After an entertaining first weekend of the 2024 NCAA Tournament, the Sweet 16 is here as March Madness rolls on! Thursday night brings us the first four Sweet 16 matchups as we get closer to crowning a college basketball champion. 



*Editor's Note: Be sure to check in on Servo's complete March Madness Bracket to see how his NCAA Tournament picks have held up thus far!


Check out these March Madness picks for tonight’s games. We’ll discuss betting odds for San Diego State vs. UConn and Alabama vs. North Carolina before the games tip off.

All betting odds and lines are accurate as of this writing but be sure to shop around for the best numbers. Let’s now dive into our NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 predictions for Thursday, March 28th!

Sweet 16 Predictions & March Madness Bracket Picks: Thursday, 3/28

#5 San Diego State vs. #1 UConn Prediction: Under 136 Total Points (-108 at DraftKings)

The Sweet 16 showdown between Connecticut and San Diego State will be a rematch of last year’s title game. No. 1 seed UConn is a double-digit favorite over No. 5 seed San Diego State in Thursday’s matchup and the reigning champs should advance on to the Elite Eight. We’re looking at the total here, though, and banking on a lower-scoring game. 

This matchup features two of the top-10 defenses in college basketball, which should ultimately lead to a grinder of a game. UConn is 9th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency this season while San Diego State is 8th, per KenPom. The Huskies are only allowing 63.9 PPG this year while the Aztecs are giving up 66.3 PPG. Points should be relatively tough to come by for both teams, especially with the longer time to prep and rest from the Round of 32 last weekend. 

When San Diego State is on offense, it could struggle to get consistent scoring for a few reasons. Jaedon LeDee has been a beast for the Aztecs, scoring 32 and 26 points in the first two Tournament games. However, UConn boasts 7-foot-2 center Donovan Clingan and an athletic backup in Samson Johnson to protect the rim well and match up with LeDee. With those two bigs anchoring the paint, the Huskies claim the fourth-best interior defense in the country (per KenPom). 




The San Diego State offense also tends to lean too heavily on LeDee at times. In the first two games of this Tournament, the Aztecs barely got any scoring from its role players but got away with it because LeDee was so good against a pair of mid-major frontcourts. It won’t be that easy against UConn’s defense, which will force other Aztec scorers to step up. 

Yet, San Diego State isn’t a good three-point shooting team at just 31.8% for the year (283rd nationally). Meanwhile, opponents are shooting only 31.3% from three against UConn. If LeDee isn’t his usual dominant self, we could see longer scoreless stretches from the Aztecs in this matchup – especially if they aren’t hitting threes. 

On the other side, San Diego State will have to lean on its own elite-level defense to muck this game up and stay within striking range. The Aztecs are holding opponents to a 30.8% three-point shooting rate this season (23rd-best in CBB) and regularly force longer possessions from opposing offenses. UConn does have a very efficient attack, but the San Diego State defense should set the tone early if it wants any chance at the upset. 

We also get two slower-paced teams in this matchup. UConn is 315th nationally in tempo while San Diego State is 266th. In turn, the Aztecs are 8-5 to the under in their last 13 games. The under is also 5-2 in their last seven losses – which is the more likely outcome here. The Huskies are 7-2 to the under in their last nine games with the defense playing at a high level. 




#4 Alabama vs. #1 North Carolina Prediction: Tar Heels -4.5 (-104 at FanDuel)

Arguably the best Sweet 16 matchup on Thursday night features Alabama vs. North Carolina. The No. 1 seed Tar Heels took care of Michigan State and Wagner in the first two rounds with 16 and 28-point wins, respectively. The No. 4 seed Crimson Tide, meanwhile, beat both Charleston and Grand Canyon by double digits in its first two NCAA Tournament matchups. 

When handicapping this game, it’s important to understand what Alabama brings to the table. It boasts an extremely potent offense (4th in the country) that plays at a lightning-quick pace (8th). The Tide can put up 90-100 points in any given night without breaking a sweat. Their uptempo play and dangerous three-point scoring immediately puts pressure on opposing teams to match them. 

However, Alabama’s defense continues to be a glaring weakness. It’s 101st in defensive efficiency, per KenPom, which is the worst among all Sweet 16 teams remaining. Over the past 12 games, the Tide are giving up 91.4 PPG while going 7-5 over this stretch. Despite winning its first two NCAA Tournament games, Bama’s defensive issues haven’t gone anywhere and will eventually come back to bite them against better opponents. 

North Carolina is that better opponent and can exploit the weaker defense while also matching Alabama’s higher-scoring offense. The Tar Heels rank 17th in offensive efficiency this season and 41st in tempo, per KenPom. Led by All-American guard RJ Davis, they can run with Alabama and are familiar with winning high-scoring, faster-paced games. UNC center Armando Bacot should especially have success inside against a weaker Bama frontcourt. 




When the Tide face good offenses that also play fast, the defensive issues tend to come to the forefront. The Tide are just 2-10 SU and 1-10-1 ATS against top-30 KenPom teams this season, allowing 92.7 PPG in those matchups. Against top-10 teams, like UNC, they are 1-5 SU and 0-5-1 ATS with an average losing deficit of 12.8 PPG. As betting underdogs this season, Bama is just 2-6 SU and ATS as well. Simply put, Alabama benefited from facing a pair of mid-major teams in the first two rounds and could get a wakeup call against UNC here. 

The Tide ended up beating Grand Canyon by 11 last games, but it was a much closer than that. If Canyon ran a more efficient offense and was smarter with the ball, it easily could’ve pulled off the upset. Plus, the ‘Lopes barely got anything offensively outside of Tyon Grant-Foster while shooting just 10% from three. Grand Canyon actually led with four minutes to go but fell apart late. 

North Carolina, meanwhile, showed a ton of resiliency in their Round of 32 win by coming back from a double-digit first-half deficit to Michigan St to ultimately win by 16 points. Doing that against a Hall of Fame coach like Tom Izzo and a Spartans team that handled Mississippi State the game before is certainly impressive. 

As for the Heels’ defense, they rank 6th in the country in defensive efficiency (per KenPom) and it’s shown early in the NCAA Tournament – holding both Wagner and Michigan State to less than 70 points. Let’s take North Carolina to win and cover the spread for this Sweet 16 game vs. Alabama. They are the more complete team on both sides and can take advantage of the Tide’s defensive woes. 




Sweet 16 Schedule Today, 3/28: NCAA Tournament

With our March Madness picks out of the way, we’ll leave you with the complete schedule for today’s NCAA Tournament Sweet 16:

  • #6 Clemson vs. #2 Arizona - 7:09 PM ET
  • #5 San Diego State vs. #1 UConn - 7:39 PM ET
  • #4 Alabama vs. #1 North Carolina - 9:39 PM ET
  • #3 Illinois vs. #2 Iowa State - 10:09 PM ET