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March Madness 2018: NCAA Tournament betting lines, spreads, odds, picks, predictions

March Madness 2018: NCAA Tournament betting lines, spreads, odds, picks, predictions

It’s the most wonderful time of the year -- to skip work and gamble! The 2018 NCAA Tournament is finally here.

Before the games begin on Thursday, you need the right analysis predictions and picks. That's why you came here, right?

Need betting advice? We got you covered.

Need the first-round lines? We got that.

If you're trying to win your bracket pool, our analysis will not steer you wrong.

RELATED: COMPETE FOR AWESOME PRIZES IN OUR BRACKET CHALLENGE

NCAA TOURNAMENT SOUTH REGION ANALYSIS, PICKS, LINES:

No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 16 UMBC, Friday 9:20 PM
ANALYSIS: The question isn’t if Virginia will win. Instead, will Virginia hold UMBC to less points than they allowed to Pitt (7) in the first half of a real game played between two power five teams this year. 
PICK: Watch something else and come back to find UVA covered easily.
​LINE: Virginia -21.5

No. 2 Cincinnati vs. No. 15 Georgia St., Friday 2:00 PM
ANALYSIS: The Bearcats got the final bid in the tournament, but potentially the easiest path to the Elite 8 by avoiding Virginia, Arizona, and Kentucky. They could be upset in Round 1. I picked Michigan State to win it all in 2016 so I’m never doubting a 15-seed ever again. 
PICK: Cincinnati
​LINE: Cincinnati -14

No. 3 Tennessee vs. No. 14 Wright State, Thursday 12:40 PM
ANALYSIS: The second game of the tournament and first on TruTV, good luck finding it. However, when you do… just remember the channel for the next three days before forgetting it for another 361 days. 
PICK: You’ll miss the first ten minutes searching for TruTV, but Tennessee will be on their way to a win.
​LINE: Tennessee -12

No. 4 Arizona vs. No. 13 Buffalo, Thursday 9:40 PM
ANALYSIS: By now you know Arizona is under NCAA scrutiny and no joke I can make about that will be new nor can I muster any outrage at paying players (most because there is none and they should be paid).
PICK: Arizona makes a statement and the NCAA cringes.
​LINE: Arizona -8.5

No. 5 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Davidson, Thursday 7:10 PM
ANALYSIS: Everyone wants to pick 12-seeds to upset 5-seeds and Davidson was a trendy pick for a few upset before seeding came out.
PICK: Kentucky wins, but they won’t cover the 6 points.
​LINE: Kentucky -5.5

No. 6 Miami (Fl.) vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago, Thursday 3:15 PM
ANALYSIS: Loyola-Chicago, a University I definitely knew was real before Sunday, is one of the trendiest picks for an upset in the first round. With an offense and defense in KenPom’s top-70, I totally get it.
PICK: Loyola-Chicago not only covers, but wins outright.
​LINE: Miami -2

No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 10 Texas, Friday 4:30 PM
ANALYSIS: This is very relatable and completely influencing my decision. Get Nevada a win AND Bojangles.
PICK: Wolfpack avoid the upset and deserve some Bo-berry biscuits for their work. I’d buy if it wasn’t a violation.
​LINE: Nevada -1

No. 8 Creighton vs. No. 9 Kansas State, Friday 6:50 PM
ANALYSIS: These 8/9 games are impossible to predict and every time I think I have a good idea about one, not only do they lose, but the team that beats does well against the No. 1 seed. Creighton does better in the KenPom rankings, so I’m just going to default to that.
PICK: Creighton
​LINE: Creighton -1

RELATED: NINE FIRST-ROUND UPSETS TO PICK

NCAA TOURNAMENT WEST REGION ANALYSIS, PICKS, LINES:

No. 1 Xavier vs. No. 16 NCCU/Texas Southern Winner, Friday 7:20 PM
ANALYSIS: I’ve heard Xavier was overseeded, but last I checked they still have Trevon Blueitt and no one else does.
PICK: No 16-seed upset here, Xavier covers too.
​LINE: Xavier TBD

No. 2 UNC vs. No. 15 Lipscomb, Friday 2:45 PM
ANALYSIS: Lipscomb loves to run and UNC is no slouch either, this may be an entertaining game for a 2/15 matchup, but I don’t know if Garrison Matthews is enough.
PICK: A fun game, which is usually pretty rare for these types of games, but UNC pulls away in the second half. 
​LINE: North Carolina -19

