Basketball

March Madness Sleepers: Find The Best NCAA Sleepers 2024

Last Updated on 05/19/2024
Fact checked by: Allan Howe

We’ve got some great sleeper picks for March Madness 2024 right here. If you’ve been on the search of the best value bets for this year’s NCAA Division I tournament, then you’ve certainly landed in the right place.

Each of the picks featured here will give you that awesome combination of having a fair chance of winning while including relatively long odds. After all, not everyone is going to want to back favorites like UConn. Our guide simply gives you the best sleeper picks for March Madness so that you spot this tournament’s surprise packages.

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What are NCAA March Madness sleeper picks?

A sleeper pick is simply where a team performs better than expected. For example, if there was a college basketball team who were way down at the bottom of the NCAA rankings and they ended up winning March Madness, this would be considered to be a sleeper pick.

Why it’s worth betting on NCAA sleepers

Sleepers picks tend to have long odds to win things like March Madness. Sportsbooks give them long odds because they believe that these lowly-ranked teams have little chance of progressing very far.

The good news is that while these sleeper picks might be risky, they can pay off in the long-run. This is because the longer odds mean that you will get more returns should you win your bet on a sleeper pick.

As such, we can see that betting on sleeper picks is all about balancing risk and reward. While favorites usually win tournaments like March Madness, there is always the chance that an underdog could cause some big upsets.

Some sleeper picks for you today

Perhaps you’ve already made your bracket or placed a few bets. Or maybe you’re waiting to get things started until minutes before the action begins. Either way, I’ve got one sleeper pick from each bracket region to share with you.

As with any sleeper pick, take these with a grain of salt. On the other hand, should any of these teams make an against-the-odds run, you could possibly make a buck or two, or even upset some of your bracket-challenge competitors. Let’s get right to it.

East: 6-Seed BYU COUGARS

BYU faces off against Duquesne in the first round, which should be an interesting matchup.  Aside from North Florida, BYU attempts an absurd amount of three-pointers, and this is what makes them a potentially dangerous team.

With a win/loss record of 23-10, the Cougars finished 5th in the Big 12. With impressive victories over SDSU, Baylor, Iowa State, and Kansas, they've proven they can hang with the big teams. After all, they did lose to the no. 1 Houston Cougars, by just seven points. While they didn't finish at the top in the Big 12, they were defeated by Texas Tech in the conference championship game.

For the first round, Duquesne is one of the elite perimeter defending teams. Allowing just 66 opponent points per game, the Dukes unfortunately can't match their stellar offense. Putting up only 66.9 points per game, Duquesne will make their NCAA Tournament for the first time in nearly 50 years.

The East is a tough region, especially since UConn is heavily expected to make a deep run, given they are the reigning champions.  While I can't see any of the teams in the East defeating the Connecticut Huskies, BYU has a chance to make a decent run, especially with their high powered offense. Although I can't see Morehead State surviving past the first round, I could see BYU in a difficult matchup against Illinois in the second round. If they want to make a deep run, they will have to rely on the rebounds, an addition to heavy three-point shooting.

I'm not trying to to be biased, but I am graduate from the University of Connecticut. I still have the Huskies making it far, but BYU could be a close second.

Midwest: 3-Seed Creighton Bluejays

A no. 3 seed is a high as I'll ever pick for a "sleeper team." Creighton is in fact one of the more impressive teams in the midwest. Part of the Big East, the Blue Jays finished 3-2 against top 25 teams this season. While I was inclined to choose Gonzaga, Creighton is an offensive powerhouse, who puts up nearly 81 points per game. While they have a fairly predictable matchup against Akron in the first round, this is a team that can make a deep run well into the tournament.

This season, Creighton has impressive ranked wins over Providence, Connecticut, and Marquette. Behind Dan Hurley, the UConn Huskies are the favorites to repeat, and the Blue Jays knocked them off earlier this year. Led by senior Baylor Scheireman, they are fairly healthy, and lead remain one of the top offensive units in college basketball.  Aside from Scheireman, Trey Alexander and Ryan Kalkbrenner have been a colossal part of their offense this season.

If they move past the first round, they would play the winner of the South Carolina/Oregon matchup. While Purdue is the no.1 seed in the region, the Blue Jays are more than capable of defeating all 16 teams in the midwest. Similar to BYU, Creighton puts up 29.3 three-pointers per game, which is ranked no. 8 in the nation. Shooting at high clip when it comes to mid-range jumpers, this team has adequate defense to carry them deep into the tournament.

South: 12-Seed James Madison University (JMU) DUKES

Let's face it, JMU made headlines when they defeated Michigan State 79-76 in the season opener. In fact, it's their first NCAA Tournament appearance, since 2013, where they defeated Long Island as the no. 16 seed in the first four. 31-3 on the season, the Dukes finished second in the Sun-Belt, and finished with 13 straight wins, which included the Sun-Belt conference championship.

