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NCAA March Madness Betting: Day 1 Thursday March 21st

Wednesday knocked me down as both Montana State and Boise State crumbled in the late game situations. But it’s on to the big dance now and the most fun two days of betting in all of sports. Let’s get to today’s 16 games and dial back in. And hopefully we get some great upsets and stories to make us remember this Madness like the Bryce Drew’s and Jimmer Fredette’s of years past.

We’re going to do something cool for this tournament, and that’s pick all 67 games against the spread. Realistically, that’s a bad idea for your bank roll. And I will not bet every game nor advise you do unless you manage the unit size you bet. But for the readers out there, I want to include info on each game in case you’re dialed in on a contest that doesn’t fall on my radar. So we’ll make three groups, BEST BETS (1.5 to 2 units), NORMAL BETS (1 unit), and FUN BETS (0 to 0.5 units). Now, let’s lace up the old Converse sneaks, make a few odd stretching movements, and hit the hardwood for what is going to be an awesome two weeks of betting. Just don’t pull any muscles in the process.

Feel free to read my quick breakdown of each game. But in short, here are my plays for today (Day Games Posted, Night Games coming by 12pm):

BEST BETS (1.5 to 2.0 units):

  • Oregon +1.5 vs South Carolina
  • Nevada -1.5 vs Dayton
  • McNeese State +6.5 over Gonzaga
  • Drake -1.5 over Wash State

NORMAL BETS (1.0 units):

  • BYU -9.5 over Duquesne
  • Morehead State +11.5 over Illinois
  • Arizona -20.5 over Long Beach State
  • Colorado State +2.5 over Texas
  • Texas Tech -4 over NC State
  • Stetson +7.5 over Kansas
  • Iowa State -15.5 over South Dakota State

FUN BETS (0.5 units):

  • UNC -23.5 over Wagner
  • Michigan State -1.5 over Mississippi State
  • Akron +12.5 over Creighton
  • Oakland +13.5 over Kentucky
  • Tennessee -20 over St Peter’s

2024 Tourney Record: 1-3 / -1.2 units

THURSDAY MARCH 21st – ROUND 1

Game 5: #9 Michigan State Spartans vs #8 Mississippi State (1215pm)

Tom Izzo either hates his team or despises his team. He never truly loves them unless they make a deep run in March or win it all. The way he’s acted this year, I think this one is in the hate basket. The Spartans struggled down the stretch losing 5 of it’s last 7 games. But they were in every contest including one against Purdue where they only lost by 5. In fact, they only lost 3 games by double digits this year, with two of those to Wisconsin. Mississippi State has some quality victories this year including a 2-0 record against #2 seed Tennessee. But they turn it over a ton, which can lead to bad losses as shown by their performances against Georgia Tech and Southern, both ranked outside of the top 130.

PICK: Michigan State -1.5 over Mississippi State (FUN BET / 0.5 units)

Game 6: #11 Duquesne vs #6 BYU Cougars (1240pm)

Duquesne is on a heater winning 10 of their last 11 games, including four straight in the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament to steal a bid from a team on the bubble. Now they bring that momentum into today’s contest with BYU, who had a successful first season in the Big 12. The Cougars beat all the top teams in the conference except Houston and finished 6th out of 14 teams. They live and die by the three ball, as 50.7% of their shots come from behind the arc. That’s good for 2nd most in the nation. While Duquesne plays good D, showing in the top 50 in several categories, they haven’t seen the quality that BYU will throw at them as they’ll shoot it from every position on the court.

PICK: BYU -9.5 over Duquesne (NORMAL BET / 1.0 units)

Game 7: #14 Akron Zips at #3 Creighton Blue Jays (130pm)

There were points in the season where Creighton resembled a top 5 team. They opened the season as the #8 team in the country and has a resume of great wins such as a 19-point thrashing of #1 UCONN. But they play with their food too much at times, even with one of the biggest mismatches in the nation at center (7′ 1″ Ryan Kalkbrenner). This was evidenced in losing to Providence twice as well as Butler. The Zips play tough defense and want to get into a physical match. They have the nation’s leading rebounder in Enrique Freeman. While their height may not matchup with Kalkbrenner, their physical style will. I’m high on Creighton in this tournament because they are one of the best 3-point shooting teams and they hardly ever foul (sleeper Final Four team). But I have this game at 9.5 points, so I’ll take the extra 3 points and ride the Zips.

