The First Four is complete, and we have ou4 64 teams for round one of the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
On Thursday, we’ll see 16 games played at four sites in four different states. The first tip-off will be just past noon ET, and the last tip-off will commence at 10:05 p.m. ET. With that flurry of hoop activity, March Madness will be in full swing (or should we say full bounce?).
Sports bettors in more than 30 states will have a chance to wager on March Madness in round one of the tournament. On Friday, 16 more games will be played, and on Saturday and Sunday a total of 16 more will take place as the field is whittled down to the Sweet 16.
Before we get that far, let’s examine the best matchups for Day One of the First Round of the NCAA Men’s tourney. Consult your favorite sportsbooks for current odds, and be sure to grab your special offers and bonus bets when registering for an account with a new sportsbook.
THURSDAY, MARCH 16 AT 12:15 P.M. ET IN BIRMINGHAM
Oddsmakers have this game priced as one of the closest on the point spread, at between one and two points. For many, it’s a toss-up between two big-time programs that play tough schedules. But a close look at recent games reveals the Mountaineers are playing better ball right now.
Iowa transfer Joe Toussaint, a gutsy WV guard who can handle the rock or shoot it, is the key player to watch in this game. Head coach Bob Huggins loves Toussaint’s knack for leadership on the floor. And if big man Emmitt Matthews Jr. (10.4 PPG) can unravel his scoring game inside, the Mountaineers will be hard to defeat.
For some observers, neither Maryland nor West Virginia deserve to be placed on the 8/9 line of the bracket. According to the advanced rankings from KenPom.com that take into account schedule, offensive and defensive efficiency, and point differential, both the Terps and Mountaineers are top 25 teams in the nation.
What that likely means is that Thursday’s opening tilt of round one action will be hotly contested by two teams that know how to transition and hold the opposing team to tough shots. In the end, we agree with the sportsbooks that West Virginia will come out on top by a few points.
THURSDAY, MARCH 16 AT 12:40 P.M. ET IN ORLANDO
This game seems to be the popular upset special for Thursday March Madness action. That’s because Furman is the perfect Cinderella, having not won a NCAA tournament game since 1974. But it could also be because Virginia has stumbled in recent tourney appearances. In 2021 the Cavaliers lost as a No. 4 seed in the first round to Ohio, and back in 2018, Virginia became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 in the first round. SOrry to bring that up, Virginia fans.
We don’t expect Furman to be fitted for a Cinderella slipper on Thursday, though this game could be far closer than the sportsbooks expect. Eventually, the length and athleticism of Virginia will prevail, sending the Paladins packing.
THURSDAY, MARCH 16 AT 3:10 P.M. ET IN ORLANDO
Lock yourself in your sports-cave and eliminate all distractions Thursday afternoon to watch this game between the Cougars of the College of Charleston and the Aztecs of San Diego State.
Why will this game be entertaining? Because Charleston can put the biscuit in the basket: the Cougars averaged 81 PPG this season, making them the 18th highest-scoring team in the nation. But, CC does have bouts of erratic play: they are fourth in the country in rebounds, which means they crash the boards, but also miss their share of shots.
Only 28 teams in the NCAA allowed fewer points per game than the Aztecs (63.6 PPG). So, something will need to give on Thursday in sunny Orlando: either the Cougars will put up oodles of points for an upset win; or SD State will shut College of Charleston down, and dismiss them from MArch Madness 2023.
THURSDAY, MARCH 16 AT 9:55 P.M. ET IN DES MOINES
The Big 10 and the SEC each have eight teams in the NCAA Tournament. They are the most powerful of the Power 5 conferences. The two leagues rake in hundreds of millions of dollars in television rights for their sports. They are also bitter rivals. The type of rivals that would just as soon step on you than help you up from the hardwood.
On Thursday, this 10 vs. 7 matchup in Des Moines will help us understand which of these two conferences has the better talent in March Madness. The Nittany Lions are playing the best basketball of their season, having won eight of 10 entering the tournament. The team is led by senior Jalen Pickey (18 PPG, 7 RPG, 7 APG). His inspired play is what sets this Penn State team apart, because the rest of the roster is mostly average. The Lions do not turn the basketball over much, and they typically shoot well, but otherwise they are a poor interior defensive team, and they rebound poorly.
That’s music to the ears of the Aggies, who like PSU, lost their conference title game. The sportsbooks list Texas A&M as three point favorites, but this game might come down to which team is tougher. Neither of these rosters is deep, but A&M has its own budding star in sophomore guard Wade Taylor, who averages 16.5 PPG, despite playing less than 30 minutes per. Head coach Buzz Williams will want Taylor on the floor a lot in Round One, in what might be a very physical battle.
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