March Madness Second Round Predictions: 2024 NCAA Tournament Best Bets - Saturday, March 23

South Dakota State's forward William Kyle III (42) struggles around Iowa State players during the first half on Thursday, March 21, 2024 at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
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Sam Avellone


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Long-time suffering Browns fan born and raised in the greater Cleveland, Ohio area who now resides in SEC country. University of South Carolina alum. Sports handicapper for close to 10 years with a primary focus on NCAAB while enjoying NFL, PGA, NCAAF, NBA, and Soccer. For Sam Avellone media enquiries, please email
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The first round of the NCAA Tournament predictably produced an amazing collection of highly-contested games on Thursday and Friday. To every fan’s delight, there were multiple bracket-busting upsets, highlighted by Oakland’s win over Kentucky and Yale’s defeat of Auburn. As we move to the Round of 32, the amount of games will be halved, but there are still a few spots that caught my eye on Saturday’s slate. Don’t forget, the team at Pickswise has you covered with picks on sides and totals of every NCAA Tournament game. Let’s dive in. 

March Madness Round of 32 Saturday best bets

Odds courtesy of BetMGM at the time of publishing

Gonzaga Bulldogs vs Kansas Jayhawks under 151.5 (-110)

The Gonzaga Bulldogs and Kansas Jayhawks both rank in the top 85 in adjusted tempo and top 55 in average possession length according to KenPom, but I do not expect that pace to be on display in Salt Lake City on Saturday for a few reasons. The ‘Zags and the Jayhawks are in the top 100 in percentage of initial shots allowed in transition, overall opposing transition rate, opposing transition eFG% and free throw rate allowed. Furthermore, this game will be played in the early afternoon at altitude, between 2 teams playing on short rest with little-to-no experience at altitude. On top of the quick turnaround in unfamiliar conditions, the ‘Zags and the Jayhawks have little-to-no depth. Gonzaga is 343rd in bench minutes, while Kansas is 315th and will be without Kevin McCullar – the Jayhawks’ leading scorer. 

Deprived of McCullar’s services on the offensive end, Kansas’ offense figures to revolve around Hunter Dickinson and KJ Adams inside the arc. Kansas has a few shooters in the lineup like Johnny Furphy and Nicolas Timberlake, but the Jayhawks attempt a 3 on fewer than 30% of their possessions – which is 335th nationally. Gonzaga’s offense is similar in that it ranks outside the top 300 in 3-point rate. With the expectation this game is played at a slower-than-average pace with a low 3-point rate, the under seems to have some value. 

Iowa State Cyclones -6.5 (-110) vs Washington State Cougars

Iowa State has arguably the most aggressive and efficient defense Washington State will have seen to this point of the season. The Cougars operate in the half court at a top 75 rate per Synergy, but their production there is slightly-above average at best given they score fewer than 0.92 points per possession with a 49.6% eFG% in those sets. Furthermore, Washington State does not stretch the floor, with a 3-point rate outside the top 300 and just 1 perimeter shooter in the primary rotation that makes more than 35% of his shots beyond the arc.

Over the last month, Washington State is outside the top 250 in eFG%, turnover rate and 3-point%. Those shortcomings are going to make it extremely difficult to score against the suffocating no-middle defense of Iowa State. The Cyclones allow offense at the rim at 1 of the 10 lowest rates in the country per Synergy, with the number 1 rating in Haslametric’s near proximity rate allowed.  They may give up a few offensive rebounds, but they excel at limiting scoring off those boards as shown by their top 20 marks in potential quick points via second chance opportunities and second chance conversion rate per Haslametrics. On the other side of the floor, the Cyclones should be able to find success in the mid range, and they have a bit more reliability from the 3-point line of late than the Cougars. With multiple shooters in the 35% range or better from the perimeter, the Cyclones could stretch Washington State’s zone defense thin if coach Kyle Smith elects to deploy it – especially given the Cougars yield 41.1% from the 3-point line when they play in their zone. Playing man isn’t necessarily the answer either considering Washington State’s vulnerabilities when defending ball screens, off the ball and in the post. 

Don’t miss our full Washington State vs Iowa State predictions

Oakland Golden Grizzlies +6.5 (-110) vs NC State Wolfpack 

Historically, #14 seeds do not succeed in the Round of 32 after their first round upsets of #3 seeds. However, Oakland may be in position to buck that trend because of its unique zone defense and the Wolfpack’s lack of reps against those sets this season. NC State’s offense consists of a heavy dose of DJ Burns post-ups, which is difficult to sustain against a zone defense. The Wolfpack’s combination of ball screens, pick-and-rolls, dribble hand-offs, and isolation sets around Burns with DJ Horne, Casey Morsell and Jayden Taylor also figure to meet resistance against Oakland’s zone – which is built to limit these actions.

Jack Gohlke’s volume shooting is likely to demand a ton of attention from the Wolfpack. The focus on him could create quality opportunities for Townsend and DQ Cole, both of whom hit big shots late in the Kentucky win. Blake Lampman should also get a few opportunities to break out of his shooting slump, which could be the difference in whether or not Oakland can continue this run. The Grizzlies should have enough success offensively with Gohlke’s perimeter shooting and Townsend’s versatility to support a strong defensive performance that may frustrate NC State’s offense. I certainly like Oakland’s chances to win outright and would not dissuade you from a sprinkle on the money line, but I feel better recommending the points with the Grizzlies. 

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