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March Madness Best Bets: 2021 NCAA Tournament Picks

March Madness Best Bets are here!

It’s time for March Madness! The regular season is in the books, conference championships have wrapped and we are inching closer to determining the teams that will be competing for the 2021 national championship.

With our March Madness best bets, we have everything you need to make educated wagers this year and rake in against your sportsbook, even if your bracket is busted.

This March Madness best bets page will be updated daily to help you handicap your picks. This year’s March Madness tournament picks are coming from Odds Shark college hoops betting analyst Scott Hastings. In the 2019 tournament, Scott’s March Madness best bets went 38-30 for a profit of 4.58 units. Can he improve on that gambling performance in 2021?

It wasn’t a great start going 1-3 in the First Four, but Scott rebounded slightly with a 5-5 record in the Round of 64. After a rough Round of 32, Scott fought back in the Sweet 16, hitting five of eight bets. He is now 15-22 in the tournament heading into the National Championship Game.

If you’re not liking Scott’s picks, you can check out the Best Bets Over Brackets contest with March Madness best bets from several college basketball handicappers.

View the entire March Madness schedule and our college basketball odds page for the latest up-to-date betting lines.

See Odds Shark's Best March Madness Betting Sites

New to betting on college basketball and see some good March Madness bets from Scott? Be sure to see our How to Bet on March Madness Games to help you find the best March Madness betting sites and get in on the action.

2021 March Madness Best Bets: National Championship

What a great NCAA Tournament it was this year, with wild upsets, brackets busting and hopefully some money in your pocket. In the end, it seemed almost inevitable that the two teams that were supposed to collide in December as the top two teams in nation at the time would meet in the National Championship when Baylor and Gonzaga tip-off.


Baylor vs Gonzaga -4.5

Matchup Report

I guess I'm bucking the Final Four games and going back to the well with Gonzaga. The Final Four was stress-free for Baylor as it easily coved its 5-point spread against Houston, winning 78-59. On the flip side, it was a stressful Final Four for Gonzaga as it needed a buzzer-beater in overtime to knockout off UCLA 93-90 and preserve its perfect season.

These teams are very similar, score a lot of points, give up a decent number of points against, well-rounded and deep. I'm going with the Bulldogs not only to win the title but to cover the 4.5-points because they have a few more tools in the shed and they move the ball so effectively that they are going to find that cutting man to the basket over and over again. The Bears will have to move their feet and not get into foul trouble if they want to stick in this one.

2021 March Madness Best Bets: Final Four

If you were just looking at the Final Four teams, you would think that the NCAA Tournament went relatively smoothly with very little chaos as there are two No. 1 seeds, a No. 2 seed and then there’s No. 11 UCLA. The Bruins exemplify the 2021 March Madness as there was carnage all through the bracket. We’ve got good Final Four matchups and here are my best bets for them.


Houston vs Baylor UNDER 135

Matchup Report

We have the No. 4 offense in the nation in Baylor at 83 points per game tipping off against the No. 2 defense in the nation in Houston at 58 points allowed per game. Although the Bears have a potent offense, they have surpassed 80 points just once in the NCAA Tournament and were held to their second-lowest point total of the season (62) in their Sweet 16 matchup with Villanova.

While we’ve seen a dip in productivity from the Bears offense, the defense hasn’t let up for Houston. The Cougars are yielding an average of only 55.8 points per game in the NCAA Tournament – the 61 points they surrendered to Oregon State in the Elite Eight is the most they’ve allowed. Now, Baylor is by far Houston’s toughest test but if the Bears try to muck it up on defense and not run the court, this UNDER will be stress-free. 

UCLA vs Gonzaga OVER 146

Matchup Report

The lone best bet I hit in the Elite Eight was the UNDER in the Gonzaga-USC game and I’m flipping the script with an OVER in the Bulldogs’ Final Four contest. This game represents a 9.5-point swing from the Elite Eight contest, which had a total of 155.5 points compared to this line of 146. Gonzaga has racked up 83 or more points in each of its four NCAA Tournament games, opening the door for UCLA to chip in 64 for the OVER. The Bulldogs have allowed 65 or more points in three of their four March Madness games.