No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 14 Montana, Thursday 9:50 PM
ANALYSIS: Wolverines vs. Grizzlies sounds like a midwest matchup if I’ve ever heard one. As far as No. 14 seeds go, Montana is pretty good… coming in No. 71 in KenPom’s rankings. Unfortunately, they are just no match for Michigan.
PICK: Michigan pulls away late.
​LINE: Michigan -11

No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 13 UNC-Greensboro, Thursday 1:30 PM
ANALYSIS: Full disclosure -- I have Gonzaga in my Final Four. A favorable early location (Boise) and a potential 12-seed in the second round. I like Gonzaga’s chances.
PICK: Gonzaga. Don’t think twice.
​LINE: Gonzaga -12.5

No. 5 Ohio State vs. No. 12 South Dakota State, Thursday 4:00 PM
ANALYSIS: This is going to be an extremely chalky region, but the Jackrabbits are one team I actually like for an upset. I think it helps Ohio State fans immediately hated the matchup, which in turn made me instantly like it.
PICK: South Dakota State pulls the upset.
​LINE: Ohio State -8

No. 6 Houston vs. No. 11 San Diego State, Thursday 7:20 PM
ANALYSIS: I genuinely hate when two non-Power 5 teams get matched up in the tournament. I’m not saying the committee does it on purpose, but it *kinda* feels like the do it on purpose some years.
PICK: Aztecs are hot, winning 9 in a row. Make it 10.
​LINE: Houston -4

No. 7 Texas A&M vs. No. 10 Providence, Friday 12:15 PM
ANALYSIS: Both the Aggies and the Friars seem like wild cards. Xavier had a “bad” loss to Providence in the Big East Tournament, and here they sit as a 10-seed.
PICK: Texas A&M is just better than Providence. Sorry, Friars.
​LINE: Texas A&M -3.5

No. 8 Missouri vs. No. 9 Florida State, Friday 9:50 PM
ANALYSIS: Michael Porter, Jr. is must-watch TV, whether or not that translates into wins in the NCAA Tournament… we’ll see.
PICK: I’m going with the upside of Porter, Jr.
​LINE: Florida State 1.5

RELATED: NINE TEAMS TO BE CAUTIOUS ABOUT

NCAA TOURNAMENT EAST REGION ANALYSIS, PICKS, LINE:

No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 Radford, Thursday 6:50
ANALYSIS: Doug McKinney, I’m glad your team gets credit for an NCAA Tournament win in the play-in game because Villanova is going to crush your Highlanders.
PICK: Sorry, Doug.
​LINE: Villanova -21

No. 2 Purdue vs. No. 15 Cal State-Fullerton, Friday 12:40
ANALYSIS: Hopefully you aren’t too hungover that you forgot where TruTV is. They are savage on Twitter and you don’t want to test them.
PICK: Boilermakers roll.
​LINE: Purdue -20.5

No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 14 Stephen F. Austin, Thursday 7:30 PM
ANALYSIS: I always like Stephen F. Austin as a potential “Giant Killer” for one reason or another and 2 out of the last 3 times they’ve come through in the first round.
PICK: That’s going to be 2-2 after this year. Texas Tech is too much. 
​LINE: Texas Tech -11.5

No. 4 Wichita State vs. No. 13 Marshall, Friday 1:30 PM
ANALYSIS: Wichita State came into the year considered one of the favorites. 25-7 and a No. 4 seed kinda feels disappointing, but they are so dangerous that it doesn’t really matter. It won’t be a … wait for it… Shocker… if Wichita State gets to the second weekend. Dad jokes rule.
PICK: Wichita State slows the roll of Jon Elmore and the Thundering Herd.
​LINE: Wichita State -12

No. 5 West Virginia vs. No. 12 Murray State, Friday 4:00 PM
ANALYSIS: Press Virginia vs. The Racers. Murray State is a popular upset pick because they are pretty good at not turning the ball over and they shoot well. Two things you need to do to beat a Bob Huggins team.
PICK: The Mountaineers squeak by.
​LINE: West Virginia -10.5

No. 6 Florida vs. No. 11 St. Bonaventure, Thursday 10:00 PM
ANALYSIS: Bonnies took down UCLA and I think it’s possible they take down Florida. Jaylen Adams and the St. Bonaventure veteran backcourt could give Florida fits. Also, I can’t ever get over Joakim Noah.
PICK: St. Bonaventure continues their winning ways.
​LINE: Florida TBD

