NCAAB March Madness East Region Sweet 16 Betting Preview

Alex Murray
Alex Murray
27 Mar 24
Betting Magazine
News - NCAA
NCAAB March Madness East Region Sweet 16 Betting Preview

March Madness has been living up to its name once again this year, but in the East, it’s been largely business as usual, where only three lower seeds have won over a higher seed and four of the top five seeds have made it into the Sweet Sixteen. While the lack of upsets is disappointing, it also sets up for a very competitive regional semifinal in Boston on Thursday. No. 1 UConn, who are currently the favorites to win it all according to most top betting sites, will be taking on No. 5 San Diego State, and No. 2 Iowa State will match up against No. 3 Illinois on the evening of Thursday, March 28 in Beantown.


  • No. 1 UConn should continue their dominant tournament performance
  • No. 2 Iowa State will win a close one against No. 3 Illinois
  • The Huskies are excellent defensively—but their over is still worth a look
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NCAAB March Madness Sweet 16 East Regional Semifinals - March 28

All odds provided by Betway.


No. 1 UConn  vs. No. 5 San Diego State - 7:39PM

UConn-714-10.5 (-120)O135.5 (-110)
San Diego State+500+10.5 (+100)U135.5 (-110)

In a rematch of last year’s National Championship Game, the San Diego State Aztecs once again enter the ring seemingly outmatched by the unflappable defending-champion UConn Huskies. And we mention the fact that they’re the champs because they have very much looked like the champs so far in this tournament, continuing the same dominance that saw them cruise through last year’s Madness completely unscathed.

The Huskies have now won eight tournament games in a row by double-digits dating back to last season, and after a 39-point win in Round 1 and a 17-point win in Round 2 this year, their average margin of victory over that span is an eye-popping 22 points, including four wins by 20+. That included 20+ point wins in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 last year, so UConn’s spread betting markets are very much in play here.

Heck, even in the 2023 Natty, the Huskies beat the Aztecs by 17, holding them in check with their suffocating defense. In fact, that UConn defense has been a staple of the Dan Hurley era: they did not give up more than 60 points in a game in the 2023 tournament, holding their opponents in the Elite 8, Final 4, and National Championship to 59 points or less. This year, they’ve held both of their tournament opponents to 58 or less while also stifling Marquette in their Big East Tournament Final win, holding the Golden Eagles to 57, which is tied for their second-lowest total of the season.

While both sides have lost several stars since last year’s final, the core and the energy around these teams remains the same; the Aztecs just have to face UConn’s wrath earlier in the tournament this time around. The Huskies have won 33 games this season, and 25 have come by double-digits. They have lost a single game since before Christmas. It just doesn’t seem like the Aztecs can slow this UConn roll.

If you don’t fancy a spread bet, the total could be an interesting option. If you look at the trends, they say that eight of the Huskies last 11 games have gone under. However, 135.5 is the second-lowest total for any UConn game this season, and five of their last eight have gone over 136.

Best Bet: UConn to cover -10.5 point spread (-120)/Over 135.5 Total Points (-110)

No. 2 Iowa State vs. No. 3 Illinois - 10:09PM

Iowa State-120-1.5 (-110)O145.5 (-115)
Illinois+105+1.5 (-110)U145.5 (-105)

While college hoops fans have started to come to expect blowouts whenever the Huskies play, they can instead expect a doozy of a game in the second contest of the East’s Thursday double dip. This one’s so tight that the favorite you see at game time might depend on which legal betting site you happen to be browsing at the time.

Iowa State vs. Illinois has the tightest odds of any Sweet 16 matchup this year, and for good reason. These are both deep, well-coached, and experienced groups. So, what separates them? Well, Iowa State’s defense is fourth in the nation in opponent scoring, for starters.

They’re a well-drilled, suffocating unit that many in the country call the best in the business from top to bottom. However, they have allowed stars to shine against them this season, and possibly the best scorer still left in the tournament, Terrence Shannon Jr., will be looking to continue that trend for the Fighting Illini.

The fifth-year man has scored 23+ points in 12 of his last 14 games, including 30 against Duquesne and 26 against Morehead State in the tournament. This kid can do it all, and while he doesn’t have a great long range shot, he’s better off attacking the Cyclones in the paint anyway, where they have been susceptible to fouls.

Here’s the thing though, while Iowa State has allowed number one scorers to get to their spots and make shots, they haven’t allowed the rest of the team to do the same, forcing their opponents into stagnant stretches of iso ball. Shannon could put up 40—and he very well might, you can count on him for at least 25 in our book - but if he doesn’t get any help, it will be all for naught.

The Fighting Illini get about 47 percent of their points from Shannon and forward Marcus Domask, so they are going to need the side characters to step up offensively to stay. They’re allowing over 73 points per game this season, so if they can’t get anything from their third or fourth options, they’ll be in trouble. In the end, T.J. Otzelberger’s Cyclones will be happy to let Shannon get his as long as he doesn’t get any help from his supporting cast.

Best Bet: Iowa State moneyline/Terrence Shannon Jr. Over 21.5 Points

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Alex is a recent graduate of Ryerson's Sport Media program in 2019 and has been contributing to BettingTop10 since 2020. He has worked in the field of sports and sports betting for several years, including writing for theScore and daily fantasy sports website FantasyPros as one of their lead NBA news writers. A dedicated sports fan and experienced sports bettor, Alex has the knowledge to provide you with the best betting advice and the sneakiest props no matter what the sport may be.