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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks March 24

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published March 24, 2024
8 min read
Northwestern vs Purdue Prediction

Through the first three days of the 2024 NCAA Tournament, all No. 1 seeds have safely advanced, avoiding any chaotic upsets. However, anything can change at any time during March Madness! For this iteration of our best college basketball picks series, we will hone in on No. 8 Utah State versus No. 1 Purdue, No. 12 James Madison versus No. 4 Duke, and No. 12 Grand Canyon versus No. 4 Alabama. Take a look below to find the analysis for these three enthralling games!

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No. 8 Utah State @ No. 1 Purdue

All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.

PICK: Utah State +11.5 (-112)

The No. 1 seed Purdue Boilermakers have already made it farther in this season’s NCAA Tournament than the last after handling Grambling State in the Round of 64. After becoming the second No. 1 seed in NCAA Tournament history to lose in the opening round, the Boilermakers had revenge on their mind throughout the season. And when it came time to play on Friday, they left little doubt about both their dominance and intentions this time around.

Like they have done all season, the Boilers fed Zach Edey in the post early and often, drawing several fouls in the opening minutes of the first half. By the end of the game, the Tigers had committed 19 fouls compared to Purdue’s six, resulting in 22 free throws for the Boilermakers. 

Purdue also outrebounded Grambling State by 25, pulling down 18 offensive rebounds in the process. Edey finished with a ridiculous stat line of 30 points and 21 rebounds in just 31 minutes of play, while Braden Smith dropped 11 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists.

This team has the personnel to make a deep NCAA Tournament run, with Lance Jones, Fletcher Loyer, and Smith providing secondary scoring behind Edey. Purdue’s offensive dominance (fourth in adjusted offensive efficiency) is due to Edey’s strength, footwork, positioning, touch around the basket, and IQ; he knows when to take his guy one-on-one in the post and when to kick out to open shooters.

The Boilers are one of the best three-point shooting teams in the nation (second in three-point percentage), as they have prioritized inside-out threes within their offensive sets. Get Edey touches, and he will find an open teammate for a clean look on the perimeter!

Meanwhile, Utah State traded leads back and forth with TCU in the Round of 64 before finally breaking away in the second half. The Aggies flexed their offensive muscles against TCU, dropping 88 points on a 55/42/93 team shooting split; they also committed merely nine turnovers and 13 fouls in what was an awe-inspiring performance. The Horned Frogs ranked 38th in adjusted defensive efficiency, so they are certainly not pushovers on that end of the floor. 

Utah State had six players score eight or more points, with Ian Martinez (21 points) and Isaac Johnson (19 points) leading the charge. The Aggies also held TCU to a modest offensive output, including 35.8% shooting overall and 31.8% from three-point land, which could be helpful against such an accurate three-point shooting team.

The spread rests at 11.5 points despite the Aggies’ dominance in their first game against the Horned Frogs, especially in the second half. Utah State can hang around in this game due to its defensive rebounding (57th in DREB%), rim protection (60th in block percentage), size (Isaac Johnson), and opponent three-point percentage (29.1%, third in the nation).

Back the Aggies in this spot because they will hold Purdue to marginal three-point output and have the size to make life a little more complex than usual on Zach Edey. They can stay within 12 points.

No. 12 James Madison @ No. 4 Duke

All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.

PICK: James Madison +7 (-105)

We could not have been the only viewers extraordinarily impressed with No. 12 seed James Madison in its first game of the 2024 NCAA Tournament. The Dukes jumped out to an early lead on the fifth-seeded Wisconsin Badgers and never looked back, winning by 11 points at the final horn. 

Offensively, they pushed the pace, scoring (and getting fouled on drives) in transition and utilizing their athleticism and quickness to get by Wisconsin defenders. James Madison also shot 30 free throws, a substantial amount for any team in any game!