No. 7 Arkansas vs. No. 10 Butler, Friday 3:10 PM
ANALYSIS: Arkansas seemed overseeded. Butler seemed underseeded. It ain’t rocket science which way I’m going here. Just in case it isn’t clear: a Butler vs. Purdue matchup in the second round would be awesome… if you’re from Indiana.
PICK: Butler and their adorable bulldog mascot.
​LINE: Butler -1.5

No. 8 Virginia Tech vs. No. 9 Alabama, Thursday 9:20 PM
ANALYSIS: Collin Sexton is awesome. He’s drawn comparisons from Russell Westbrook to Kemba Walker to… name a guard who had a great Tournament one year. Don’t worry about forcing a comparison, just watch him play.
PICK: I love Buzz Williams, but I’m going with Sexton. Roll Tide.
​LINE: Virginia Tech -2

RELATED: FOUR TEAMS WITH EASY FINAL FOUR PATHS

NCAA TOURNAMENT MIDWEST REGION ANALYSIS, PICKS, LINE:

No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Penn, Friday 2:00 PM
ANALYSIS: Listen, I’m not saying it is going to happen… I’m just saying in era of fake news, Penn being the best 16-seed ever is quite real.
PICK: Penn pulls off an unbelievable… first half. Kansas wins, but probably doesn’t cover.
​LINE: Kansas -13.5

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Iona, Thursday 3:45 PM
ANALYSIS: The entire nation is rooting against Grayson Allen and I’m no different.
PICK: Duke will eventually lose, but it won’t be to Iona.
​LINE: Duke -20.5

No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 14 Bucknell, Friday 7:10 PM
ANALYSIS: Zach Thomas isn’t enough for Bucknell to upset Sparty, but I also didn’t Upshaw and Potts were enough in 2016.
PICK: Sparty moves on.
​LINE: Michigan State -14.5

No. 4 Auburn vs. No. 13 College of Charleston, Friday 7:30 PM
ANALYSIS: Can you believe College of Charleston hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1999? That seems impossible. Even crazier (to me) is that they’ve only been to the NIT three times since then. It’s weird and I feel old.
PICK: Heart and mind are for CofC, but the wallet is on Auburn.
​LINE: Auburn -9.5

No. 5 Clemson vs. No. 12 New Mexico State, Friday 10:00 PM
ANALYSIS: Do you remember Sim Bhullar? That dude was huge. He also played at New Mexico State. Good times.
PICK: Why not, we need an upset in this region. New Mexico State pulls off the upset.
​LINE: Clemson -5

No. 6 TCU vs. No. 11 Arizona State/Syracuse Winner, Friday 9:40 PM
ANALYSIS: Now that Herm Edwards is back coaching football and learning on the fly, I’d like to imagine him learning about the NCAA Tournament for the first time and some of the press conferences he could have. It would be incredible. Anyway, Syracuse probably didn’t deserve to be in the tournament and were the final seed and will somehow get by both ASU and TCU.
PICK: Syracuse because somehow these things always happen.
​LINE: TBD

No. 7 Rhode Island vs. No. 10 Oklahoma, Thursday 12:15 PM
ANALYSIS: This is probably going to be the best game of the first round, and potentially of the first weekend. It’s also the first game of the Tournament. Kevin Harlan is on the call and it just feels like a big game despite the 7/10 matchup. I’m all in.
PICK: The game you absolutely have to watch comes down to Trae Young. I don’t think it’s enough to take down the Rams.
​LINE: Rhode Island -2

No. 8 Seton Hall vs. No. 9 NC State, Thursday 4:30 PM
ANALYSIS: Omer Yurtseven is the Uzbekestani-born Turkish player who is going to give NC State the right to lose to Kansas.
PICK: NC State edges by Seton Hall.
​LINE: Seton Hall -2.5

NCAA TOURNAMENT FINAL FOUR THOUGHTS

1. You can tell me how great Virginia is until you are blue in the face, but I don’t see them winning the Tournament, let alone getting out of their region. Give me Arizona.

2. I made it clear I have Gonzaga coming out of the West, but I think UNC will probably be the team to come out. I’m just going with my heart here.

3. I think Villanova has the softest region and that’s not much of a stretch. It’ll probably be Texas Tech or Purdue against the Wildcats, but chaos in this region could be fun to shake things up.

4. Kansas, Duke, and Michigan State are all really, really good teams. Any of the three could make a run to the Final Four. Give me the Spartans.

Click here to join NBC Sports Washington’s NCAA Tournament Bracket Challenge and compete against Tony Massenburg and Walt Williams for a chance to win big.

