Madness betting sites.

The first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament certainly delivered with enough upsets to make our March Madness bracket predictions look silly after just two days. At least we made a little money, backing underdogs on the moneyline in the first round.

Favorites got their revenge in the second round, winning 15 of 16 games outright for the second-best Round of 32 performance since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Only Clemson - which we offered as a +165 underdog entering the weekend - broke up a perfect weekend for chalk bettors.

Will we see more chaos in the second weekend of March Madness? Here are our favorite upset predictions for the Sweet 16 and what you'll need to know when trying to forecast the most significant surprises of the 2024 tournament.

2024 March Madness upsets, underdog odds for Sweet 16

UnderdogBest oddsResult
Clemson (6) vs. Arizona (2)+260 via BetMGMTBD
San Diego State (5) vs. UConn (1)+500 via BetMGMTBD
Alabama (4) vs. North Carolina (1)+165 via BetMGMTBD
Illinois (3) vs. Iowa State (2)+110 via BetMGMTBD
NC State (11) vs. Marquette (2)+235 via bet365TBD
Gonzaga (5) vs. Purdue (1)+188 via FanDuelTBD
Duke (4) vs. Houston (1)+160 via DraftKingsTBD
Creighton (3) vs. Tennessee (2)+140 via CaesarsTBD

Our favorite 2024 March Madness upsets: Sweet 16

Clemson (6) vs. Arizona (2)

Best odds: +260 via BetMGM

We cashed on Clemson last week as the only underdog to win outright in the chalky Round of 32. And I like the Tigers' chances of going 3-for-3 on upset wins in this NCAA Tournament.

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We saw Arizona's offense run cold for stretches of its win over Dayton, but Caleb Love (19 points, five assists) and Pelle Larsson (13 points, six assists) hit enough key shots in the second round to survive. That hasn't always been the case this year, hence the Wildcats' surprising losses in Pac-12 play.

Clemson's size inside and switchable pieces along the perimeter could give Arizona trouble on Thursday. The Tigers' top-25 offense has exceeded 1.08 points per possession in each of their wins to this point. At these odds, I love their chances of upending Arizona in the first game of the Sweet 16.

Gonzaga (5) vs. Purdue (1)

Best odds: +188 via FanDuel

It's fair to ask whether any team in this field can truly stop Purdue and star big man Zach Edey, the current favorite by the March Madness MVP odds. That said, I like Gonzaga's chances of giving the Boilermakers a scare this weekend.

The Bulldogs are one of the few teams in this tournament with the offensive firepower to keep pace with Purdue. They rank seventh in scoring efficiency with four double-digit scorers. Crucially, they also feature three starters standing 6-foot-8 or taller, which doesn't include freshman super-sub Braden Huff (6-foot-10, 242).

When these teams played on Nov. 20, the Zags led by five at halftime before Edey took over in the second half. If they can better corral the 7-4 big this time around - and that's a big "if" - the Boilermakers could be on upset alert.

Creighton (3) vs. Tennessee (2)

Best odds: +140 via Caesars

I had Creighton in the Final Four of my original bracket, and I haven't seen anything to discourage my view of this team as a potential championship squad. I can't say the same about Tennessee.

The Volunteers did what they needed to do to "survive and advance," but their offense - which was already a sneaky question mark for this group heading into the tournament - scored just 0.87 points per possession in their second-round win over Texas. That's the lowest mark in a win by Tennessee this season.

I don't see things getting any easier against a star-studded Creighton team, which features an elite rim protector in Ryan Kalkbrenner (3.1 BPG) and a versatile group of shot-makers with size along the perimeter. I genuinely expect the Bluejays to win this game, so these +140 odds are icing on the cake.

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2024 March Madness Round 2 upset predictions

Our favorite 2024 March Madness upsets: Round 2

James Madison (12) vs. Duke (4) ❌

Best odds: +260 via BetMGM

James Madison was our favorite upset pick of the first round, and the 12th-seeded Dukes delivered with a resounding 72-61 win over No. 5 Wisconsin that didn't feel as close as the final score suggests.

