Day 1 of the NCAA Tournament may not be on Thursday this 12 months prefer it historically is, however the wall-to-wall schedule stays the identical. Friday’s motion will get underway a little bit after midday ET when Virginia Tech takes on Florida, and it doubtless will not finish till after midnight when Villanova and Winthrop (or one of many different late-night ideas) end. All advised, there shall be 16 first-round games on Friday, and you’ll anticipate loads of drama and potential bracket-busting upsets.
Top seeds Baylor and Illinois shall be in motion, however until one will get a professional scare thrown into them (unlikely, however doable), they will not be concerned in probably the most attention-grabbing games. Those in bracket swimming pools will doubtless be extra within the 12-5 games (Oregon State-Tennessee and Winthrop-Villanova), in addition to different in style double-digit upset picks Rutgers (vs. Clemson), Virginia Tech (vs. Florida), Utah State (vs. Texas Tech), Syracuse (vs. San Diego State), and even Colgate (vs. Arkansas).
Of course, there’ll most likely be one other main upset that nobody is anticipating, so buckle up and prepare for all of the March Madness enjoyable we missed out on final season. To aid you out, listed here are SN’s straight-up picks, plus some perception into betting trends and ideas in the event you’re wagering in opposition to the unfold.
- March Madness picks, predictions for Round 1
- No. 10 Virginia Tech (PK) vs. No. 7 Florida (South)
- No. 3 Arkansas (-9.5) vs. No. 14 Colgate (South)
- No. 1 Illinois (-22.5) vs. No. 16 Drexel (Midwest)
- No. 6 Texas Tech (-4) vs. No. 11 Utah State (South)
- No. 2 Ohio State (-16) vs. No. 15 Oral Roberts (South)
- No. 1 Baylor (-25.5) vs. No. 16 Hartford (South)
- No. 8 Loyola Chicago (-4.5) vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech (Midwest)
- No. 5 Tennessee (-9) vs. No. 12 Oregon State (Midwest)
- No. 4 Oklahoma State (-7.5) vs. No. 13 Liberty (Midwest)
- No. 8 North Carolina (-1.5) vs. No. 9 Wisconsin (South)
- No. 2 Houston (-20) vs. No. 15 Cleveland State (Midwest)
- No. 4 Purdue (-7.5) vs. No. 13 North Texas (South)
- No. 10 Rutgers (-1.5) vs. No. 7 Clemson (Midwest)
- No. 6 San Diego State (-3) vs. No. 11 Syracuse (Midwest)
- No. 3 West Virginia (-13) vs. No. 14 Morehead State (Midwest)
- No. 5 Villanova (-6.5) vs. No. 12 Winthrop (South)
March Madness picks, predictions for Round 1
No. 10 Virginia Tech (PK) vs. No. 7 Florida (South)
This line has steadily moved in Virginia Tech’s path because it opened, and it appears like it should settle as a choose ’em. Neither group has performed notably properly down the stretch (with Virginia Tech barely enjoying in any respect due to COVID points), so that is really a toss-up. TeamRankings’ Matchup Predictor points toward Florida, and we give the Gators the slight nod because of the Hokies’ lack of great motion over the previous month (1-2 since Feb. 6).
No. 3 Arkansas (-9.5) vs. No. 14 Colgate (South)
Colgate completed third within the nation in three-point percentage (40.2) and fourth in average margin of victory (17.7), so the Raiders can fill it up. They doubtless have not confronted a protection just like the Hogs’, however taking pictures could be a problem for Arkansas, making it somewhat-vulnerable in opposition to hot-shooting groups. Colgate would not actually defend, so this one might go quite a lot of methods — Arkansas blowout, Colgate profitable in a shootout, Arkansas profitable in a shootout — however it’s extra enjoyable to make a daring name when there are professional causes to suppose it may well truly occur.
No. 1 Illinois (-22.5) vs. No. 16 Drexel (Midwest)
For most, the query right here is not whether or not Illinois will win; it is whether or not it is going to cowl. The Illini averaged 81.4 points per game this season, which is about 10 greater than Drexel. Now issue within the distinction in competitors, and it is simple to think about a 23-plus-point victory. Whenever you cope with spreads this huge, you all the time have to fret about backdoor covers, however Illinois looks like a good guess to maintain enterprise until this line continues to climb.
No. 6 Texas Tech (-4) vs. No. 11 Utah State (South)
Here’s one other line that has steadily moved towards the underdog. Utah State performs elite protection, rating eighth in kenpom.com‘s adjusted protection metric. Texas Tech is a balanced group however can wrestle with exterior taking pictures. If the Red Raiders are chilly, Utah State might flip this right into a rock combat and steal a low-scoring win. If the road retains getting decrease, Texas Tech might truly grow to be a worth guess simply earlier than tip, however we nonetheless just like the Aggies by a nostril.
Pick: Utah State
No. 2 Ohio State (-16) vs. No. 15 Oral Roberts (South)
Oral Roberts has a legit inside-outside menace with versatile huge man Kevin Obanor and sweet-shooting guard Max Abmas, who averaged 24.2 points per game this year on close to 50-40-90 taking pictures. It would not be a shock to see Oral Roberts cowl, however Ohio State doubtless has an excessive amount of depth and dimension to truly get upset.
Pick: Ohio State
No. 1 Baylor (-25.5) vs. No. 16 Hartford (South)
Baylor gained its games by an average of 18 factors per sport this 12 months, so a 26-point victory in opposition to Hartford would not simply appear doable, it appears doubtless. Be cautious about this line shifting too far in Baylor’s path and Hartford changing into a worth, however on the present line, Baylor appears good.