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WANT MORE COLLEGE HOOPS? 

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What you need to know about the unprecedented NCAA basketball rules changes

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USA TODAY Sports

What you need to know about the unprecedented NCAA basketball rules changes

On Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA made a major announcement some twenty years in the making.

The NCAA announced plans to take major action to clean up and reorganize the college basketball recruiting and draft structure, on the platform of promoting integrity and strengthening accountability.

The unveiling of the action plan is in response to the suggestions made by the Condoleezza Rice-led Commission on Basketball, a governing body of 14 educators, government officials and former administrators whose goal was to address and find solutions to the major fundamental issues plaguing college basketball. 

The recommendations the NCAA will implement is as follows (You can read the entire plan right here):

Recruiting and Draft Changes:

— College basketball players will be able to participate in the NBA Draft and return to school if undrafted, pending further action from the NBA and NBPA.

— Division I programs will be required to pay for tuition, fees, and books for men's and women's college basketball player who leave school and return to the same school to earn their degree.

— High school basketball recruits and college players tabbed as "Elite" by USA Basketball will be allowed agent representation if the agent is NCAA-certified.

— High school basketball recruits will be allowed to make more frequent campus visits paid for by the school. The visits will be allowed to take place at the start of the summer before their junior year.

— Four open days in April will be added to the Spring recruiting calendar.

— College coaches will be allowed to attend recruiting events during the last two weekends in June, pending approval from the National High School Federations.

— College coaches will also be allowed to attend an additional weekend event in July as well as the NBPA Top 100 camp in June. 

What does it mean?

Well for starters, the NCAA is only allowing high school seniors what have been deemed "elite" by USA Basketball will be allowed to hire agents. What about someone like R.J. Barrett, Duke-bound No. 1 overall recruit in the Class of 2018? Barrett is a native of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, and despite playing high school basketball for Montverde Academy in Florida, is not part of the USA Basketball program. Therefore, under the new NCAA rule, the top high school recruit would not be able to sign an agent because he does not participate with USA Basketball. 

The NCAA's implementations are a step in the right direction but still are yet to lack real substance. 

The high school players deemed "elite" enough to hire agents are unlikely to ever play in college, and the college players deemed "elite" enough to hire agents are historically unlikely to return to school. What this means is that the news of players being able to hire agents is more noise than signal.

Allowing undrafted players to return to school is an incredible change that is both pro-athlete and pro-education. But in only allowing that to players who attend the NBA Combine undercuts the rule change in totality. In most cases, players who attend the NBA Combine but go undrafted get an opportunity to participate in the NBA Summer League. 

In fact, if the rules were in place for the 2018 NBA Draft, only six of the players who went undrafted would be able to return to school: Arizona's Rawle Alkins and Allonzo Trier, Duke's Trevon Duval, Kansas' Malik Newman, UNLV's Brandon McCoy, and former Louisville commit Brian Bowen. 

More window-dressing, less real change.

NCAA Enforcement Changes:

— Administrators charged with investigating and resolving NCAA cases can accept established information from courts of law, government agency, an accrediting body or university-authorized commissions. 

— Schools and the NCAA will be allowed to work together toward a resolution on matters, reducing legal fees and minimizing drawn-out disputes.

— The NCAA intends to impose stronger penalties, including longer postseason bans, longer head coach suspension and increased recruiting restrictions. 

— The NCAA will appoint two independent groups to oversee the investigation and resolution of cases defined as "complex." Multiple parties will be able to request that a case is deemed "complex."

— Athletic administrators, as well as school presidents and chancellor, will be contractually obligated to comply with any investigation into their program or athletic department.

What does it mean?

This biggest revelation is that the NCAA is opening itself up to working with outside agencies to establish information. In short, the NCAA will be able to use information gathered by an entity like the FBI for a case without having to do the investigating itself.

This is a major step in the right direction for the NCAA but also provides the governing body with great power.

In addition, the NCAA will force the school administrators to "commit contractually to full cooperation in the investigations and infractions process."

What this means is that the NCAA is attempting to implement the power of subpoena, by proxy. That is a major step toward the NCAA wielding great power in investigations and enforcement.

The Wednesday news has the potential to be an industry-changer, but there is a cadre of unresolved issues and questions that went unanswered.

If you were hoping the NCAA rectified its past mistakes and turned the model of amateur athletics on its head, you will have to keep the faith. 

Yes, the changes being implemented are good for the sport. But nothing the NCAA announced will eliminate the widespread college basketball issues exposed by the FBI investigation. 