Now, I’m aware that the Bruins just held Michigan to 49 points, but Michigan would have gotten smoked by Gonzaga. This Bulldogs team is undefeated for a reason – their ability to move the ball, find the open man and knock down the shot is incredible to watch. I expect the Zags to do their thing and put up a big number and for the Bruins to stay alive and hold up their end of the bargain.

2021 March Madness Best Bets: Elite Eight

Who expected to see two teams seeded in the double digits advance all the way to the Elite Eight?! It has been an exciting 2021 March Madness but has been a difficult tournament to handicap with so many wild upsets. That said, three of the Elite Eight teams are No. 1 seeds so at least the bracketologists got them right. Here are my Elite Eight best bets.

Oregon State vs Houston (-7.5)

Matchup Report

Oregon State has been good to me as an underdog throughout the tournament as I backed the Beavers against Tennessee at +8 and in the Sweet 16 against Loyola Chicago at +6.5. But all good things must come to an end and I think this Houston squad will send Oregon State packing. 

The Cougars defense has been stifling and was on full display in their Sweet 16 matchup vs Syracuse, holding the Orange to just 46 points, the fewest scored in the NCAA Tournament to date this year. There is an opening for the Beavers, though, in Ethan Thompson, who is averaging 20.3 points per game in the tournament and has hit 25 of 26 free throws. Houston is averaging 18.7 fouls per game.

If the Cougars play smart disciplined basketball, they should be able to quiet the Beavers and advance to the Final Four.

Arkansas vs Baylor UNDER 148.5

Matchup Report

Arkansas stormed out of the gates in the NCAA Tournament, scoring 85 on Colgate, but has averaged 70 points per game in its last two games, which is 11.7 points below its season average. The Razorbacks may have their hands full with Baylor’s defense, which is surrendering an average of 56.3 ppg in the tournament, nine points less than its season average.

All that said, the Bears also haven’t flexed their offensive muscles yet, failing to surpass 80 points in March Madness after averaging 83 on the season, the fourth-most in the nation. Clearly, Baylor is focusing on a defense-first approach, which is music to my ears for an UNDER wager.

USC vs Gonzaga UNDER 155.5

Matchup Report

Betting on an UNDER in a Gonzaga game will induce heart palpitations for the duration of the game. However, through the Bulldogs’ first three games of the NCAA Tournament, only one has gone above 155.5 points at 158. I think USC’s defense is by far the best one the Zags have faced this year. The Trojans silenced Drake and Kansas, holding them to a combined 107 points, and limited Oregon to 68 points, which was very impressive as well.

Gonzaga is so good and so well-rounded, with the ability to rack up points from beyond the arc or by moving the ball around and finding someone streaking to the hoop. I think that USC is going to have some tricks up its sleeve and this will be a good tactical battle that’ll chew up time and give us our UNDER.

UCLA vs Michigan (-7.5)

Matchup Report

Well, here I am eating crow after beating the drum that Michigan wouldn’t win the East Region and now I am betting the Wolverines to beat UCLA and win the East Region. Despite playing without leading scorer Isaiah Livers, the Wolverines have found a way to average more points in the NCAA Tournament than they did in the regular season. 

There’s no denying that UCLA’s run has been very impressive as a No. 11, most notably knocking off No. 2 Alabama, which I had winning the East, in the Sweet 16. The Bruins have five players averaging double-digit points per game and have shown they can win a high-scoring affair or a defensive battle. But this Michigan team is simply more talented, has had the tougher path and should cruise to the Final Four.

2021 March Madness Best Bets: Sweet 16

This may be the most maddening March Madness in recent memory. Heading into the Sweet 16, a quarter of the remaining teams were seeded in the double digits, while half of the No. 2 seeds are gone, only one 3 seed remains and No. 1 Illinois has also been eliminated. Bracket busted? No worries, here are my best bets for the Sweet 16.

