ByGarrett Chorpenning

Mar 19, 2024

Thursday’s First Round March Madness Best Bets & Betting Promos

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The first round of March Madness begins this Thursday, March 21, with a matchup between Michigan State and Mississippi State. So begins the chaos, and so begins a potentially promising slate of profitable bets.

Below, we’ve laid out some of our best bets for the opening round of the men’s NCAA Tournament. Pair any of them with the new user bonus and get $150 in bonus bets whether your first bet of $5 or more wins or loses.

First Round March Madness Best Bets & Betting Promos For Thursday

9 Michigan State (-122) vs 8 Mississippi State

DraftKings Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

Don’t take Michigan State’s 19-14 record for granted. The Spartans took on one of the country’s toughest schedules and came out battle-tested, with a particularly strong defense to boot. Per KenPom, Tom Izzo’s side ranks eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Mississippi State scored one of the most surprising upsets of the past week when it thrashed Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, but that may have been an isolated incident. The Bulldogs swept the Volunteers this season but struggled against other top competition, going 1-6 against all other Top-25 teams.

Look for seniors Tyson Walker, A.J. Hoggard, and Malik Hall to lead the way as they advance to a likely matchup with North Carolina.

11 Oregon (-102) vs 6 South Carolina

DraftKings Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

If you’re not already familiar with N’Faly Dante, get ready to be. Oregon’s 6-foot-11 senior is a two-way star and one of the nation’s most efficient scorers, connecting on a career-high 70.2% of his field-goal attempts this season. Now that he’s healthy, his Ducks could go on a real run through the NCAA Tournament.

Oregon’s first opponent is South Carolina, which is coming off a 31-point loss to Auburn in the SEC Tournament. The Gamecocks don’t give up a lot of threes, but they’ve struggled to keep opponents from getting inside the arc, which bodes well for the Ducks.

South Carolina will look to slow this game down, but if it can’t prevent Dante from getting going inside and on the glass, it’s likely to fall to Oregon.

11 NC State (+180) vs 6 Texas Tech

DraftKings Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

NC State looks like an early cinderella after upsetting both Duke and North Carolina en route to claiming the ACC Tournament title. If it still has any gas left in the tank after earning five victories in five days, it could be well-positioned for another surprising win over Texas Tech.

What makes the Wolfpack special is their experience. Five of their top six players are seniors, and coach Kevin Keatts has been there every step of the way. The Red Raiders won’t go down easily — this is a top-25 offense, per KenPom — but NC State clearly has the ability to bring down superior opponents.

At (+180), there’s little risk in pairing this bet with the DraftKings Bet $5, Get $150 bonus.

14 Morehead State (+575) vs 3 Illinois

DraftKings Sportsbook • WAGER: 0.25 Units

If you’re after a big payout, look no further than Morehead State, which could pull off the upset of the day over Illinois. The Eagles’ stifling perimeter defense limited opponents to just 29.6% shooting from three-point range this season — the ninth-best mark in college basketball — making them a legitimate threat to the Fighting Illini.

Of course, stopping Terrence Shannon Jr. will be a significant challenge. The fifth-year senior is averaging 23 points per game on 47% shooting from the field, and he posted a 40-point performance in Saturday’s win over Nebraska.

If Morehead State is going to get the job done, it’ll need to control the pace, as it’s done all year. The Eagles rank 335th in KenPom’s adjusted tempo rating, while Illinois comes in at No. 56. If Morehead State can effectively slow the game down and hit its shots, it can bring down the Fighting Illini.

Best March Madness Betting Promos

Now is the perfect time to sign up at , which is offering a $150 bonus to new users who wager $5 or more on their first bet.

For once, it’s as simple as it sounds. Register for an account at DraftKings, make your first deposit, and place a first-time bet of at least $5 on any March Madness game. Whether you win or lose, you’ll get $150 in bonus bets, issued as six tokens worth $25 apiece.

Use these bonus bets to your advantage by backing some big underdogs in this year’s NCAA Tournament. If you win, you keep the spoils, and if you lose, you won’t be out any actual cash. Just keep in mind that you’ll only have seven days to use all your bonus bets before they expire.

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Garrett Chorpenning

Garrett Chorpenning is the Lead NBA Editor for The Game Day. His previous work includes covering the LA Clippers for Sports Illustrated and FanSided. He graduated from Ball State University in 2021.

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