2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament: First Round Betting Picks and Props (Saturday)

Brandon Gdula
Brandon Gdula@gdula13
2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament: First Round Betting Picks and Props (Saturday)

The 2024 NCAA women's tournament bracket is set, and the first round finishes up on Saturday, March 23rd.

Here are some of the best bets to consider -- based on the NCAA women's basketball betting odds at FanDuel Sportsbook -- for Saturday's first-round matchups.

Holy Cross vs. Iowa Betting Odds

Caitlin Clark Over 8.5 Assists (-113)

Hannah Stuelke Over 13.5 Points (-122)

Expectations couldn't be much higher for the Iowa Hawkeyes in this year's tournament. Their +650 odds to win the women's NCAA Tournament trail just South Carolina's (-145), and superstar guard Caitlin Clark is headed to the WNBA after this season.

Of course, Clark's scoring makes all the headlines. There is even a market for Caitlin Clark's point total in the tournament -- along with others.

Caitlin Clark 2024 NCAA Women's Tournament Specials
FanDuel Sportsbook Odds
Caitlin Clark to Score 135+ Points in the 2024 NCAA Tournament-105
Caitlin Clark to Record 45+ Assists in the 2024 NCAA Tournament+180
Caitlin Clark to Make 25+ Threes in the 2024 NCAA Tournament+180
Caitlin Clark to Record 2+ Triple Doubles in the 2024 NCAA Tournament+195
Caitlin Clark to Make 10+ Three Pointers in a Game in the 2024 NCAA Tournament+600
Caitlin Clark to Score 50+ Points in a Game in the 2024 NCAA Tournament+2900

Despite all that, the assist numbers are also bafflingly good. She has averaged 8.9 assists per game on the year and has had at least 9 helpers in 20 of 33 games (60.6%).

Now, the spread is a big factor in Iowa's opening game, as Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes are favored over Holy Cross by 38.5 points at FanDuel Sportsbook with a game total of 154.5.

That gives Iowa an implied team total of 96.5 points against a Holy Cross team that ranks 181st in adjusted defensive rating, via Sports-Reference. (Holy Cross has an implied team total of just 58.0 points.)

In six games against teams ranked 150th or worse in adjusted defense, Clark has averaged 29.2 points (her scoring prop is 32.5), 9.5 rebounds, and 10.3 assists. She's maintained those averages in just 30.7 minutes per game (compared to a full-season average of 34.3 minutes).

So, a blowout is possible here, but Iowa had one in the first round last season, too, when they beat Southeastern Louisiana 95-43. That's a similar script to the implied team totals here.

In that game last season, Clark played 29 minutes and scored 26 points on 14 field goal attempts but had 12 assists and 7 rebounds. The minutes could be telling for us here in a similar game environment.

Ultimately, Clark leads the nation in assists per game by a big margin and has assisted on 50.1% of Iowa buckets when on the floor, and Iowa should get up shots and score points in this matchup.

Because her scoring and rebounding could scale back if the game gets out of hand quickly, her assist prop looks like the best route for exposure.

Now, following all of this logic with Iowa being in a great place to score, Hannah Stuelke's points prop (13.5) is appealing, as well.

Stuekle has played five games against teams 150th or worse in adjusted defense. She has averaged 17.0 points per game across only 20.6 minutes (compared to 24.2 per game on the full season). Individually, she scored 22, 16, 20, 10, and 17 points -- thus going over 13.5 in four of five contests.

Princeton vs. West Virginia Betting Odds

West Virginia -1.5 (-120)

This 8-versus-9 matchup will determine who (most likely) faces Iowa in the Round of 32, but the tight spread and low total (124.5) suggest a scrappy contest at the top of the Albany 2 Region.

West Virginia seems to be trending in the wrong direction, though that notion would be a bit misleading.

The team has lost four of its last six games in a tough stretch opponent-wise.

They have a road loss (in overtime) and a neutral-site loss to Kansas State (15th in adjusted net rating, via Sports-Reference), a home loss to Baylor (17th) by a point, and a 7-point road loss to Oklahoma State (51st) in that span.

Their wins were over TCU (46th in adjusted net rating) at home by 8 and Cincinnati (74th) in the conference tournament by 15. Yes, the losses are still losses, but there's a lot to like here with a deeper look.

As for Princeton, they have won six of their last seven -- including a win over Oklahoma in that split. They seem to be on the upswing.

Overall, West Virginia and Princeton are built on defense and allow 57.8 and 56.0 points per game, respectively, for top-40 defenses by scoring and in the advanced metrics.

But once accounting for schedule, offense, and defense, models are higher on West Virginia's overall team strength.

They're 19th in adjusted net rating at Sports-Reference, 17th via TheAnalyst's TRACR metric, and 25th in MasseyRatings' rankings. Princeton's ranks are 48th, 32nd, and 37th, respectively.

My model views West Virginia as 61.1% likely to cover.

California Baptist vs. UCLA Betting Odds

Under 152.5 (-114)

This matchup pits a top-10 adjusted offense (UCLA) against a team roughly 100th across the various metrics sites in offensive efficiency (California Baptist).

The Lancers just haven't faced a defense quite like UCLA's (5th) yet this season. In their defense (no, not intended), they scored 71 against Portland (48th in adjusted defense) and 71 and 85 (in overtime) against Grand Canyon (72nd in adjusted defense), but this is a different level of competition.

As for UCLA, they play around a nation-average tempo, which should slow down the Lancers' top-10 pace.

But this is about more than just the tough expected matchup for California Baptist.

UCLA also has seen a dip in scoring trends since the start of February (a span during which they are 9-3).

In that split, their games have scored an average of 127.3 points. They even had a double-overtime game in that split with a total of 150; it was 59-59 at the end of regulation for a total of 118.

In that sample, as well, their game pace has slowed to 68.4 possessions per game from 75.9 entering February. That can help explain the scoring drop.

And another variable in the under's favor? Since getting Stanford transfer Lauren Betts (a 6'7" center) back in the lineup on February 9th, their nine non-overtime games have averaged only 122.3 total points.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.