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Now they have their sights aptly set on Duke, which looked uninspired in Friday's win over Vermont. Star center Kyle Filipowski scored just three points for the Blue Devils, who leaned on their cast of former top recruits to overwhelm the Catamounts in a 64-47 win.

That won't cut it against this swarming James Madison team, which owns the nation's longest active win streak (14) and one of the best perimeter defenses in the country, which will force Duke to assert its dominance down low. The Blue Devils have the talent to do so, but don't be surprised if James Madison once again plays like the better team against a higher seed.

-- Pick by C Jackson Cowart (Twitter/X)

Clemson (6) vs. Baylor (3) ✅

Best odds: +165 via BetMGM

Clemson entered the first round as one of the most popular picks to get upset by New Mexico, which closed as the betting favorite as a No. 11 seed. The Tigers responded with an authoritative 21-point victory, and they're being overlooked heading into the second round, too.

This has been a different team since versatile big man Jack Clark (6-10) returned to the starting lineup on Feb. 6, ranking 20th in adjusted net efficiency with a switchable defense that has given opposing teams fits. Clemson's offense has come alive, too, with capable shooters surrounding star big PJ Hall (18.7 PPG).

Baylor looked impressive in the first round, too, beating up on lowly Colgate to advance to the second round. Yet the Bears have been marginally better than Clemson over the last six weeks and will be without guard Langston Love - the team's fourth-best scorer (11 PPG) and best 3-point shooter (48%) - on Sunday.

-- Pick by C Jackson Cowart (Twitter/X)

Oakland (14) vs. NC State (11) ❌

Best odds: +225 via BetMGM

Are we sure that NC State is the better team in this matchup? Sure, the Wolfpack hail from a bigger conference with more name-brand talent, but Oakland looked like a serious problem in the first round against Kentucky.

As we laid out in our Oakland vs. NC State expert pick, the Golden Grizzlies have hit at least eight threes in 11 of their last 14 games after sinking 15 of them in Thursday's stunning upset, while tournament hero Jack Gohlke has now drilled 22 combined 3-pointers over his last three games.

NC State features a mediocre perimeter defense and lacks the 3-point shooting prowess to keep pace if this one turns into a shootout. I smell another upset brewing in the second round for this year's tournament darling.

-- Pick by C Jackson Cowart (Twitter/X)

2024 March Madness Round 1 upset predictions

Our favorite 2024 March Madness upsets: Round 1

James Madison (12) vs. Wisconsin (5) ✅

Best odds: +195 via bet365

There's a rich history of No. 12 seeds upsetting No. 5 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, and James Madison has a chance to continue the tradition. The Dukes have one of the best offenses at the mid-major level, ranking 10th in the country in points per game (84.4). This is a program used to beating higher-ranked Big Ten teams, too - James Madison opened the year with a road upset of No. 4 Michigan State.

Behind Terrence Edwards (17.4 points per game), the Dukes can push the pace against a Wisconsin team that finished the regular season on a 6-9 skid. The Badgers defense is questionable and this won't be an easy matchup. The best value on the Dukes moneyline comes from bet365 and BetMGM with a $10 wager leading to a $19.50 profit.

-- Pick by Rob Paul (X/Twitter)

NC State (11) vs. Texas Tech (6) ✅

Best odds: +180 via DraftKings

No team is more of a Cinderella heading into the first round of the NCAA Tournament than NC State. The Wolfpack had no shot of making March Madness until they won five games in five days to take home the ACC Tournament crown and secure their NCAA Tournament bid. Behind the play of DJ Horne and DJ Burns, NC State is one of the hottest teams in the country.

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This Texas Tech program has been a tad inconsistent with a few big wins, but eight losses over its final 17 games. Now the Red Raiders are tasked with taking on a team that even No. 1 seed North Carolina couldn't handle. The Wolfpack moneyline is as short as +162 at FanDuel, which implies a 35.71% probability that NC State wins - we get better value though with DraftKings' +180 line.