PICK: Akron +12.5 over Creighton (FUN BET / 0.5 units)

Game 8: #15 Long Beach State vs #2 Arizona Wildcats (200pm)

Is there any team come March that is more frustrating than the Arizona Wildcats? Outside of Mike Bibby’s miraculous freshman season in 1997, Arizona seems to disappoint year in and year out. They haven’t been to a Final Four since 2001 and an Elite Eight since 2015. But here we are again, with another promising Wildcats team. Will this finally be the year they stop breaking hearts? Well today’s game against LBSU will go a long way in determining that. Arizona has had some bad losses, USC and Oregon St to name a few. And LBSU will push you as they have the 12th fastest pace in the nation. But for an athletic Arizona team, that should play right into their hands. Arizona is 8th in offense and 11th in defense and are led by Senior Guard Caleb Love (transfer from UNC). Experienced guard play, along with scoring easy buckets in transition, will help them avoid any nerves and roll over Long Beach today. Their last 7 victories have come by an average winning margin of 23.2 points.

PICK: Arizona -20.5 over Long Beach State (NORMAL BET / 1.0 units)

Game 9: #16 Wagner vs #1 North Carolina Tarheels (245pm)

Wagner picked up an impressive win on Tuesday in Dayton. But they got lucky, in my opinion, as Howard’s top two shooters combined to go 4 for 17 from three point range. Carolina has shooters all over led by ACC Player of the Year RJ Davis. They also have advantage in the post with C Armando Bacot and F Harrison Ingram. To beat Carolina, you must have an efficient offense that can keep pace because the Tarheels will score. That’s not Wagner’s strength as they are 333rd in the nation in Offensive Efficiency.

PICK: UNC -23.5 over Wagner (FUN BET / 0.5 units)

Game 10: #14 Morehead State Eagles vs #3 Illinois Fighting Illini (310pm)

Morehead State has the looks of a giant slayer. They put up a lot of three point shots and have a player in Riley Minix who can take over a game. Minix shoots averages 20.8 points per game which is 23rd best in the nation. And they have a sharp shooter in Khalil Thomas who puts up over 7 three point attempts per game and shoots it at over 43%. But Illinois showed how good they can be by winning the Big 10 Championship. They have their own star power in Terrence Shannon Jr, who is 3rd in the nation in scoring and netted 74 points in the final two games in the conference tourney against Nebraska and Wisconsin. But I’m going with the Eagles in this one to keep it respectable and possibly give the Illini a scare. Afterall, the last two Big 10 tournament winners both lost in the first round in major upsets; #1 Purdue to #16 Farleigh Dickinson & #5 Iowa to #12 Richmond.

PICK: Morehead State +11.5 over Illinois (NORMAL BET / 1.0 units)

Game 11: #11 Oregon Ducks vs #6 South Carolina Gamecocks (400pm)

This is one I had circled as soon as the brackets came out. Oregon is finally “somewhat” healthy and playing up to their preseason potential. They’re still without key pieces but C N’Faly Dante is feeling good and dominating opponents as witnessed by his performance against Colorado when he went 12-12 with 25 points in the Pac 12 championship game. They also get a major contribution from freshman guard Jackson Shelstad who has played 80% of the minutes or more since Feb 1st. South Carolina is a nice story, as they came became ranked for the first time in decades and saw their win total rise to 26 from 11 last year. My concern with South Carolina is that they like to play at an extremely slow pace and lull you to sleep with physical play. Oregon’s weakness, when watching them, was guarding the three. And the stats back that up as they were 255th in the nation in opponents three point percentage. They throw a 2-3 zone, and at time a 1-3-1 zone, at teams to try and create steals but that can burn them by allowing open 3’s (The Ducks are in the top 10% in steal percentage). SC won’t beat you with three’s and they will give it up at times. Give me the Ducks as one of my best bets today!

PICK: Oregon +1.5 over South Carolina (BEST BET / 2.0 units)

Game 12: #10 Nevada Wolfpack vs #7 Dayton Flyers (430pm)

We have the Mountain West showcasing their 4th team of the tournament in Nevada. They have a dynamic backcourt with Jarod Lucas and Kenan Blackshear dominating the ball. Even though they lost early in the MWC tournament, they come into today’s game winners in 10 of their last 12 games. On the other side, Dayton has a great player of their own in DaRon Holmes. However, they went 3-3 down the stretch and are just 8-5 since late January. I’m going with the hotter team and one that can disrupt teams on defense as well as hit the three at a high rate.

PICK: Nevada -1.5 over Dayton (BEST BET / 2.0 units)

Game 13: #10 Colorado State Rams vs #7 Texas Longhorns (650pm)

You know my affinity for Colorado State and they were the one team that showed up for me in Dayton by throttling UVA. They pass the ball well and play tough defense. Maybe Virginia wasn’t the best example, but the Rams held them to 41 points on Tuesday. As for Texas, they are just 6-7 in their last 13 games. That includes losses to non-tournament teams such as Kansas State, WVU and UCF. The only two tournament teams they beat are Texas Tech and Baylor. I just don’t think this is a well rounded team and I like the Rams to pull off the upset.

