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Best College Basketball Bets Today | NCAAB Picks March 30

Written by: Andrew Norton
Published March 30, 2024
8 min read
St John's vs UConn Prediction

Only eight teams remain in the 2024 NCAA Tournament! This season’s Elite Eight features the UConn Huskies, Illinois Fighting Illini, Alabama Crimson Tide, Clemson Tigers, Purdue Boilermakers, Tennessee Volunteers, N.C. State Wolfpack and Duke Blue Devils. There are two No. 1 seeds, one No. 2 seed, one No. 3 seed, two No. 4 seeds, one No. 6 seed, and one No. 11 seed.

Two games are on this Elite Eight slate: No. 3 Illinois versus No. 1 UConn and No. 6 Clemson versus No. 4 Alabama. Check out our best bets and analysis for these two Elite Eight games below!

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No. 3 Illinois @ No. 1 UConn

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

PICK: UConn -9 (-108)

The Illinois Fighting Illini just played in a Sweet 16 game that featured their No. 1 offense (adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom) and the Iowa State Cyclones’ No. 1 defense (adjD). As it turns out, a great offense does, in fact, beat a great defense. Now, Illinois’s top-ranked offense will take on the No. 2 offense in the UConn Huskies for a spot in the Final Four of the 2024 NCAA Tournament. What are the odds?

Illinois snuck by the Iowa State Cyclones and their elite defensive unit with a narrow three-point win, but it was much closer at the end of the game than it should have been. The Fighting Illini shot a putrid 15-for-29 from the free-throw line, allowing Iowa State to stay in the game. If they want even a remote shot at knocking off the UConn Huskies, they will have to hit a much higher percentage of their free throws and three-pointers (31% from behind the arc), too. 

Illinois’ superstar guard Terrence Shannon Jr. had another masterful offensive performance against Iowa State, including the game-sealing dunk off a stolen pass. Shannon finished with 29 points, five rebounds, and two assists. In his past five games leading up to the Fighting Illini’s Sweet 16 matchup, Shannon averaged roughly 32 points per game on 53% shooting from the field and 42% from behind the arc.

The Fighting Illini also had a terrific “team rebounding” effort, with six players logging between five and six rebounds! They need to have a similar mentality in crashing the glass against a UConn team that ranks fourth nationally in total rebounding rate this season.

Meanwhile, the Huskies have continued their postseason dominance, carrying their double-digit winning streak from the 2023 NCAA Tournament to this one. In fact, UConn has now won nine consecutive NCAA Tournament games by double-digit points. Obviously, this is unheard of and perfectly exemplifies the powerhouse program that head coach Dan Hurley has put together.

UConn’s Sweet 16 game was against the San Diego State Aztecs, a rematch of last season’s national championship game. The result this time was similar but accentuated even more, as the Huskies won by 30 points. The Huskies committed merely nine turnovers, outrebounded the Aztecs by 21 boards, and held them to roughly 36% shooting from the field and 23% from deep.

The Huskies’ defense has been solid all season, but their adjusted defensive efficiency ranking has skyrocketed to sixth, which makes sense given the fact that they have held their past four opponents (all in either Big East or NCAA Tournament play) to 35.8% shooting overall and 24% from three-point land.

Laying nine points in an Elite Eight game seems borderline unconscionable, but the Huskies are just that good. UConn has a few players who can adequately defend Shannon Jr. and Marcus Domask, including Tristen Newton, Cam Spencer, and Stephon Castle. The Huskies’ perimeter defense has been exceptional recently, and life will be very hard for the Fighting Illini’s guards. We are backing the Huskies up to 9.5 points.

No. 6 Clemson @ No. 4 Alabama

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

PICK: Alabama -3 (-110)

This side of the NCAA Tournament bracket has been by far the most shocking, with No. 1 North Carolina, No. 2 Arizona, and No. 3 Baylor falling before reaching the Elite Eight. The Crimson Tide are responsible for sending the top-seeded Tar Heels packing, while Clemson unexpectedly knocked off No. 3 Baylor and No. 2 Arizona in back-to-back games.

Alabama impressed in its Sweet 16 game against the Tar Heels, holding All-American guard R.J. Davis to a rough shooting night; he finished with just 16 points on 4-for-20 shooting from the field! The Crimson Tide also kept up with UNC on the glass, losing the overall rebounding battle by just one.

Ultimately, 6-foot-11 unicorn forward Grant Nelson was the difference for Alabama; he finished with 24 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks and served as the team’s offense’s focal point in the second half’s final minutes. After transferring from a mid-major program this past offseason, Nelson was expected to have a breakout season, but it did not happen quite as he likely envisioned.

Still, Nelson’s heroic Sweet 16 performance could build further confidence within this surging Crimson Tide squad. 

Meanwhile, the No. 6 seed Clemson Tigers have been quite a surprise in the NCAA Tournament. Clemson entered the “Big Dance” as losers of three of its past four games, including losses to Wake Forest, Notre Dame, and Boston College. Needless to say, many college basketball fanatics and experts alike had Clemson as a potential “early exit” team.

The recent play of P.J. Hall and Chase Hunter has catapulted this team to new heights; they have completely forgotten the last one-third of their regular season play. Instead, the Tigers have transformed into a defensive juggernaut that has held two of the nation’s top 11 offenses (adjO, per KenPom) to sub-40% shooting from the field.

Baylor and Arizona combined to shoot 38% from the floor and 21% from behind the arc in those two games against Clemson. The Tigers have undoubtedly caught some breaks on the defensive end, especially with their opponent’s perimeter shooting; however, how much of those shooting woes have been due to Clemson’s stifling defense?

While Clemson adapted to Arizona’s backbreaking pace reasonably well, it got fortunate with some of the Wildcats’ missed three-point attempts. This season, Arizona ranked 32nd in three-point percentage, consistently hitting shots from the perimeter. However, the Wildcats went merely 5-for-28 from deep against Clemson!

We have to give credit where credit is due, though. Clemson has been highly strategic and disciplined defensively. Still, this Alabama team plays as fast as Arizona and pulls down nearly as many offensive rebounds. The key difference is that the Crimson Tide shoot more threes (fourth in the nation) and hits more of those three-point attempts (24th in 3P%) than ‘Zona.

Frankly, the Wildcats got enough clean three-point looks to put Clemson away; they just didn’t convert. Alabama has hit 40% of its threes in the NCAA Tournament, which could be a death sentence for the Tigers.

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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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