Oregon State (+6.5) vs Loyola Chicago

Matchup Report

The Sweet 16 matchup with the highest combined seeding has No. 12 Oregon State colliding with No. 8 Loyola Chicago, affectionately nicknamed the Fighting Sister Jeans. The Beavers caught fire late in the season, winning the Pac-12, and knocked off Tennessee and Oklahoma State in March Madness. Meanwhile, the Ramblers have been stout all year, winning the Mountain Valley Conference and beating No. 1 Illinois in the Round of 32.

Both teams distribute the ball well, ranking in the top 100 for assists per game, and Loyola Chicago is extremely stingy defensively, allowing the fewest points per game at 56.1. It’s an interesting matchup with the Ramblers getting a chunk of their offense from center Cameron Krutwig, while the Beavers’ points tend to come from the backcourt of Ethan Thompson and Jarod Lucas. With both teams being able to implement their game plan, I foresee a tight battle down to the wire.

Villanova vs Baylor OVER 140.5

Matchup Report

For this game, we have two squads ranking within the top 60 in points per game. Baylor sits third with 83.8 ppg and Villanova averages 75.8 ppg, good for 56th. Both teams are extremely dangerous from beyond the arc and that could be a big issue for the Wildcats, who rank 308th in the nation with 35.6 percent of their opponents’ points coming from long range.

Both teams have been strong defensively in their two NCAA Tournament victories, but I could see the lid being torn off the bucket for this one as the two squads go shot for shot from three-point range.

Oral Roberts vs Arkansas OVER 159

Matchup Report

If there is one matchup in the Sweet 16 that screams an OVER, it’s Cinderella team Oral Roberts vs Arkansas. The Razorbacks have scored the fifth-most points per game this season with 82 but you don’t have to look far down the list to find the Golden Eagles. They notched 79.3 ppg, which puts them 18th, and they are led by the nation’s leading scorer, Max Abmas (24.5 ppg).

Making things juicier for an OVER, Arkansas ranked 168th in points allowed per game at 70.4 while Oral Roberts is further down the standings at 308th with 77.4 ppg surrendered. Two strong offenses with suspect defenses – I’ll take the OVER all day.

Syracuse vs Houston -6

Matchup Report

It was a good run for Syracuse, topping San Diego State and West Virginia, but the Orange’s run stops in the Sweet 16. The ’Cuse and Houston average a similar number of points per game: the Cougars collect 76.2 ppg, good for 48th in the nation, and the Orange sit six spots back in 54th with 75.9 ppg. However, defense wins championships and Houston allows the second-fewest points per game at 58.3 to Syracuse’s 70.4 ppg that ranks 168th.

Additionally, both teams shoot the ball effectively from three-point range but Houston ranks 103rd in percentage of opponent points from long range, while Syracuse sits 323rd with 37.1 percent of its opponents’ points coming from beyond the arc.

Creighton vs Gonzaga -13.5

Matchup Report

The undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs have rolled through their first two games of the NCAA Tournament with an average winning margin of 29.5 en route to a Sweet 16 appearance. It’s been a different path for Creighton, which edged No. 12 UCSB 63-62 in the Round of 64 but rolled No. 13 Ohio 72-58.

Gonzaga is just so deep offensively, averaging the most points per game in the nation at 92.1 with four players scoring more than 10 ppg. Creighton relies on the three-ball for 37.7 percent of its points, which is the 33rd-highest percentage in college hoops. I think the Bluejays will hang in the first half but ultimately the Bulldogs win big.

Florida State vs Michigan UNDER 143.5

Matchup Report

Michigan has flexed its offensive muscles to advance to the Sweet 16 despite the absence of leading scorer Isaiah Livers. The Wolverines put up 82 against Texas Southern and 86 vs LSU. Meanwhile, Florida State has surrendered a combined 107 points in its two March Madness wins, limiting UNC Greensboro to 54 points and No. 5 Colorado to 53.

This is a tale of which team will more effectively implement its game plan and subsequently tip the total one way or the other. I think Michigan is going to have some regression offensively considering it scored fewer than 70 points in four of its last five games before the NCAA Tournament. That return to normal will give us our UNDER.

