March Madness is one of the best events for sports betting because there is so much action within the 68-team tournament. The first round is awesome because there are multiple games to choose from, several of which are going on at the same time. It’s a sports bettor’s paradise.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best bets for the first round of the tournament. You’ll find a mix of point spread, totals, and moneyline bets below. Let’s get this tournament started off on the right track.
March Madness Round 1 Best Bets: Boise State vs Memphis
Memphis finished 29th in Pomeroy’s rankings, backed by top-50 finishes on both ends of the floor, including 31st on defense. They are a battle-tested team with a 3-2 record against Top 25 opponents - led by their size and athleticism with forward DeAndre Williams and center Jalen Duren.
Former NBA star Penny Hardaway coaches a team that comes into the tourney winning eight of their last 10 games.
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Boise State cruised through the Mountain West conference thanks to a red-hot stretch where they won 20 of 23 games. This team ranks 26th in KenPom, led by a strong defense that finished 17th in defensive efficiency.
Forward Abu Kigab is a good scorer who can lock it down on defense.
Memphis vs Boise State Pick: Memphis 70, Boise State 63
Best Bet: Memphis -2.5 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook
Wager: 1 unit
This line opened as a pick’em but has moved toward Memphis. The Tigers’ strength down low might be too much to handle for Boise State.
Memphis is a team that has held it down against strong competition this season, while the Broncos have an 0-1 record against Top 25 opponents. Look for the Tigers to take care of business in this first-round matchup.
March Madness Round 1 Best Bets: Providence vs South Dakota State
South Dakota State comes into their first tournament as live underdogs. Coach Eric Henderson has helped guide the program to the most successful season in its history.
This is a team with strong guard play, led by Douglas Wilson and Baylor Scheierman. Both of these players are shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc.
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Providence won the regular-season title in the Big East, backed by a 12-2 record in close games. The Friars come in 49th in Pomeroy’s rankings, led by 6’10 center Nate Watson, who put up 13.8 points per game this season.
Providence has shown an ability to squeak out narrow victories, which could bode well for their chances in this closely-contested tournament. It could also mean that they overachieved a bit.
South Dakota State vs Providence Pick: South Dakota State 76, Providence 73
Best Bet: South Dakota State (+110) at Caesars Sportsbook
Wager: 1 unit
When you’re trying to decide on an upset pick, one way to go about it is to choose a team that does one thing exceptionally well. South Dakota State does that on offense, ranking 12th in the country in offensive efficiency per KenPom.
This team finished first in three-point percentage, shooting 44.9 percent from long-range. They’re short underdogs for good reason, as they have the tools to knock off fourth-ranked Providence.
March Madness Round 1 Best Bets: Murray State vs San Francisco
San Francisco returns to the tournament for the first time since 1998. This team has some marquee wins on their resume over UAB and Davidson. They are ranked 21st in Pomeroy’s rankings, finishing 45th on offense and 19th on defense.
The Dons are led by guard Jamaree Bouyea, who averaged 16.7 points and 4.0 assists this season.
March Madness Region Predictions
Murray State comes into March with an impressive 30-2 record. This team went undefeated in the Ohio Valley Conference, and they’re a balanced squad with forward KJ Williams and guard Tevin Brown leading the way - each averaging over 16 points per game.
The team ranked 27th in Pomeroy’s rankings thanks to top-40 finishes on both ends of the floor.
San Francisco vs Murray State Pick: San Francisco 68, Murray State 64
Best Bet: Under 137 (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook
Wager: 1 unit
This projects as a close game but we’re going to look at the total in this one. It opened at 141 points but has since crashed down to 137.
This is because both defenses rank in the top 40, per KenPom. We also have to consider that both teams aren’t very good at hitting their free throws - each shooting below 70 percent from the charity stripe. Missed foul shots bode well for the Under.