My March Madness picks for the opening round are coming together and if the past few weeks are any indication, this is going to be a wild weekend. I’ve also released my 2021 NCAA bracket and in the past nine years, my first round bracket picks have cleaned up, going 226-62 (78%). This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for!
Thursday’s action tips off at 5:10 pm ET, when Mount St. Mary’s and Texas Southern lock horns in the first of four play-in games. Oddsmakers see this as a fairly even match, with major online sportsbooks showing a line of Pick em or Texas Southern -1.
The Tigers have won nine in a row and 14 of 15, but they shouldn’t take this Mountaineers team lightly. Mount St. Mary’s (12-10) has been gaining momentum all year and they do have a pair of wins in this round, the latest coming in 2017.
NCAA First Four Schedule
Here are four matchups for Thursday, with start times and updated lines. Grab my top picks for these games.
(16) Mount St. Mary’s vs. (16) Texas Southern
Line: Tigers -1 and O/U 133 (5:10 pm ET)
(11) Drake vs. (11) Wichita State
Line: Bulldogs -1 and O/U 141.5 (6:27 pm ET)
(16) Norfolk State vs. (16) Appalachian State
Line: Mountaineers -3 and O/U 133.5 (8:40 pm ET)
(11) UCLA vs. (11) Michigan State
Line: Spartans -2 and O/U 135.5 (9:57 pm ET)
In the past three weeks, my College Basketball picks are 64-46 (58%). Dime bettors have added +$16,870 to their bankroll and I’m just getting started. Don’t miss out on my March Madness picks!
The Over/Under on ‘Number of brackets’ that most people I talk to are filling out this year is 7.5. As the hype builds towards Friday, that number will probably go up, too.
- Over the past 15 tournaments, the higher-ranked team has won 71% of all games straight up.
- Gonzaga’s odds of winning the West are -245 and the Zags have a 42% chance of making it to the finals.
The top five teams when comparing odds against public consensus are Iowa (-14.5), Wisconsin (+1.5), Purdue (-7.5), Colorado (-5.5) and Houston (-20.5). It doesn’t mean these teams are going to win it all, but if you like playing contrarian angle they could be right up your alley.
Based on scoring averages and recent form, the three teams waving a red flag are Wichita State (67.4 points against), Missouri (71.9) and Florida (69.8). Drake scored 77.4 points per game (PPG) this season, too.
- Wichita State is 17-50 ATS (25%) when they allow 75-80 points.
Missouri takes on Oklahoma (-1) on Saturday at 7:25 pm in the West. Public consensus shows the Sooners at 66% but this is one of the most even matchups is the opening round. Over/Under bettors will want to consider this trend:
- Oklahoma is 81-51 UNDER (61%) in games where the line is within +/- 3 points of Pick em.
Get the edge you need to win your bracket this year. I’m 78% with my opening round picks over the past nine years and my completed bracket is available now.
March Madness Picks & Trends, First Round
Friday and Saturday is when the Big Dance really begins. NCAA Tournament bettors will have 32 games to feast on and this is when my March Madness picks will really kick into gear. Here are some key betting trends for the weekend.
Hartford vs. Baylor
Line: Bears -26 and O/U 140.5
A steep ATS line hasn’t been enough to keep 68% of the public off Baylor in this one. The total, however, has been bought down from 142.
- In the first round, the UNDER is 107-61 (64%) when the total is between 140-149.5 and the favorite has won at least 12 of its past 15 games.
Baylor comes into this year’s tourney as the top ranked 3-point shooting team (41.8%). Note that Baylor is paying back at 6/1 to win it all this year.
Liberty vs. Oklahoma State
Line: Cowboys -7 and O/U 139.5
Oklahoma State comes into this game off a 91-86 loss to Texas in the Big 12 title game. They hold the record this year with 13 wins against the field, however. Impressive when you consider that 17 of 68 teams couldn’t win a single game against the rest of the field in 2021. This spread might be a little flattering, though.
- Good shooting teams like Oklahoma State are just 10-29 ATS (26%) on a neutral court against good defensive teams.
The Cowboys shot 46.8% this season while the Flames held opponents to just 41%. Liberty comes into this tournament hot, having won 12-straight.