March Madness Sweet 16 Best Bets: 2024 NCAA Tournament Top Picks for Friday, March 29 

March 12, 2024; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Anton Watson (22) celebrates making a basket against the Saint Mary's Gaels during the first half in the finals of the WCC Basketball Championship at Orleans Arena.
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Ricky Dimon


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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports -- just about any and all you can think of! -- and coaching tennis in Atlanta, GA. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me. For Ricky Dimon media enquiries, please email
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By the end of March Madness action on Friday night, the Elite Eight in the men’s NCAA Tournament will be set. The remaining Sweet 16 lineup is loaded: Marquette vs NC State, Purdue vs Gonzaga, Houston vs Duke and Tennessee vs Creighton. The #1 and #2 seeds in both the South and Midwest are safe, with #11 NC State being the only real surprising Sweet 16 participant in those regions. Here are my March Madness Sweet 16 best bets for Friday’s schedule, but make sure you also read our college basketball picks for every game in the NCAA Tournament.

Same Game Parlay: Duke Blue Devils +8.5 over Houston Cougars & Under 140 (+102)

I feel pretty good about Duke +4 and Under 134.5, but I feel better about teasing both lines and playing them together in a Same Game Parlay. I expect Friday’s showdown to be a physical affair between 2 stellar defensive teams. The Blue Devils put the absolute clamps down on a previously red-hot James Madison team in the second round. Having scored at least 80 points in 8 of their 10 previous contests, the Dukes were held to a grand total of 55 by the Blue Devils. JMU had just 17 with fewer than 5 minutes left in the first half and 25 at halftime. In Houston’s last 5 Big 12 games, it held opponents to 59, 46, 45, 59 and 69 points. The conference tournament final against Iowa State featured a total of 110 points.

Duke plus the points (especially 8.5 of them instead of just 4) correlates nicely with an under play. After all, points go a long way in a low-scoring affair than they do in high-octane shootout. I can’t see the Cougars blowing out the Blue Devils no matter what – but certainly not if it’s a slow-paced, defensive-minded affair. Jared McCain is coming off a 30-point outburst against JMU and Duke has rolled even though Kyle Filipowski has averaged a mere 8.5 ppg through 2 tournament games. The Devils are playing too well as a team to lose by a lot on Friday.

Read our full Duke Blue Devils vs Houston Cougars predictions

Gonzaga Bulldogs 1H +3 over Purdue Boilermakers (-120)

Gonzaga +5.5 on the game spread is a bet I would also make, but I like +3 in the first half even more. The pressure is obviously all on the Boilermakers, who have done well to reach the Sweet 16 but really need to make the Final Four – and beyond – to make up for their loss to a #16 seed (Fairleigh Dickinson) last season. I can see the Boilermakers coming out flat. They led Grambling by only 4 points with fewer than 2 minutes remaining in the first half and Purdue vs Utah State was a 25-24 game with about 6 minutes left before halftime even though the final margin was 39.

Seeded well below their normal standard at #5, the Zags are playing without pressure. They absolutely humiliated McNeese State in the opening round (led 48-25 at halftime) and then destroyed Kansas 89-68. Graham Ike has been outstanding the whole season and Anton Watson is averaging 17.3 ppg over the last 4 contests. Look for the Bulldogs to keep this game close for a long time – perhaps even the entire way. I would also think about Gonzaga on the first-half money line at +150.

Read our full Gonzaga Bulldogs vs Purdue Boilermakers predictions


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