UCLA vs Alabama OVER 145.5

Matchup Report

Only Gonzaga has put up a larger score than Alabama in a March Madness game this season. The Bulldogs racked up 98 against Norfolk State, while the Crimson Tide outscored Maryland 96-77 in their Round of 32 matchup.

UCLA’s offense has steadily declined over its three NCAA Tournament games, putting up 86 in overtime vs Michigan State, 73 vs BYU and 67 vs Abilene Christian. Alabama averaged 79.7 points per game this season, good for 16th in the nation. If the Tide can match their average, UCLA only needs 66 points for the OVER.

Oregon vs USC UNDER 139

Matchup Report

Oregon completely dismantled Iowa in their Round of 32 matchup and looked like a team that could go on to win the national championship. The Ducks scored 95 points in that victory but could that have been a product of the Hawkeyes playing two days earlier while Oregon had a bye after VCU had a COVID-19 breakout?

As good as the Ducks offense looked, USC’s defense has been equally impressive. The Trojans held Drake to 56 points and then limited No. 3 Kansas to 51. Both Oregon and USC average 75 points per game while also ranking in the top 100 defensively. This should be a good game; I’m looking at defense to prevail and our UNDER to hit.

2021 March Madness Best Bets: Round of 32

If your bracket is still intact, I applauded you for sifting through the carnage with nine teams seeded 10th or worse advancing into the Round of 32. However, I’m guessing most of your brackets were busted with No. 15 Oral Roberts knocking off No. 2 Ohio State. Regardless, the fun is over and here are seven bets for the second round.

Syracuse vs West Virginia UNDER 147

Matchup Report

Two teams ranked in the top 54 for points per game this season and I'm taking the UNDER. These two teams go about getting their points in different ways, though, with Syracuse getting 33 percent of its points from beyond the arc, while West Virginia pounds the ball inside for two-pointers or free throws. The Orange average the 14th-fewest fouls per game, playing tight defense.

I thought the way Syracuse shut down San Diego State in the Round of 64, limiting the Aztecs to just 62 points, the defense will lead the charge again in this contest.

Texas Tech (-1) vs Arkansas + OVER 140.5

Matchup Report

We got picks for No. 6 Texas Tech vs No. 3 Arkansas. The Razorbacks had to claw back from a scare against Colgate, to comfortably cover their -8.5 betting line with an 85-68 triumph. The Red Raiders also covered as 4-point favorites over Utah State but in a more low-scoring affair 65-53. 

Texas Tech had four players score in the double digits vs Utah State and I expect those numbers to increase against a more liberal defense in Arkansas. This should be a back-and-forth game coming right down to the wire but I like the Raiders to prevail as a more well-rounded squad.

Florida (-8) vs Oral Roberts

Matchup Report

The high-scoring Golden Eagles' run will come to an end after shocking Ohio State in the opening round. Florida battled hard with Virginia Tech, going to overtime but Colin Castleton was a difference-maker for the Gators scoring 19 points with 14 boards. 

Slowing down Oral Roberts' Max Abmas (24.4 ppg) will be the key factor for Florida, a task that will surely fall on Tre Mann's shoulders. Call it like it is, Florida is the much better team here and should be able to win comfortably and cover the eight points.

Ohio vs Creighton UNDER 149

Matchup Report

Two teams that advanced to the Round of 32 on the backs of strong defense. Creighton edged UCSB 63-62 while Ohio upset Virginia 62-58. Through the regular season, the offense led the charge mostly for both squads, though the Bluejays' defense did rank in the top 100 at 68.1 points per game. 

UCSB averaged 73.4 points per game, ranking 92nd, and Creighton handled it in the first round. I think the Bluejays are the better team, clamp down on defense and the UNDER should be stress-free.

LSU vs Michigan UNDER 149

Matchup Report

We cashed on the LSU UNDER against St. Bonaventure and we are going back to the well for this one. I said in that LSU vs St. Bonaventure write-up that betting on a Tigers UNDER is a scary play as they average the seventh-most points per game in the nation.

However, LSU played a bit of a slower pace against the Bonnies, getting hot from behind the arc but using much of the shot clock to find the open man. Meanwhile, Michigan allows the 46th-fewest points per game at 65.4 and without its leading scorer, Isaiah Livers, the offense will likely take a downturn despite putting up 82 on Texas Southern.

