Better Bet: NCAA Opening Round Preview
March Madness is here. Like Christmas, but for sports fans, it is days on end of nothing but collegiate sport, with fairytales, upsets and sporting moments like no other on a daily basis. looks at the first round, and some of the major moments of the upcoming first round.
Duke have been utterly dominant this year when Zion Williamson is fit, and since he has returned from injury he has averaged 27 points and 10 rebounds a game.
Zion alone is a handful, but when teamed with prospective lottery picks R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, Duke are one of the most feared teams we’ve seen in March.
Duke haven’t been to the Final Four since 2015, but this year could be the end of that streak.
Duke NCAA Basketball Tournament winner moneyline: +235
Upset Watch: No.14 Yale over No.3 LSU
LSU have had disaster hit at the worst possible time, with coach Will Wade indefinitely suspended. The regular season SEC title winners lost in the quarter-finals of the SEC tournament, and an emotional year risks spiralling out of control.
Yale are a team that scores lots of points, and plays at a fast pace, so if LSU don’t immediately focus on the task at hand, they may struggle, especially with their lack of 3-pt shooting (32.4%).
Yale moneyline v LSU: +260
Yale NCAA Basketball Tournament winner moneyline: +82500
LSU NCAA Basketball Tournament winner moneyline: +5600
Best matchup: No.4 Virginia Tech v No.13 Saint Louis
Virginia Tech have had a good season, but that can mean nothing in March. With senior point guard Justin Robinson sidelined and his return date unclear, they could run into some trouble against an athletic Saint Louis team that has hit form at the right time to win a competitive A-10 conference tournament. This could be a thrilling last fixture of the first round.
Virginia Tech moneyline v Saint Louis: -650
Saint Louis moneyline v Virginia Tech: +425
12 months ago, the Cavaliers become the first ever number one seed to lose to a 16 seed. This year, they have the burden of another one seed, and have endured a shaky start to March after losing in the ACC tournament semi-finals.
Virginia are very deserving of their seed, but questions will remain about them until they have a deep march run.
Virginia NCAA Basketball Tournament winner moneyline: +725
Upset Watch: No.11 Saint Mary’s over No.6 Villanova
Reigning champs Villanova have struggled this season, only earning a six seed, and they face off against a Saint Mary’s team that recently beat one seed Gonzaga, and are very effective when playing the game at their own pace.
If Saint Mary’s can stay in the game, and keep it close until the final few minutes, we could see a big upset.
Saint Mary’s moneyline v Villanova: +190
Saint Mary’s NCAA Basketball Tournament winner moneyline: +55000
Villanova NCAA Basketball Tournament winner moneyline: +5600
Best matchup: No.5 Wisconsin v No.12 Oregon
No. five v no.12 matchups always have a high upset potential, and two big programs face off early on in the Big Dance. The Badgers have a top-class defence, and Oregon have a big starting line-up that is equally stingy. In their last eight games, they have conceded less than 55 points on average, and haven’t lost in that period.
Wisconsin moneyline v Oregon: -120
Oregon moneyline v Wisconsin: -105
No.1: North Carolina
A traditional blue-blood program, and one that regularly goes deep in March. With a healthy mix of experienced seniors and star freshmen, the UNC Tar Heels will be one of the teams to beat in this year’s Big Dance.
North Carolina NCAA Basketball Tournament winner moneyline: +725
Upset Watch: No.12 New Mexico State over No.5 Auburn
A classic 12 v five matchup, and the Aggies have looked good this season, with a foundation built on stern defense and three pointers. Auburn lit up in the later stages of their season, and won the SEC tournament, although one wonders if they have got hot too early.
Both teams shoot the three in abundance, and this could come down to whoever catches fire first.
New Mexico State moneyline v Auburn: +235
New Mexico State NCAA Basketball Tournament winner moneyline: +37500
Auburn NCAA Basketball Tournament winner moneyline: +4400
Best matchup: No.6 Iowa State v No.11 Ohio State
Iowa State can score heavily, and play a guard-heavy line-up. With a bench that isn’t afraid to score buckets quickly, the Cyclones have averaged almost 78 points per game. Unfortunately, they don’t play defence very well, and Ohio State can capitalise on that. The return of Kaleb Wesson cannot be understated for them, and if they turn up in the mood to score points, we could have a shootout in the first round.
Iowa State moneyline v Ohio State: -245
Ohio State moneyline v Iowa State: +190
A poor ending in the WCC tournament final has slightly soured what was an excellent season, with only three losses. Led by WCC player of the year Rui Hachimura, the Zags are a threat to have a very deep March run.
Gonzaga NCAA Basketball Tournament winner moneyline: +600
Upset Watch: No.13 Vermont over No.4 Florida State
No. four Florida State narrowly fell short in the ACC title game, but enter the Big Dance full of confidence, with a roster that isn’t afraid to spread the points around. This can lead to issues when games are close though, as they haven’t got a dependable take-over threat.
Vermont, however, definitely do have that takeover threat. Anthony Lamb has averaged over 21ppg on over 52% shooting, and is surrounded by a team that can frustrate opponents defensively.
Vermont moneyline v Florida State: +450
Vermont NCAA Basketball Tournament winner moneyline: +112000
Florida State NCAA Basketball Tournament winner moneyline: +4400
Best matchup: No.5 Marquette v No.12 Murray State
Marquette v Murray State is a great matchup so early in the tournament. Marcus Howard and Ja Morant are two of the most exciting and electric players in NCAA basketball. Howard has averaged 25ppg while Morant is not far behind on 24.6, whilst both teams will legitimately feel they can progress into the Sweet 16. With two of college basketball’s superstars on show, sit back and watch this cracker.
Marquette moneyline v Murray State: -200
Murray State moneyline v Marquette: +160