While they are a no. 12 seed, it's hard to ignore their accomplishments this season. Although some would argue their strength of schedule was far less difficult compared to others, the numbers speak for themselves. Led by Terrence Edwards Junior, I'm predicting they will be a popular sleeper pick for the tournament. Is it common for a bottom ranked seed to land within the top 50 in the nation in terms of field goal and three-point percentage?  A top ten offensive team, the Dukes put up nearly 84.4 points per game, which is tied with Illinois and Indiana State.

Under head coach Mark Byington, he's been nominated for several awards. Now in his fourth season with the Dukes, this team shoots at a high clip from downtown. Let's face it, they have the most wins in division 1 men's basketball, and that in itself makes this team a sleeper pick.

What's not to like about JMU? Slated to play Nebraska, I would imagine this would be a popular 5-12 upset. Allowing less than 70 points per game, they have a solid chance to upset Wisconsin, who lost to Illinois in the Big Ten Championship.

West: 7-Seed Dayton Flyers

Although they are 0-1 against top 25 teams, they finished third in the Atlantic 10. Given they didn't have the easiest schedule this year, you can't count out a team who has the third best three-point percentage (40.2 %).

A team of shooters, I do believe they are seeded slightly too high. However, they have a stingy defense, giving up 66.3 points per game, and have several wins over teams in this years tournament (Grambling State, Longwood, Oakland, Duquesne).

A disciplined team, they limit their opponents to 12.9 free-throws per game. If they can shoot at a high clip, while limiting opponent free-throw appearances, they have a shot. In fact, they will face no. 10 Nevada in the first round, who finished 26-7 in the MWC.

Examples of sleeper picks for March Madness in years gone by

We’ve seen lots of examples of sleeper picks coming good in recent years. So if you’re ever worried about backing an underdog, take a look at these moments when March Madness showed that even a complete outsider can cause a few surprises:

Amazing sleeper picks in 2023 March Madness

Last year was a remarkable year for March Madness. With no.15 Princeton appearing in the tournament, they managed to knock off no.2 Arizona in the first round. From there, they defeated no. 7 Missouri in the round of 32. It doesn't stop with them, both Florida Atlantic University and San Diego State, the no. 9 and no. 5 seeds, made it all the way to the final four.

And of course, how could we forget the no. 16 seeded team Fairleigh Dickinson, who defeated Purdue, the heavy favorites. It was the no. 4 seed Connecticut Huskies that won it all in a defensive showdown against San Diego State.

Stunning sleeper picks in the 2022 March Madness

2022 was all about no. 15 Saint Peters team, who made a famous run and sent shockwaves across the basketball world. Having entered the tournament as long shots to win, they defeated Kentucky, Murray State, and Purdue. Although they lost to North Carolina in the elite eight, it's a run that will never be forgotten in the history of college basketball. Talk about a true sleeper pick.

Some alternative sleeper picks to win March Madness overall

Let’s face it, the chances are that the 2024 March Madness title is going to go to either UConn Huskies, UNC Tar heels, Purdue Boilers, and Houston Cougars. However, we still think that there is a slim hope that one of these sleeper picks might claim the NCAA Division I title:

  • Alabama Crimson Tide: This is a team that had the hardest schedule in the nation, and tied for second in the SEC. They put up 90 points per game, making them the top offensive team in the nation. Top ten in the nation in free-throw percentage, they are a viable option to go the length this year.
  • Auburn Tigers: The winners of the SEC Conference championship tournament, the Tigers finished the season at 27-7. Having one of the hardest schedules in the country, they are 4-3 vs. top 25 teams this season. With the offense they have, expect Auburn to make a run.
  • Kentucky Wildcats: Another team out of the SEC, they lost to Texas A&M in the conference quarterfinals. That doesn't mean the Wildcats can't do damage this year. 5-2 against top ranked teams, Kentucky is one of the top offensive units in the country. Led by the great John Calipari, look for Kentucky to make some noise.
  • Arizona Wildcats:  In their last season in the Pac-12, Arizona has one of the top field goal and three-point percentages this year. Additionally, with those stats, they put up nearly 88 points per game. Arizona is the no. 2 seed, and should bounce back from their shocking loss to Princeton last season.  The third highest scoring offense, they are the second favorite to win the west, behind UNC.