Ohio State's Meyer put on leave, investigation opened

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USA Today Sports Images

Ohio State's Meyer put on leave, investigation opened

Urban Meyer's job appears to be in jeopardy.

Ohio State placed Meyer, one of the most successful coaches in college football history, on paid administrative leave Wednesday while it investigates claims that his wife knew about allegations of domestic violence against an assistant coach years before the staff member was fired last week.

Courtney Smith gave an interview to Stadium and provided text messages to former ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy between her and Shelley Meyer in 2015 and with the wives of other Buckeyes coaches. Courtney Smith also provided threatening texts she said came from her ex-husband, former Ohio State assistant Zach Smith.

"Shelley said she was going to have to tell Urban," Courtney Smith told Stadium. "I said: `That's fine, you should tell Urban.'"

Zach Smith was fired last week after an Ohio court granted a domestic violence protective order to Courtney Smith.

Meyer is heading into his seventh season at Ohio State, where he is 73-8 with a national title in 2014 and two Big Ten Conference championships. Shelley Meyer is a registered nurse and is employed as an instructor at Ohio State. Both Meyer and his wife could be in violation of Ohio State's Title IX sexual misconduct policy on reporting allegations of domestic violence against university employees.

Violation of university's policy could result in Meyer being fired with cause by the university, according to provisions placed in his contract when it was extended by two years in April. The new deal runs through 2022 and increases Meyer's salary to $7.6 million in 2018, with annual six percent raises for the bulk of his compensation.

Hours after Courtney Smith's interview was posted online Wednesday, Ohio State announced in a short news release it was conducting an investigation into the allegations and Meyer was being placed on leave.

Offensive coordinator Ryan Day will serve as acting head coach for the Buckeyes, expected to be one of the top teams in the nation again this season. Ohio State's first preseason practice is scheduled for Friday. The season starts Sept. 1 with a game against Oregon State in Columbus, Ohio.

Meyer said in a statement he and athletic director Gene Smith agreed that his being on leave was best for the investigation.

"This allows the team to conduct training camp with minimal distraction. I eagerly look forward to the resolution of this matter." Meyer said.

Zach Smith was charged in May with misdemeanor criminal trespass. At the time of the charge, Zach Smith's attorney said Courtney Smith had accused him of driving to her apartment after she told him they would meet elsewhere so he could drop off their son. Zach Smith pleaded not guilty last month. A hearing has been scheduled for Friday.

Zach Smith was also accused of aggravated battery on his then-pregnant wife in 2009 while he was a graduate assistant on Meyer's staff at Florida. The charge was dropped because of insufficient evidence. Urban Meyer brought Smith, the grandson of late Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce, to Ohio State in 2012. Meyer worked for Bruce and considers him a mentor.

Two police reports filed in 2015 in Ohio's Powell County, after the Smiths separated in June of that year, accused Zach Smith of abuse. Charges were never filed.

At Big Ten media days, Meyer said he knew of the incident in 2009 and that he and Shelley Meyer addressed it with the Smiths. He was also asked about the 2015 incident alleged by Courtney Smith.

"I can't say it didn't happen because I wasn't there," he replied. "I was never told about anything and nothing ever came to light. I've never had a conversation about it. I know nothing about it. First I heard about that was last night. No, and I asked some people back at the office to call and say what happened and they came back and said they know nothing about it."

The Smiths divorced in 2016.

Meyer is on the short list of most accomplished coaches in college football history, with three national championships and an .851 winning percentage in 16 seasons at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and now Ohio State, the team he grew up rooting for in Northeast Ohio.

Meyer won national championships with Florida in 2006 and '08, but his teams also had more than two dozen players get into trouble with the law. He resigned twice at Florida, citing health reasons. First in 2009 season after the Gators lost the Southeastern Conference championship game while trying to repeat as national champs. He changed his mind soon after and coached another season. The Gators went 8-5 and this time he stepped down for good.

Meyer was out of coaching for a season, but was hired by Ohio State in November 2011 to replace Jim Tressel, who was fired before that season for lying to the NCAA and University of about rules violation committed by some of his players.

Since returning to coaching, Meyer's program has been one of the most dominant in college football and his players and coaches have mostly stayed out of major trouble.

Meyer did face some criticism in 2013 for allowing running back Carlos Hyde to return to the team after he was charged with striking a woman in a bar. The case was dropped by police when the woman chose not to pursue charges, but Hyde was suspended three games by Ohio State.