PICK: Colorado State +2.5 over Texas (NORMAL BET / 1.0 units)

Game 14: #14 Oakland Grizz vs #3 Kentucky Wildcats (710pm)

First off, I do think Kentucky is vulnerable to an upset because they don’t play good defense and their effort sometimes comes into question. However, they are prolific offensively and can put up 100 points at ease (surpassed that mark 6 times on the season). They shoot the three as well as anyone ranking 1st nationally in 3-pt percentage (41.2%). Oakland has played 4 tournament teams and lost to all of them, with the closest being 8 points. They finished 17-3 in their last 20 games which got them to the dance, but it’ll be a quick one-and-done for the Grizzlies. However, the because of the lack in defense with the Wildcats, I think the Grizz can stay within this number and get a backdoor cover.

PICK: Oakland +13.5 over Kentucky (FUN BET / 0.5 units)

Game 15: #12 McNeese State Cowboys vs #5 Gonzaga Bulldogs (725pm)

If you haven’t seen it yet, get a look at McNeese State’s opponents. They include four unranked teams with one of them named Mississippi University for Women. Who they beat 92-23. But don’t let that fool you, McNeese State’s 30-3 record is legit and they are a good basketball team. They shoot the ball well, ranking 6th in the nation in 3-pt percentage. And they force turnovers but rarely turn it over themselves. They have four regular players that shoot over 40% from three! In all, this team can play. As for Gonzaga, this isn’t your typical Zags. Without Drew Timme they’ve been in transition mode most of the year trying to find a primary scorer. Graham Ike, their inside presence, has done that of late but he’s also prone to fouling which he did in the WCC finals. And St Mary’s attacked Braden Huff who as a freshman struggled to guard the post. While Gonzaga ranks 9th in offensive efficiency, it’s because of the proficient play down low. They rarely shoot the three-ball, and when they do they make just 35% of their attempts. All signs point to a potential upset, but for betting I’ll take the points and the Cowboys.

PICK: McNeese State +6.5 over Gonzaga (BEST BET / 1.5 units)

Game 16: #15 South Dakota State vs #2 Iowa State Cyclones (735pm)

Iowa State closed out the conference tournament with a blowout of #1 seeded Houston. It was as impressive of a performance of any team this year. And it aggravates me to see them, who many consider the best #2 seed, matched up in the same bracket with the #1 overall seed in UCONN. I think that just may fuel the Cyclones and Head Coach TJ Oztelberger to press their foot on the gas starting tonight at 735pm. The Jackrabbits won the Summit League and come in on an 8-game winning streak but struggle on the boards and guarding the three. They haven’t seen the pace and ferocity that a team like ISU plays with which will cause major problems for SDSU.

PICK: Iowa State -15.5 over South Dakota State (NORMAL BET / 1.0 units)

Game 17: #15 Saint Peter’s vs #2 Tennessee Volunteers (920pm)

Tennessee Guard Dalton Knecht is one of the best players in the nation. And Tennessee is still wearing an embarrassing defeat at the hands to Mississippi State. This is a team that was 8-7 in Quad 1 games and 16-1 in all others. Simply put, they beat average and bad teams. And that’s exactly what St Peter’s is. They rank 350th in effective FG% and will have trouble making baskets today against the Vols.

PICK: Tennessee -21 over Saint Peter’s (FUN BET / 0.5 units)

Game 18: #11 NC State Wolfpack vs #6 Texas Tech Raiders (940pm)

NC State had an impressive run in the ACC tournament pulling off 4 wins and 3 outright upsets. Bit like the Big 10, ACC Champs haven’t fared well in the big dance. In the last 3 years, the Champs have just one win and have lost in 1st round twice (1-3 overall). Texas Tech isn’t UVA, or whoever else you want to compare to in ACC. They are top 50 in both offense and defense and rank in KenPoms top 25. The magic ends today for the Wolfpack as the Raiders advance to the Round of 32.

PICK: Texas Tech -4 over NC State (NORMAL BET / 1.0 units)

Game 19: #13 Stetson vs #4 Kansas

The injuries to Kansas have made them a shell of themselves. Hopes of a National Championship are likely gone with the news of Kevin McCullar Jr out for the tourney. And their star big man, Hunter Dickinson is playing with an injured shoulder. Stetson is a live dog here as they create turnovers and can hit the three ball. We just don’t know what Kansas team we’ll see.

PICK: Stetson +7.5 over Kansas (NORMAL BET / 1.0 units)

Game 20: #10 Drake vs #7 Washington State

TOURNAMENT BETTING RECORD: 1-3 / -1.2 units

To be posted by 10am Wednesday March 19th

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