Our sleeper picks for March Madness 2024

While all of the teams listed above are valid sleeper picks, they still have relatively short odds. So we think that each of the following teams give you a good example of a sleeper pick with longer odds but still a reasonable chance of going far in March Madness 2024:

  • Tennessee Volunteers: 24-8,  The Vols had the 5th hardest schedule this season. Another team out of the SEC, Tennessee boasts a 6-4 record against the top ranked teams.
  • Gonzaga Bulldogs: Gonzaga once again, is an offensive juggernaut of a team, even after they lost Drew Timme to the NBA Draft. While they didn't win the WCC, at +6000 to win it all, we have to put more respect on their name.
  • Baylor Bears: The Bears managed to finish 23-10 among the toughest conferences in the country, the Big 12. Putting up over 80 points a game, they are worth a look at +3000 odds. Overshadowed by Iowa State and Houston, I do believe the odds should be more in their favor.
  • Marquette Golden Eagles: Marquette had a tough go in the Big East, losing three times against the Connecticut Huskies. Although they couldn't claim victory to the Big East Championship, they managed to finish 25-9 on the year. Ranked top 30 in the nation in field goal percentage, the Golden Eagles had the 23rd hardest schedule.

More extreme sleeper picks for March Madness 2024

OK for all of those college basketball fans who aren’t afraid of risk, we’ll give you some of our serious sleeper picks for this year’s March Madness. Remember that because these teams have long odds, it means that you can bet with very modest stakes and still get a decent return should you win your bets:

  • Michigan State Spartans: Can you ever count out head coach Tom Izzo? This team is different than years past, and coming out of a tough Big Ten Conference, the Spartans are the no. 24 best team in the nation. +1000 odds to win it all, it's not a terrible pick.
  • Colorado State Rams: Slated to matchup against Texas in the first round, they secured an impressive 21 point victory over Creighton in November. Additionally, they defeated then no. 23 Nevada in the conference quarterfinals. A no. 10 seed in this years tournament, they have +18000 odds to win it all. That's not too bad for a team that's ranked no. 36 in the country, right?
  • NC State Wolfpack: Winners of the ACC, NC State had impressive five wins in five days to end the season, which included crucial victories over UNC and Duke. +15000 odds to win it all, you can't count out the Wolfpack. The only other team to win five games in five days? UConn, in 2011, which resulted in a National Championship.
  • McNeese Cowboys: Could this be the biggest 12-5 upset of the year over Gonzaga? Led by head coach Will Wade, he's in his first year with the program after departing LSU. Making frequent appearances in the NCAA Tournament, the Cowboys are an elite shooting team. +30000 odds to win the National Championship, it's hard to count out a team that's ranks top ten in field goal and three-point percentage.

Tips for making your own sleeper March Madness picks

Everyone will have their own favorite underdogs that they want to go far in this year’s March Madness. So consider these points before you make your own sleeper picks:

Bet on rounds

Betting on a sleeper pick doesn’t necessarily mean that you are expecting that the team will win March Madness overall. Instead, it could be safer to just bet on that team to reach a certain round such as the Sweet 16 or even the Elite Eight. 

Evaluate recent form

Even outsiders can have a good run of form which could work to propel them into the later stages of March Madness. For example, Kentucky are on a four-game winning streak that could set them up nicely despite their relatively low place in the NCAA rankings. 

Note tournament history

Certain teams always seem to perform well at March Madness regardless of their form in the regular season. You only have to look at UCLA’s performance in the 2022 March Madness for a good example of this.

Check tournament routing

Because March Madness features a single-game eliminator format, it means that certain teams might face an easier route to the later rounds than others. So do your research into who is playing in each bracket to see how far that underdog might get. 

Conclusion - Check back for more sleeper picks for March Madness 2024

We’ve given you some great ideas for backing those underdogs who could cause some big surprises in this year’s March Madness. While some of these teams might fall by the wayside, they all have the potential to knock out some of the favorites and give you more for your bets.

Of course, the odds for these outsiders will change as the tournament progresses and we’ll be sure to update this resource accordingly. So watch this space to be the first to see the best sleeper picks for March Madness 2024.

Sleeper picks for March Madness FAQ

👀 Who are the college basketball sleepers in 2024?

Check out our guide to see the best sleeper picks for March Madness 2024. After all, March Madness finals gambling is about so much more than just backing the favorites.

🔮 Where can I find good NCAA basketball sleeper predictions?

Be sure to come to our site to see all you need to know about making sleeper picks for March Madness 2024. Perfect for getting the best possible March Madness odds for your college basketball bets.

🏀 How can I find the NCAA basketball rankings?

Take a look at our guide to the best sleeper picks for March Madness and we’ll reveal how you can access the latest NCAA rankings. Essential for formulating reliable March Madness picks.

❓ Who are the underdogs in March Madness 2024?

Don’t miss out on our guide to the sleeper picks for March Madness where you’ll get to see all of the underdogs who could go far. While they might not be good for March Madness Final 4 gambling, they could definitely cause an upset or two.

💪 What are the best March Madness 2024 picks?

Check out our guide to see the best sleeper picks for March Madness [2024]. Each of these picks will give you great value regardless of whether you are using one of the many March Madness betting apps or are playing from your computer. 

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