Eli’s Expert March Madness Bracket Picks & Potential Upsets: Target Longshot Clemson To Final Four?

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Written By Eli Hershkovich | Last Updated
Bracket Picks

My equivalent of Christmas morning is almost upon us. As first-round March Madness odds tip off in about 24 hours, I’ve wrapped up my bracket for larger pools. In this article, you’ll find my bracket picks and large-pool strategy. Follow along with our free printable bracket and opening first-round odds. Most importantly, brace yourselves for chaos.

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eli’s NCAA tournament bracket picks

Large Bracket Picks Strategy

After filling out my Final Four picks, let’s break down the logic for high-leverage picks in bigger pools. On the Outside Shots episode below, Jason Lisk and I discussed why you don’t need to go crazy to knock out a slew of your fellow contestants.

An under-the-radar Final Four selection will do just fine.

Consider this bracket my second draft for large pools. I made the initial one before Baylor announced Langston Love’s ankle injury would hold him out at least the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. He’s also doubtful to return beyond that juncture Remember, the Bears underwent a similar occurrence with LJ Cryer two seasons ago, playing it safe in the process.

Since I appraised the West Region as the one with the highest probability for the most upsets, I altered my high-leverage Final Four pick to reflect that after Love’s status was announced. If you’ve read my write-ups before, you’re probably not shocked that sixth-seeded Clemson made the cut. I pulled the trigger on the Tigers in mid-February to accomplish that feat. Their best current price available is ().

After New Mexico won the Mountain West tournament championship, the perception around the Lobos has completely shifted. Entering that week, Richard Pitino’s unit had lost six of their last 10 games, including a home loss to Air Force. Hence, it opened as a short favorite versus Clemson, which shouldn’t have surprised anyone, especially after Boston College ousted the Tigers in their only game of the ACC tournament.

Clemson’s Potential Advantages

Conversely, the Tigers ranked No. 21 in adjusted efficiency from Feb. 6 through the end of the regular season. That stretch correlates with the return of Swiss Army knife Jack Clark, who was finally healthy enough to return to the starting lineup at that date. According to hoop-explorer, Clemson’s net rating improves dramatically (at both ends) with Clark on the court. In particular, his agile 6-foot-10 frame lets the Tigers’ defense become entirely switch-friendly.

That’s key, as their ball-screen defense within Brad Brownell’s shell coverage can handle the Lobos’ frequent pick-and-roll sets. Clemson having the best offensive player in this game doesn’t hurt, either.

Tigers center PJ Hall is a matchup problem for most teams. New Mexico is no different, stationed in the 35th percentile of percentage of points allowed in the paint (via CBB Analytics).

The Lobos also rank in the 77th percentile of press usage, hunting for live-ball turnovers. Clemson shouldn’t have an issue with it, tallying the 22nd-most points per possession (PPP) against it. If the Tigers advance and presumably face Baylor, their five-out attack is well-built to shoot over the Bears’ zone defense, which Baylor coach Scott Drew infused midseason to aid his vulnerable backcourt.

If Clemson punches its ticket to the Sweet 16, it’s more than capable of doing damage the rest of the way. For more upset bracket picks, here’s a breakdown of why I’m bullish on 14th-seeded Morehead State in the East Region.

2024 final four odds

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