No. 8 Loyola Chicago (-4.5) vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech (Midwest)
The Fightin’ Sister Jeans (not Loyola Chicago’s precise nickname) are again, and they’ll undoubtedly be a well-liked choose due to their “name recognition.” However, in keeping with kenpom.com‘s superior stats, the Ramblers (Loyola Chicago’s precise nickname) aren’t just a few cute mid-major story, they seem to be a legit menace for one other deep run, rating ninth amongst all groups. Georgia Tech definitely is not helped by the very fact ACC Player of the Year Moses Wright will miss this sport as a consequence of COVID-related points. This appears approach too simple for an 8-9 sport, which make us nervous, however typically the apparent choose is clear for a cause. Expect this line to maneuver even additional in Loyola Chicago’s path nearer to tip.
Pick: Loyola Chicago
No. 5 Tennessee (-9) vs. No. 12 Oregon State (Midwest)
Oregon State is a shock participant on this 12 months’s event after profitable the Pac-12 title, so in the event you imagine within the “hot hand” idea, then that is simply nearly as good of a 12-5 upset choose as Georgetown over Colorado (which appears to be far more in style). Tennessee did not play its greatest basketball down the stretch, going 4-4 and dropping to Kentucky and Auburn over the ultimate month. There’s a minimum of cause to imagine Oregon State can cowl, however Tennessee has an elite protection (fourth in kenpom.com‘s adjusted protection metric) and may be capable of advance.
No. 4 Oklahoma State (-7.5) vs. No. 13 Liberty (Midwest)
Oklahoma State is a well-liked Final Four choose in some circles; it is also a well-liked first-round upset choose in others. This line as hovered round round 7.5 all week, which signifies about equal cash coming in on each side. Liberty was tied for tenth in three-point shooting (38.8 p.c) and was seventh general in offensive efficiency, so the Flames can rating with the Cowboys in the event that they get sizzling. Ultimately, although, we anticipate Oklahoma State, led by projected top-overall NBA choose Cade Cunningham, to exploit the expertise hole and win a detailed one.
Pick: Oklahoma State
No. 8 North Carolina (-1.5) vs. No. 9 Wisconsin (South)
In this coin-flip battle of conventional powers, we will belief the superior stats and go along with the Badgers, who rank eleventh general on kenpom.com. By comparability, UNC is twenty eighth. By no means is that this a lock, particularly if you think about Wisconsin’s lack of huge wins, however with games as shut as this, it’s good to fall again on one thing, and we’re going with the computer systems.
No. 2 Houston (-20) vs. No. 15 Cleveland State (Midwest)
Houston has a top-15 offense (eighth) and protection (fifteenth) in keeping with kenpom.com, and the Cougars have won by an average of 18 factors per sport this season. They have not confronted the hardest schedule, however Cleveland State is not the hardest opponent. A key element to huge upsets is normally exterior taking pictures, and Cleveland State ranked tied for 257th in three-point percentage (31.9 p.c). It’s robust to think about the Vikings retaining this one shut, so we’re all-in on Houston masking.
No. 4 Purdue (-7.5) vs. No. 13 North Texas (South)
This line feels a little bit low, however North Texas is an efficient outside shooting team that has some huge guards who can strain the ball, plus a pair of 6-10 inside gamers who can a minimum of attempt to sustain with 7-4 middle Zach Edey. There’s positively cause to imagine the Mean Green can cowl (although it is going to nonetheless be an uphill battle), however Purdue’s big-game expertise (and success) ideas the scales in the case of merely advancing.
No. 10 Rutgers (-1.5) vs. No. 7 Clemson (Midwest)
Rutgers opened because the lone “underdog” to be favored, and that line hasn’t moved a lot all week. Both groups rank a lot greater in adjusted protection ranking than offense ranking on kenpom.com, however Rutgers is barely greater general. TeamRankings’ Matchup Predictor sees this as shut as you may anticipate, with Rutgers having the nod in “power ratings” and Clemson have the nod in “simulation.” We’ll stick to the favourite as a result of Rutgers performed within the more durable convention this 12 months, however flip a coin and belief your intestine right here.
No. 6 San Diego State (-3) vs. No. 11 Syracuse (Midwest)
It’s simple to determine why this line has dropped to such a low quantity for a 6-11 sport. Syracuse is not your typical 11-seed, and San Diego State is not considered a nationwide energy. However, San Diego State is ranked properly above Syracuse on kenpom.com, and TeamRankings’ Matchup Predictor appears to closely favor the Aztecs, too. Syracuse’s storied zone protection has befuddled loads of groups, however we simply do not see it right here, particularly with San Diego State being a top-25 three-point shooting team.
Pick: San Diego State
No. 3 West Virginia (-13) vs. No. 14 Morehead State (Midwest)
West Virginia’s famed press can shortly overwhelm inferior opponents, and Morehead State qualifies as one, rating 127th on kenpom.com. A ramification of 13 is all the time dangerous with a poor-shooting team like West Virginia, however an outright win appears doubtless.
Pick: West Virginia
No. 5 Villanova (-6.5) vs. No. 12 Winthrop (South)
This was everybody’s preliminary 12-5 upset, and that hasn’t appeared to alter all through the week. Injuries to guards Collin Gillespie (knee) and Justin Moore (ankle) make ‘Nova robust to handicap, and a matchup with the high-scoring, 23-1 Eagles is not making issues simpler. At the very least, choosing Winthrop to cowl feels just like the sensible transfer, and we’re additionally driving with public on choosing Winthrop outright.