March Madness Lines & Popular Sweet 16 Underdog Bets: Upset Potential

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March Madness Lines & Popular Sweet 16 Underdog Bets: Upset Potential

As we turn the corner into the second weekend of March Madness betting, there are some intriguing matchups coming up in the Sweet 16, including some lower seeds with a chance to continue their runs by pulling off an upset. The NCAA Tournament will then continue on Saturday and Sunday with Elite Eight games, followed by the Final Four on April 6 in Arizona. 

Below, we’ll look at some of the underdogs with upset potential, or at least potential to cover the spread, in the Sweet 16 according to the latest odds. Note that sportsbooks are setting these lines to generate action on both sides of the ball, not necessarily to indicate that one team is closer to a lock to advance. 

Most likely upsets based on odds

(3) Illinois vs. (2) Iowa State

Illinois has been hot to start the tournament, scoring 85 and 89 points in double-digit wins, and the Illini have now won six straight games, including a run through the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa State also entered the tournament on a high note after taking down Houston in the Big 12 championship. The Cyclones have allowed the fourth-fewest points per game (61.3) this season, and the Illini are scoring the sixth-most points per game (84.6), so this is an interesting matchup of strength versus strength. Iowa State hasn’t reached the Elite Eight since 2000, and it lost in the first round to No. 11 Pittsburgh last March. Illinois also lost in the first round as a No. 9 seed last March. It last made the Elite Eight in 2005, when the program advanced to the national championship. 

At DraftKings Sportsbook, Illinois is the most popular moneyline wager by handle.

(3) Creighton vs. (2) Tennessee

Creighton returns an experienced squad that went on a run to the Elite Eight last season, and those veterans led the way in wins over Akron and Oregon this time around. The Bluejays are shooting a scorching 44.5% from 3-point range in the tournament and have held opponents to a 26.5% mark from deep. Tennessee, meanwhile, scraped past Texas by a score of 62-58 after demolishing No. 15 Saint Peter’s in the opening round. The Volunteers shot an unsightly 3-for-25 from deep against Texas but survived thanks to 18 points from Dalton Knecht. Their star forward is a key player to watch against a Creighton squad that might not have an alpha defender to contain him. Tennessee’s sole Elite Eight appearance came in 2010, and the Volunteers lost to No. 9 Florida Atlantic in the Sweet 16 last season. 

Creighton is another popular pick for an upset at DraftKings Sportsbook. They are the number 1 bet underdog team based on the amount of total tickets.

Popular underdog bets

(4) Alabama vs. (1) UNC

Alabama gave up over 100 points in a regular season loss and an SEC Tournament loss to Florida before the tournament, then won a 109-96 shootout over Charleston in the first round. Clearly, the Crimson Tide can light it up in the right matchup, but now they face a sizable UNC frontcourt that held Michigan State to 69 points on 44% field goal shooting in the Round of 32. The Tar Heels were one of the top rebounding teams in the nation this season, and Alabama struggled to keep opponents off the offensive glass. UNC is coming off a disappointing ACC Tournament, but it made the national championship in 2022. Alabama has fallen in the Sweet 16 in two of the past three tournaments. 

According to BetMGM, this game is the most popular bet game going into the Sweet 16 round. Between the spread, over/under, and moneylines, this game is the number 1 bet game at BetMGM by number of tickets.

(11) San Diego State vs. (1) UConn

UConn has dominated the field in March Madness recently, with eight straight double-digit wins dating back to its national title run last season. San Diego State would have to finish closer than any of those opponents to cover against the top overall seed in the tournament. So far this tournament, the Aztecs have won a low-scoring affair over UAB before handling No. 13 Yale by a score of 85-57 in the second round. San Diego State took down the top seed in the Mountain West Tournament (Utah State), then fell to New Mexico in the conference championship. The Aztecs held opponents to 30.8% shooting from 3-point range and allowed just 38.1 points per game in the second half this season, so their defensive approach could help them stay close with the Huskies. 

This is another popular wager at BetMGM. This game is the second most bet game by number of tickets heading into the Sweet 16 games.

History of underdogs winning in the Sweet 16 

YearSweet 16 upsetsHighest seeded upset