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Betting Day 1 of Round 1 of the 2024 NCAA Tournament

Before diving into each of Thursday’s 16 First Round NCAA Tournament games, here are a few notes to consider as you fill out your brackets and place your bets.

Last season snapped a streak of five consecutive No. 1 seeds cutting down the nets and claiming the national championship. That said, just 24 of the last 38 champions have been No. 1 seeds (63.2%).

Here is a breakdown of how the First Round has unfolded since 1985 with a handful of notes.

No. 1 vs. No. 16

150-2 | Purdue and Virginia are the lonely losers in this stat line.

No. 2 vs. No. 15

141-11 | The Richmond Spiders were the first 15-seed to knock off a 2-seed when they took out Syracuse in 1991.

No. 3 vs. No. 14

130-22 | If its close late, bet on the 14-seed. They are 12-9 in games decided by three points or less.

No. 4 vs. No. 13

120-32 | The Virginia Cavaliers are the last two, 4-seeds to lose to a 13-seed. Let’s pause here and remind ourselves that UVA won a national championship in 2019 but somehow also finds themselves on the wrong side of way too many of these lists.

No. 5 vs. No. 12

99-53 | The 12-seed has won at least one First Round game in 32 of the past 38 years. Last year was an exception with all 5-seeds advancing. In 2022, though, two of the 12’s advanced to Round 2.

No. 6 vs. No. 11

94-58 | There must have been something in the water in 2022 as three of the four 11-seeds won their Opening Round game.

No. 7 vs. No. 10

92-59 | Parity reigns as 10-seeds Nevada and Drake are actually favored to knock off the 7-seed in their respective brackets in 2024.

No. 8 vs. No. 9

74-78 | In the last five years, the No. 9 seeds have gone 13-7 against the 8s in the Opening Round.

Let’s dive into the Thursday games.

9-Michigan State (-120) vs. 8-Mississippi State (+100)

Spread: Spartans -1 | O/U: 130.5

The Spartans have had issues with size all season. Take a look at Mississippi State ML and their center, Tolu Smith’s point total for the contest (OVER 13.5pts)

11-Duquesne (+370) vs. 6-BYU (-485)

Spread: Cougars -9.5 | O/U: 142

The Dukes’ defense ranks 8th in advanced metrics since the middle of February. If you trust that stat, consider going with the UNDER 142 Game Total or playing BYU’s Team Total UNDER.

14-Akron (+600) vs. 3-Creighton (-900)

Spread: Bluejays -12.5 | O/U: 141

The game pits an Akron team that struggles to score against a Creighton team who can fill it in a hurry. Take Creighton and lay the points.

15-Long Beach State (+1500) vs. 2-Arizona (-3600)

Spread: Wildcats -20.5 | O/U: 163.5

Could the Cats lose as a 2-seed again this year? Long Beach State has covered in each of their last three games, but big numbers can be unnerving no matter the side you are playing. The Cats share the basketball extremely well. Take the OVER on player assists with their guards when offered.

14-Morehead State (+575) vs. 3-Illinois (-850)

Spread: Fighting Illini -11.5 | O/U: 147.5

Illinois can score with the best in the country, but they defend among the worst. Take a long look at the Game Total OVER 147.5.

11-Oregon (-105) vs. 6-South Carolina (-115)

Spread: Gamecocks -1.5 | O/U: 133

Dana Altman is a perfect 7-0 ML in the First Round of the Tournament. South Carolina has surprised everyone this season, but the Ducks are finally healthy. Take the points and the Ducks.

10-Nevada (-120) vs. 7-Dayton (+100)

Spread: Wolfpack -1 | O/U: 136.5

Wolfpack Head Coach Steve Alford is seeking a win with his 5th different Tournament team. Many “experts” are claiming Dayton did not disserve a bid. This is more of an in-game play for this writer. If Dayton controls the paint and is getting good looks early, I will lay the points as the odds will quickly flip and favor Anthony Grant’s squad.