Colorado vs Florida State OVER 139

Matchup Report

Enough of the UNDER talk let's get some fun! The Buffaloes filled the bucket for 96 in their opening-round matchup over Georgetown, but also surrender 73 points. It was quite the opposite for the Seminoles' matchup, though, topping UNC Greensboro 64-54. 

Those 64 points by Florida State was its fewest all season, 14 fewer than its average of 78.3 which ranked 22nd in the nation. Look for the Seminoles to bounce back offensively and the Buffaloes are going to run the court with them.

2021 March Madness Best Bets: Round of 64

The real tournament starts now after the First Four teams secured their spot in the national bracket. I have my best bets for the opening round below.

Georgia Tech vs Loyola Chicago (-3)

Matchup Report

Do I need to say more than Sister Jean will be in attendance in support of Loyola Chicago on Friday and has picked her team to go to the Elite Eight? Both teams roll into this matchup on lengthy winning streaks – the Yellow Jackets have won nine in a row, including the ACC Tournament, while the Ramblers have rattled off six straight wins.

This is going to be a great battle. Loyola Chicago allowed the fewest points per game in the nation this season and I think the Ramblers will snuff out Georgia Tech.

Oregon State (+8) vs Tennessee

Matchup Report

If not for winning six of its last seven games, including the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, Oregon State would not be in March Madness. However, the Beavers are in and are going to be a handful for Tennessee, which stumbled down the stretch in dropping five of its last 11 games.

Both teams have a fairly slow tempo, ranking 200th or worse in possessions per game, which should help the underdog keep it close.

Wisconsin vs North Carolina UNDER 137.5

Matchup Report

This bet hinges on which team will control the pace of play. Wisconsin ranks 309th in possessions per game and allows the 33rd-fewest points per game. Although North Carolina ranks 139th in points against per game, it has a faster pace of play, which – if the basket is being filled – can crush an OVER.

I think Wisconsin has played tougher competition and restricted teams such as Iowa to low-scoring affairs and that’s what’s going to take place in this one.

North Texas vs Purdue -7.5

Matchup Report

North Texas put together a good campaign and ranks fifth in points allowed per game, but will have a hard time slowing down a Power Five conference team like Purdue. The Mean Green faced just one ranked team this year, falling 62-50 to then-No. 11 West Virginia, while the Boilermakers were surrounded by ranked squads all season, earning wins over Ohio State, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

While North Texas’ defense has been sharp, Purdue also wasn’t bad defensively, allowing 66.4 points per game against much tougher opposition. I think the Mean Green will have a hard time tearing the cover off the bucket.

Rutgers (-1.5) vs Clemson

Matchup Report

It’s hard for me to back a team that averaged just 65.3 points per game and that’s what Clemson did. Although the Tigers defense was elite, giving up just 62 points per game, that margin of error is very slim. That said, backing a Rutgers team, whether it be basketball or football, never has a good feeling.

But when the Scarlet Knights put it together, they can hang with anyone, even knocking off No. 1 seed Illinois earlier in the season. I sound like a broken record but I favor these Big Ten teams because that conference was great this year, so I’m backing Rutgers.

Syracuse vs San Diego State (-3)

Matchup Report

I’ve had a lot of success backing San Diego State this season and I’m hoping that continues as a March Madness best bet. The Aztecs defense has been very strong, surrendering 61.3 points per game, and San Diego State rolls in on a 14-game winning streak, including 10 by double digits.

Syracuse failed to beat a ranked team this year but took care of business in games it needed to win. The Orange distribute the ball very well with 15.3 assists per game, which ranks 43rd in the nation. This should be a good matchup, but the Aztecs will be too much for the Orange.

St. Bonaventure vs LSU UNDER 144.5

Matchup Report

I love these types of matchups because the side and total could be close to what the sportsbooks set or they could be completely off. St. Bonaventure allowed the third-fewest points per game this season at 60.4, while LSU scored the sixth-most ppg at 82.1. As for the total of 144.5 points, only one of the Bonnies’ last 10 games surpassed 140 points.

