March Madness Predictions: Bets, Picks, and Stats For 2024 NCAA Tournament

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UConn guard Cam Spencer (12) is chest bumped by UConn head coach Dan Hurley as he is introduced for senior ceremony before an NCAA college basketball game against Seton Hall, Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Storrs, Conn.
(AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Chase Kiddy @chaseakiddy Mar 27, 2024, 4:43 PM
  • Tread carefully with Mountain West picks, even after San Diego State’s run last year.
  • The No. 1 seeds seem particularly safe this year. Yes, even Purdue.
  • Oregon, Drake, and Nevada are double-digit seeds to watch.

The 2024 NCAA Tournament has finally arrived, which means another rapid descent into NCAA basketball odds, bracketology, 12-over-5 upsets, and March Madness predictions. 

Here, I’m letting loose with a few NCAA Tournament thoughts I have now that the bracket has been released. Hopefully, everything here should help give you some shape and color when you start thinking about filling out your bet slips and bracket sheets.

March Madness Predictions: The ACC Will Do More With Less

I live in ACC country, so I pay close attention to the comings and goings of the Atlantic Coast Conference. But you don’t have to have in-laws in Charlottesville and Chapel Hill to know that ACC men’s basketball is currently in a pronounced downswing.

Once the center of the college basketball universe, the conference has not had a national champion in five years. That might not sound like a long time, but it ties the longest streak in about 25 years. 

The current moment is starting to look like the mid- and late-90s when Duke and North Carolina receded a bit, and the fulcrum of college basketball moved toward other power brokers like Kentucky and Arizona. 

This year, the ACC struggled to put five teams in the tournament. Just to do that, the conference needed a miraculous run from NC State and a semi-undeserved bid for Virginia. Otherwise, the ACC would have wound up with just four teams in the NCAA Tournament, which hasn’t happened since 2013. 

But a funny thing happened back in 2013 – the ACC posted a reasonably impressive six tournament wins, despite the fact the conference had just the four teams and no representatives in the Final Four. Even with a smaller group of teams in the mix, it still earned a lot of wins. 

I think something similar could happen this year. No one will mistake this for a vintage ACC season, but I do believe that the Carolinas will ultimately have a good NCAA Tournament. 

I’m still picking against UVA in that First Four game, though.

March Madness Odds: The Mountain West Is Not Suddenly Cured

One of the biggest talking points heading into last March was the performance of the Mountain West, which was on a spectacular 0-8 tournament run dating back to 2019. 

Understandably, San Diego State’s magical run to the national championship game completely obliterated this talking point. But those who were paying attention may have noticed that the Mountain West’s other four teams in the 2023 NCAA Tournament went 0-4.

So, let’s parse this. On the one hand, the Mountain West had one of its greatest-ever moments as a conference in 2023 when the Aztecs played for the title. On the other hand, the Mountain West is now 0-12 in the NCAA Tournament since 2019 when setting aside the SDSU run.

At a certain point, losing streaks are no longer weird data. Something about Mountain West basketball is not translating to the NCAA Tournament right now, which the Selection Committee seemed to realize and factor into its Mountain West seeding decisions. 

The Aztecs’ five wins last year don’t fundamentally change how I perceive the rest of the conference in the context of the NCAA Tournament. I think we’re going to continue to see those struggles this year. 

March Madness Picks: These No. 1 Seeds Are Relatively Safe

Close college basketball observers have unofficially known three of the four No. 1 seeds in the 2024 NCAA Tournament for several weeks. UConn, Houston, and Purdue have all been miles ahead of the field for pretty much the entire regular season. There’s a reason they’re in a bubble by themselves at the top of the college basketball national championship odds table. 

There are reasonable arguments to make against all of them. 

UConn is the clear best team, but it’s also in the clear best region with plenty of potential usurpers.

Houston plays a short rotation and just got blown out in the Big 12 tournament championship. The Cougars might not be fully healthy. Even if they are, they play low-scoring games with fewer possessions, which means they’re more subject to a bad shooting night.

Purdue has a well-known history of March flameouts.

All of that is absolutely true. But there’s way more to like about these three teams than not, which is why they’re big favorites to win their regions in the first place. 

