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March Madness predictions 2023: Instant picks heading into Sweet 16

We give our instant picks for the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament as Sweet 16 matchups are made official.

Auburn v Houston Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images

As the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament wraps up, we’re looking ahead to Thursday and Friday’s Sweet 16 games. Check out our early picks on the moneyline and the spread for the third round of March Madness.

South Region

No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 1 Alabama

Alabama -6.5

SDSU has not faced even close to the likes of this Bama team in the tournament. Paired up against Charleston in the first round and, by the luck of an opponent upset, against Furman in the second round, the Aztecs have had a fairly smooth road to the Sweet 16. That stops here. Alabama let Maryland hang around in the first half before blowing them out in the second half by 22 points. While SDSU brings a good defense to the court, they won’t be able to match up against the Tide. — GM

No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 15 Princeton

Princeton +10

This is where Princeton’s Cinderella journey will most likely come to an end, but it won’t be a walk in the park for Creighton. The Tigers have been able to match both of their tournament opponents offensively and have been excellent on the glass. On top of that, they are 17-12 against the spread this season. Give me Princeton to cover as a double-digit underdog. — NS

East Region

No. 4 Tennessee vs. No. 9 Florida Atlantic

Tennessee -5.5

Tennessee is carrying with it the No. 1 defense in KenPom into this matchup and that’s a level of defensive intensity that FAU has yet to face all season. The seasoned Volunteers should be able to slow this offense down and I’ll predict that work their way into a cushy victory at MSG. — NS

No. 3 Kansas State vs. No. 7 Michigan State

Kansas State -1

The East Region feels wide open with both the No. 1 and 2 seeds out of the picture. Michigan State is playing incredible defense so far through the tournament but I have to lean with K-State in this virtual toss up. The combo of Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson have been electric so far in the tournament and it’s hard to imagine them being stopped. Give me the Wildcats. — NS

West Region

No. 4 UConn vs. No. 8 Arkansas

UConn -3.5

There is an argument to be made for UConn being the most dangerous team in the tournament right now. Adama Sanogo has been a dominating force on both sides of the floor for the Huskies individually and as a team, they have held both of their opponents to under 40% shooting. UConn is an excellent 23-11-1 against the spread this season and while Arkansas will be a tough out, the Huskies should be able to cover on their way to the Elite 8. — NS

No. 2 UCLA vs. TBD

Midwest Region

No. 1 Houston vs. No. 5 Miami

Miami +7.5

I expect this game to a be a barnburner and potentially one of the best games of the entire tournament. Houston is geared to play at any pace and the combo of Isaiah Wong and Jordan Miller for Miami will be throwing haymakers from the opening tip. I’m taking Houston to win outright but Miami to keep things really close and cover. — NS

No. 2 Texas vs. No. 3 Xavier

Texas -4

Xavier has been an interesting team to watch this tournament. They’re one of the most evenly-spread teams in terms of scoring — six different players scored 10 points or more in their latest game — and they’re a pass-heavy offense, leading the nation in an average of 19.2 assists per game. However, Texas’ defense records 16.1 forced turnovers (16th in the nation) and 8 steals (47th in the nation) per game, which may limit Xavier’s scoring opportunities if they cannot protect the ball. The Longhorns should be able to cover and advance. — GM