The Tigers, on the other hand, have had 10 straight games go over 140 points. A real fun matchup – I have a hunch St. Bonaventure may cause some issues for LSU in the first half, which will hold the total UNDER.

Maryland (+3) vs UConn

Matchup Report

If you’ve read this far, you shouldn’t be surprised that once again I’m backing a Big Ten team. UConn is peaking at the right time, picking up wins in seven of its last nine games, losing only to then-No. 10 Villanova and then-No. 17 Creighton. Conversely, the Terrapins have lost three of their last four, besting only Michigan State over that span.

Maryland is one of the better shooting teams in the nation, knocking down 45.1 percent of its shots, which will be key as UConn is great on the glass, grabbing 38.1 boards per game. Broken record alert: the Terps just had a tougher road to March Madness and have seen it all.

Ohio vs Virginia (-7.5)

Matchup Report

As is always the case for a Virginia team, defense reigns supreme. The Cavaliers gave up the fourth-fewest points per game in the nation at 60.5, though the offense struggled to surpass 70 points, which puts a lot of pressure on that defense to control games. Marquette transfer Sam Hauser gives Virginia a three-point threat at all times and if he gets hot, look out.

Like the St. Bonaventure-LSU game, though, Ohio averages 80.4 points per game, the 14th-most in the nation, and dishes out the fifth-most assists per game at 17.6. Can a MAC team hang with a top ACC team? I’m not buying it.

Missouri (+2) vs Oklahoma

Matchup Report

I was on Missouri even before the news broke that Oklahoma’s De’Vion Harmon would not be playing due to COVID-19. Harmon averaged the second-most minutes and points for the Sooners, so his absence is obviously a big one heading into the tournament.

Furthermore, Oklahoma backs into this game having lost five of its last six, only topping woeful Iowa State 79-73. The concerning loss, though, is falling at Kansas State 62-57 as a 10-point favorite. This game could come down to the wire. I’ll take the points.

VCU vs Oregon (-5.5)

Matchup Report

Essentially, the entire month of January was wiped out for Oregon, which played just one game from January 10 to February 4. However, the Ducks came out flying from the coronavirus stoppage to win 11 of their last 14 games. Their offense was strong down the stretch, scoring 70 or more points in six of their last seven.

VCU’s defense will be the key if it wants to put up a fight. The Rams allowed 65.2 points per game this season and only two of their last 12 opponents surpassed 70 points. That defense will be tested, though, as Oregon had the 32nd-best shooting percentage in the nation at 47.2.

2021 March Madness Best Bets: First Four

The opening day for March Madness brings the First Four, which is just an appetizer before we kick off the Round of 64 less than 24 hours later. With four games on the slate, I have a pick for each game below.

No. 16 Texas Southern vs No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s OVER 133

Matchup Report

A pair of 16 seeds vie to play Michigan in the Round of 64. Texas Southern stumbled out of the gate, losing seven of nine games while having several postponements. However, the Tigers ripped through the second half of their campaign, winning 14 of their last 15 games, and ride a nine-game winning streak into this matchup.

Mount St. Mary’s, on the other hand, had an up-and-down season, going on three-game winning streaks, followed immediately by three-game slides. The Mountaineers closed out the year with a four-game win streak. 

Both teams are riding high right now. During Texas Southern’s nine-game winning streak, it has scored 80 or more points six times. If this trend continues, it requires Mount St. Mary’s to chip in with at least 53 points, a feat it can accomplish with no problem. I like the OVER in this matchup.

No. 11 Drake vs No. 11 Wichita State UNDER 141

Matchup Report

Although Drake had a fantastic year in going 25-4 and scoring 77.4 points per game, it did so playing the 169th-hardest strength of schedule, with Wichita State being its toughest test thus far. The Shockers had the 72nd-toughest SoS for their 16-5 campaign, including a narrow 67-64 loss to Oklahoma State and a 70-63 defeat to then-No. 11 Houston.

I think these are two very evenly matched teams, but when Wichita State played in more marquee games during the season, its pace of play dropped. I foresee a similar approach in this First Four matchup, leading to an UNDER.