-- Pick by Rob Paul (X/Twitter)

UAB (12) vs. San Diego State (5) ❌

Best odds: +240 via FanDuel

Last year, San Diego State shocked the country by reaching the NCAA Tournament final as a No. 5 seed. This season though, the team has had a bit of a hangover from last year's run. It's 10-8 in its last 18 games and has to deal with a UAB team with tons of offensive depth. The Blazers put up 77.8 points per game and have a force down low in big man Yaxel Lendeborg.

Surrounding him are guards Eric Gaines (5.5 assists per game) and Alejandro Vasquez (39% 3-point percentage). Those three could be trouble for an Aztecs team that leans so heavily on Jaedon Ledee for its offense. If the Blazers can shock San Diego State and add to the 12 vs. 5 seed upset lore, those +240 odds would win $24 on a $10 bet.

-- Pick by Rob Paul (X/Twitter)

What is a March Madness upset?

A March Madness upset occurs when a lower-seeded or perceived underdog team defeats a higher-seeded or favored opponent in the NCAA Tournament.

Upsets are a hallmark of March Madness, adding unpredictability and excitement to the tournament as lower-ranked teams showcase their competitive prowess by defeating higher-ranked opponents. These upsets often captivate fans and garner widespread attention, as they defy expectations and showcase the tournament's inherent unpredictability.

Upsets can occur at any stage of the tournament, from the early rounds to the later rounds, and have become a defining feature of March Madness lore.

What is a March Madness underdog?

March Madness underdogs typically refer to lower-seeded or perceived weaker teams in the NCAA Tournament. These underdog teams are often seeded lower than their opponents and are considered less likely to win according to tournament predictions and seeding brackets.

March Madness underdogs often face higher-seeded opponents in the early rounds of the tournament and are seen as challengers to upset the favorites. Upsets by March Madness underdogs are a common occurrence and are celebrated as highlights of the tournament, showcasing the competitive spirit and unpredictability that define March Madness.

Betting underdogs will often be priced with even- or plus-money odds (+100 or better), meaning a $100 bet would return a profit of $100 or better with an upset victory.

History of 12 vs. 5 seed upsets in March Madness

Few March Madness upset predictions are as popular as the 12 vs. 5 first-round matchup, and many people aim to include at least one of these upsets in their annual March Madness bracket predictions.

A 12-seed has upset a 5-seed 53 times since the NCAA Tournament format expanded in 1985. The higher seed owns a 99-53 head-to-head record in these 5-12 matchups in that time (65.1%), which is far below what you'd expect based on those matchups on paper.

In only six of the last 38 years did we not see at least one 12-seed upset a 5-seed, though the most recent instance came in 2023. Three 12-seeds pulled the upset during the 2019, 2014, and 2013 tournaments, while two 12-seeds advanced in the first round of this year's tournament before ultimately losing in the second round.

Recent 12 vs. 5 upsets

2024James Madison def. Wisconsin72-61
2024Grand Canyon def. Saint Mary's75-66
2022New Mexico def. UConn70-63
2022Richmond def. Iowa67-63
2021Oregon State def. Tennessee70-56
2019Oregon def. Wisconsin72-54
2019Murray State def. Marquette83-64
2019Liberty def. Mississippi State80-76
2017Middle Tennessee def. Minnesota81-72
2016Yale def. Baylor79-75
2016Little Rock def. Purdue85-83 (2OT)
2014Stephen F. Austin def. VCU77-75 (OT)
2014North Dakota State def. Oklahoma80-75 (OT)
2014Harvard def. Cincinnati61-57
2013Oregon def. Oklahoma State68-55
2013California def. UNLV64-61
2013Ole Miss def. Wisconsin57-46
2012VCU def. Wichita State62-59
2012South Florida def. Temple58-44
2011Richmond def. Vanderbilt69-66
2010Cornell def. Temple78-65

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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