10-Colorado State (+124) vs. 7-Texas (-148)

Spread: Longhorns -2.5 | O/U: 144

Is Colorado State that good defensively or was Virginia just that bad? I think the latter, but the Rams will get an opportunity to put the clamps on a far superior offense when they take the court against the Longhorns. The brand-name bias has many leaning to Texas but if Colorado State hangs through the first ten minutes, there may be value playing them in-game.

14-Oakland (+700) vs. 3-Kentucky (-1100)

Spread: Wildcats -13.5 | O/U: 163.5

Kentucky has not been to a Final Four since 2015 and a Sweet Sixteen since 2019. Wildcat Nation is anxious. Calipari’s offense has juice. However, to get as little as even money, Kentucky must score 90. This one will be a track meet, but that number along with the Spread are scary. Lets sweat the Game Total OVER 163.5 which has cashed in 23 of Kentucky’s last 30 games.

12-McNeese (+225) vs. 5-Gonzaga (-278)

Spread: Bulldogs -6.5 | O/U: 150

This is a game between two hot teams as McNeese has won 11 straight while the Zags have won 16 of their last 18. Let’s ride with McNeese as they thrive from deep ranking 7th in the nation (38.4%) while the Zags rank 184th in the nation in defending the perimeter.

15-South Dakota State (+1000) vs. 2-Iowa State (-1800)

Spread: Cyclones -16 | O/U: 135.5

A matchup between friends. T.J. Otzelberger coached South Dakota State just a handful of seasons agon and Eric Henderson was one of his assistants. Old boss meet the new boss. Iowa State’s superior play on defense should compensate for their flaws on offense. Their ability to create easy buckets should allow them to cover this number.

15-Saint Peter’s (+1500) vs. 2-Tennessee (-3600)

Spread: Volunteers -21.5 | O/U: 130

Rick Barnes has had issues playing the role of the heavy favorite in the Tournament having lost to a lower-seeded team in 16 of his 27 career appearances in the Tournament. The good news is this is a home game for the Vols and they take the court led by their All-America forward, Dalton Knecht. The spread is one of the biggest in the Opening Round but expect Tennessee to attack early and often understanding just how dangerous the Peacocks were just two short seasons ago.

11-North Carolina State (+180) vs. 6-Texas Tech (-218)

Spread: Red Raiders -5 | O/U: 145.5

March is about guard play and DJ Horne of NC State is ready to burst on the national stage…if he has anything left after the marathon that was the ACC Tournament. If Tech’s big fella Warren Washington does not play (foot), the Wolfpack’s bigger DJ – Forward DJ Horne – could feast on the glass. Follow the lineup news on this one and hit the Burns props accordingly.

13-Samford (+230) vs. 4-Kansas (-285)

Spread: Jayhawks -7 | O/U: 152.5

Kansas’ lack of depth has been an issue all season. It is now a bigger issue with Kevin McCullar Jr. unavailable for the Tournament. Samford’s style evokes the days of Nolan Richardson’s “40 minutes of hell” with Arkansas. Samford is a trendy pick but sometimes you just jump on board and enjoy the ride. Take the Bulldogs ML and sweat a nice profit.

10-Drake (-122) vs. 7-Washington State (+102)

Spread: Bulldogs -1 | O/U: 137.5

One reason Drake is favored is this will be a home game for them. Omaha is just a couple hours from campus so Bulldog nation will be there to support the team. In addition, tournament crowds route for the lesser-known brands. Often said schools are the underdog but Drake is a team to consider reaching the second week of the tourney. Take the Drake and lay the point.

16-Wagner (+3000) vs. 1-North Carolina (-10000)

Spread: Tar Heels -25 | O/U: 133.5

This is a record 18th time that the Tar Heels are a No. 1 seed. Expect a flex in this one. They will cover the spread but if that is too much of a sweat for you, try the UNC Team Total OVER

Thursday and Friday are two of the top sports days on the calendar. Wall-to-Wall basketball. That means a near endless supply of wagering opportunities. However, bet responsibly and enjoy this annual extravaganza.

North Carolina Tar Heels
Drake Bulldogs
Arizona Wildcats
Duquesne Dukes
UConn Huskies
Tennessee Volunteers