Further, they were wreaking havoc on the other end of the floor by pressuring ball handlers the entire game, forcing 19 turnovers, double the Badgers’ usual average. On the season, James Madison holds opponents to the second-lowest three-point percentage (28.9%) and the 20th-lowest effective field goal percentage nationally. 

In short, there is a reason that this James Madison team has only lost three games throughout the entire 2023-24 campaign!

Duke also looked terrific in its first game of the 2024 NCAA Tournament, handling Vermont by a score of 64-47. The Blue Devils weren’t nearly as efficient on the offensive end of the floor as they had been for most of the season, but they made up for it on defense; Vermont only knocked down 25% of its three-point attempts and 38.5% of its total shots. 

Surprisingly, Kyle Filipowski, their leading scorer (16.7 points per game), was held to merely three points on one field goal attempt. Filipowski did not let his quiet offensive night keep him from being productive, finishing with 12 rebounds and four assists. Plus, other Blue Devils players like Jared McCain, Tyrese Proctor, Mark Mitchell, and Jeremy Roach stepped up to combine for 57 points!

That is one of the many things that makes Duke such a dangerous team: they can find scoring from a handful of different players. On any night, their leading scorer could be different.

Duke’s guards (Tyrese Proctor, Jared McCain, Jeremy Roach) are better than the Badgers’ guards, so James Madison won’t be able to turn the Blue Devils over as much; however, James Madison’s pace of play (63rd in adjusted tempo) could cause some problems for the Blue Devils. 

The Dukes’ aptitude for contesting perimeter shots (second in opponent 3P%) could also affect the Blue Devils’ offense (eighth in adjusted offensive efficiency and 17th in 3P%). This should be a tight game the whole way, so laying seven points with Duke is too salty for us.

No. 12 Grand Canyon @ No. 4 Alabama

All odds are available via DraftKings Sportsbook but are subject to change.

PICK: Grand Canyon +6 (-112)

The No. 4 seed Alabama Crimson Tide bounced back after losing in the SEC Tournament with a win over No. 13 Charleston in the NCAA Tournament. Alabama has been a high-octane team all season long, ranking first in points per game (91.3), third in adjusted offensive efficiency, and seventh in adjusted tempo. We know that it can score in bunches, but its recent 109-point outing against Charleston was eye-opening.

Sure, the Crimson Tide gave up 96 points to the Cougars, but they held them to 41% shooting from the floor and 30% from behind the arc, which is rock-solid for ‘Bama, a team that has not been great defensively this season. However, the main issue with them in their Round of 64 game was how many offensive rebounds they allowed (17). 

This has been a lingering problem for the Crimson Tide, as they rank just 235th in defensive rebounding percentage. That could hinder them against Grand Canyon, which boasts the 30th-highest OREB% in the country.

The Lopes looked sensational in their first tournament game against an experienced and disciplined Saint Mary’s squad that had won 18 of their past 19 games (loss to Gonzaga) and had averaged 50% shooting from the field and 40% from deep in that stretch. But Grand Canyon didn’t just beat the Gaels; it crushed them, allowing just 38.8% shooting overall and 28% from the perimeter.

Tyon Grant-Foster was fantastic, posting 22 points and pulling down seven boards, while Gabe McGlothan had a 12-point and 11-rebound outing, and Rayshon Harrison poured in 17 points. 

Grand Canyon proved that it could score (75 points) on an uber-talented defensive team (Saint Mary’s was 13th in adjusted defensive efficiency) that plays at a snail’s pace (357th in adjusted tempo), so imagine what it can do against a ‘Bama team that plays fast and can’t defend a traffic cone (117th in adjD). 

The Lopes should keep this game close and could even win it outright because they have the offensive firepower and the defensive aptitude, and they don’t mind playing at Alabama’s pace!

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AUTHOR

Andrew Norton

148 Articles

Andrew has always been an avid sports fan and followed his hoop dreams all the way to college. He’s well-versed in everything betting with multiple years of experience and is qualitatively and quantitatively knowledgeable in sports statistics and analytics.

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