The opening round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament is in the books, and it’s already been quite the exhilarating ride. No. 2 Arizona was sent packing by a motivated Princeton squad, while top seeds Alabama and Kansas advanced to the round of 32 with no issue. With all pre-tournament speculation out the window, we now have updated views on which teams are here to stay, and which teams may have had luck on their side for the early part of St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Here are the best bets for Saturday’s Second Round slate.
2023 March Madness picks: Saturday, March 18
Furman +5.5 (-110)
The first big upset of the NCAA Tournament was brought to us by the Paladins. They overcame a 12-point deficit with under 12 minutes left in the second half to beat No. 4 seed Virginia on Thursday. Furman exposed the Cavaliers’ glacial offense to hang around until the final minute, and subsequently showed off the clutch aspect of their unit — forcing Virginia into a turnover with under 20 seconds remaining, and a huge three from JP Pegues to seal the deal for a 68-67 final. The Paladins are poised for an attempt at a Cinderella run, and they are off to a fitting start.
Auburn +5.5 (-110)
Here’s another opportunity for value with an underdog spread. Auburn smothered Iowa’s efficient offense on Thursday, plucking six steals and recording five blocks to turn the Hawkeyes over a total of eight times. This is an encouraging showing for the Tigers, who entered the bracket as one of the more unpopular picks in the first round. Yes, they have a powerhouse in Houston up next, but the Cougars are currently sweating out the status of star guard Marcus Sasser. If he’s unable to give it a go, or is even limited in slightest, Auburn could easily take this one down to the final minutes.
UCLA -7.5 (-110)
As one of the few select teams in college basketball who know how to get a lead, and coast with it in games, UCLA has dominance written all over them in Round 2 against Northwestern. A 33-point win against No. 15 UNC Asheville was a major statement by the Bruins. Message received. When they are favored against their opponent, they quickly let the public understand why. 20 of their regular-season victories were by double digits. They should be able to handle an underwhelming Northwestern squad next.