Daily Dunk: Best College Basketball Bets for Sunday's Round of 32 Action

Mar 22, 2024; Spokane, WA, USA; Grand Canyon Antelopes guard Tyon Grant-Foster (7) shoots against
Mar 22, 2024; Spokane, WA, USA; Grand Canyon Antelopes guard Tyon Grant-Foster (7) shoots against / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The first weekend of the 2024 NCAA Tournament comes to a close, and following a chalky day on the hardwood in the second round with all favorites advancing, I think we can see things open up on Sunday.

I'm focused on three underdogs on Sunday that can help turn brackets upside down due to some distinct matchup advantages. James Madison, Grand Canyon and Texas A&M all present diffcult matchups for its highly regarded opponent.

Here's how I see it:

College basketball season long betting record: 206-200-9 (+10.86U)

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Best College Basketball Bets for Today

  • James Madison (+7) vs. Duke
  • Grand Canyon (+6.5) vs. Alabama
  • Texas A&M (+9.5) vs. Houston

James Madison vs. Duke Prediction and Pick

Pretty nightmare matchup for the Blue Devils against the Dukes of James Madison on Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn.

Duke's offense continues to lack overwhelming explosiveness, over reliant on big man Kyle Filipowski ball screen actions and late clock isolation situations. That's not going to work against James Madison, who is 11th in raw defensive efficency and grades out as an elite isolation defense, per Synergy.

The Sun Belt champs allow a field goal percentage of just 29% in isolation situations and grade out in the 90th in terms of points per possession allowed, per Synergy Sports. I believe the team is able to limit Duke's effectiveness, who is 22nd percentile in terms of points per possession in isolations.

JMU would prefer to play in the open court, but Duke is a strong transition denial unit, but the Dukes have paths to success in the halfcourt as well, grading out as "excellent" in halfcourt offense. The team has a floor spacer in Noah Freidel that can be freed in off-ball actions against a suspect Duke defense that is "below average" defending cuts this season, and the Dukes are 56th in "open three rate" per ShotQuality.

The Dukes physicality could play against them if the Blue Devils get a friendly whistle, but I see this game as more of a defensive struggle and played within a few possessions throughout. I'll take the dog.

PICK: James Madison +7

Grand Canyon vs. Alabama Prediction and Pick

I love this matchup for Grand Canyon and an upset is very much on the table. 

Grand Canyon is an elite defense, long and able to run teams off the three-point line and also shut off the interior. The team is 59th in opponent 3-point rate while also being a top five defense in the country in field goal percentage allowed at the rim, per Haslametrics. 

Of course, no team is more focused on shooting 3s and layups as Alabama under head coach Nate Oats. The team is 19th in 3-point rate and is focused on getting all the way to the cup, and they do it well, ninth in effective field goal percentage. 

I believe that Grand Canyon can slow down the team’s preferred offense, similar in a way to Florida, who beat Alabama twice in three games this season, one of the longer, more analytically sound defenses in the SEC. 

Meanwhile, keep an eye on the undisciplined Alabama defense that is 141st in effective field goal percentage 282nd in turnover rate and 236th in defensive rebounding percentage, per KenPom. Most importantly, the team is 320th in opponent free throw rate. Grand Canyon has several ball handlers that are great at initiating contact, third in the country in free throw rate while ranking 32nd in offensive rebounding rate. 

Against an Alabama team off a monster effort that is 306th in consistency rating, per Haslametrics, I’ll take the more reliable bunch in the Antelopes, who are 13th in the same metric. 

Texas A&M vs. Houston Prediction and Pick

I believe that Texas A&M can keep up with the Cougars considering the two have very similar play styles. 

Let’s start with the first meeting. The Aggies lost by four on a neutral floor (in Houston) without Tyrece Radford as Taylor did much of the heavy lifting. Despite leading by double digits, Texas A&M rallied late to cover the 6.5-point spread. Now, with Radford healthy, and the team’s offense playing its best, I like Texas A&M to hang around. 

The team’s season-long stats show a poor shooting offense, but Buzz Williams’ group makes up for it in other areas. The unit is 329th in effective field goal percentage on the year but is top 20 in turnover percentage and has the highest offensive rebounding rate in the entire country. Further, the Aggies are seeing a big hoop right now, 151st in eFG% since the beginning of March, coinciding with a 6-1 record. 

It also helps that Taylor and the Aggies have seen this aggressive trapping defense, turning it over 11 times (18%) in the first game. While that’s above the season-long average, it’s merely at the national level. 

Further, I struggle to see Houston running away from the Aggies in this one. The team is outside the top 200 in effective field goal percentage and will need to hit shots from the perimeter to pull away against Texas A&M’s compact zone defense. Further, the team’s defensive scheme leaves forwards near the hoop, able to clean the glass at an above-average clip (119th in defensive rebounding percentage) Houston is reliant on winning the shot volume battle, but Texas A&M has the edge in this regard as the Cougars scrambling defense leaves them vulnerable on the back end (223rd in dREB%). 

Lastly, in a game that may be decided late, Houston shoots 69% from the charity stripe. 

This game will go down to the wire. 

PICK: Texas A&M +9.5

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