It’s more likely that two of them make the Final Four than miss the second week, which is what I’m predicting here. I’ll take all three to make the Sweet 16 and at least two to win their regions. 

Let’s Talk About Purdue, Specifically

Yes, the Boilermakers are a year removed from a historic first-round upset at the hands of No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson. Yes, Matt Painter has practically turned early tournament exits into an art form. At this point, even casual hoops fans know that Painter’s career NCAA Tournament record is quite bad.

Thus, many basketball fans will be hesitant to stake their bets and brackets on Purdue, a team that has routinely proven it should not be trusted to meet expectations in March. Historically, I have also been in this group. I hardly ever take Purdue seriously after Selection Sunday.

But I’ve seen something different this year. Just as Virginia followed up its historic 2018 loss to UMBC with a righteous, impassioned run to the 2019 national championship, I am expecting to see a dominant first week or two from reigning National Player of the Year Zach Edey and a deep, experienced, wounded Purdue team.

One thing I learned from watching the 2019 tournament is that you cannot artificially create the sense of vengeance and motivation that comes from losing to a No. 16 seed. If the Boilermakers tap that same well, they will be a very dangerous team that will play into the final days of the tournament. 

That’s one reason why I feel more comfortable with Purdue now than in previous seasons.

March Madness Bracket Predictions: Double-Digit Seeds To Watch

Every year, double-digit seeds score bracket-busting upsets right out of the gate. Some potential names jumped out at me right away.

No. 10 Drake is a trendy pick to beat No. 7 Washington State and could be favored before the First Four tips off.

As you now know, I don’t have a lot of faith in the Mountain West, but No. 11 New Mexico just won the conference tournament and is an early favorite over No. 6 seed Clemson.

Dayton has looked miserable away from home for months now and is a short dog to No. 10 seed Nevada. (I don’t know how I feel about New Mexico, but I do like Nevada quite a bit in this spot.)

No. 5 seed Wisconsin looked like it wanted no part of the No. 12 JMU Dukes, who lead Division I in wins and appear to be underseeded relative to expectation. 

Oregon is talented and well-coached, and the Ducks have a history of great tournament runs under head coach Dana Altman. South Carolina got a rotten draw here. Oregon will likely close as a favorite and is already one of my favorite picks on the board. 

I’m not sure Akron can beat Creighton, but 12.5 points is a big number to give a very talented Zips squad. 

Injuries Will Derail Somebody, So Make Sure You’re Checking News Before Tipoffs

I already nodded at Houston’s shorter lineup. Kansas has high-profile injuries to Hunter Dickinson and Kevin McCullar, and Bill Self is playing it high and tight with their status updates. Florida big man Micah Handlogten fractured his left leg just hours before the Selection Show started.

Injuries seem to be impacting player availability and team performance a bit more than in other seasons. Before you make bracket picks or place bets, make sure you feel confident about the status of key players. I am predicting at least one major upset this year on the back of an injury.

On the other hand, don’t assume too much about a player’s status, either. For instance, Samford is going to be a trendy upset pick to beat No. 4 seed Kansas in the first round this week. However, if McCullar and/or Dickinson can get back on the court, the Jayhawks could roll in a contrarian, chalky rout. 

NCAA Tournament Predictions: Big East Will Remain a Strong Performer

Over the last three seasons, the Big East is 23-14 in the NCAA Tournament. It’s been .500 or better in each year. 

That may not sound like much, but it’s pretty hard to do. A huge majority of teams lose in the first week. Dozens go 0-1. Mathematically, it’s hard to overcome. 

I don’t see that positive track record slowing down this year, especially when you consider where the Big East’s three teams are likely to be seeded. 

When we look back at conference records for the NCAA Tournament this year, I suspect the Big East will have been a strong performer yet again.

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About the Author

Chase Kiddy

Read More @chaseakiddy

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.

Chase Kiddy is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of The Lion's Edge, an NFL and college football podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and everywhere else. He has also written for a number of print and online outlets, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Washington Post, Daily News-Record, and HERO Sports. His first novel, Cave Paintings, is in development.