No. 16 App State (-3) vs No. 16 Norfolk State

Matchup Report

App State and Norfolk State collide in the First Four with the winner set to take on No. 1 Gonzaga on Saturday. The Mountaineers were fourth in the Sun Belt East, losing six of their last seven in the regular season, but they swept the conference tournament to clinch their first March Madness bid in 21 years. Meanwhile, the Spartans had a much cleaner end of the season, winning nine of their last 10, including the final seven in a row.

With that said, it appears Norfolk State would be the slam-dunk pick but I can’t take a team that had the 12th-easiest strength of schedule seriously. When the Mountaineers’ defense shows up, they’re a tough out for many opponents and I think they will smother the Spartans and get a good win – before Gonzaga sends them packing.

No. 11 UCLA vs No. 11 Michigan State (-2)

Matchup Report

Michigan State had a brutal stretch from mid-December to mid-February, losing nine of 13 games while missing two weeks of January with a COVID outbreak. The Spartans were much better down the stretch, though, winning seven of 12, including a win over then-No. 5 Illinois, then-No. 4 Ohio State and then-No. 2 Michigan.

UCLA backs its way into this game as losers of four in a row and didn’t have a single win over a ranked team. After losing their best player, Chris Smith, after eight games, it is remarkable that the Bruins got this far. But going against Tom Izzo’s experienced team led by Aaron Henry, Joey Hauser and Joshua Langford, Michigan State will be too much to handle.

What are the best March Madness Bets?

There are plenty of ways that you can wager on March Madness. You can make a futures bet in which you choose which team is going to win a specific region (East, West, Midwest or South) or you can even place a bet on which team will win the national championship.

If you’re not into betting on an overall winner, then you can place bets on specific games like I do. There are three main options for good March Madness bets: the spread, moneyline and total. Perhaps the most popular is the point spread in which a team must win by a certain number of points provided by the sportsbook to cover the spread. 

Best March Madness Bets: Point Spread

For example, Gonzaga could be a 20-point favorite (or -20), which means not only do the Bulldogs have to win but they must win by 21 points or more to cover. Gonzaga’s opponent would be a 20-point underdog (or +20) and could cover its point spread by winning outright or losing by fewer than 20 points.

Best March Madness Bets: Moneyline

If choosing whether a team will win by a given number of points is too difficult, no problem. With a March Madness moneyline bet, you are simply choosing which team will win the game. There will be a favorite, indicated by a minus (-) sign, and an underdog, which will have a plus (+) sign. This type of bet is simple – just pick the team you think will win the game. Betting on an underdog will provide a better payout but is riskier since that team is not expected to win.

Best March Madness Bets: Totals

If you’ve been watching college basketball all season and feel like you know which teams are dynamic offensive squads and which ones are incredibly smothering defensive teams, then totals bets might be right up your alley. This March Madness bet is choosing whether the final combined score of the two teams will go OVER or UNDER a given total provided by the sportsbook. If the total was set at 140 points for a Gonzaga-Georgetown contest, for instance, and the Bulldogs won 80-59, the UNDER would hit.

Making your Best March Madness Bet

The foremost advice that can be given when searching out your March Madness best bets is to do plenty of research rather than blindly wagering on a team because you like their logo. There are also picks services that can assist you with March Madness predictions, or you can dive into the numbers yourself.

March Madness Best Bets: Stats & Trends to focus on

There is no official right or wrong way to handicap a game for a perfect March Madness prediction. Some people look at recent betting trends: Michigan is 17-7 ATS this season, or the total has gone UNDER in five of Wichita State’s last seven games.

For me, I find trends are a good starting point that could give you a direction in looking into the game. Then you can consider head-to-head matchups if they’re available from places such as Odds Shark’s database or team reports that can show you team statistics in various categories and where they rank within the nation.

There is so much sports data now that you can go in plenty of different directions. I recommend keeping a betting journal to track your success and what methods you used to make your March Madness best bets so that you can repeat your process or tweak it depending on how things are going. Most of all, have fun and bet only what you can afford to lose!