The upsets were on hand for day one of the first round of the 2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. A No. 15 and No. 14 seed were both knocked out, which means many March Madness pools were busted.
On Friday, sportsbooks will have odds for 16 more games as the first round continues with games in four locations across the country.
First, let’s look at day one action in the round of 64, and see how the next round could be impacted with matchups in the brackets.
If you’re a fan of the Virginia Cavaliers, first round disappointment is becoming far too common. For the third time in the last five tournaments, Virginia was knocked out by a higher seed. This time it was a crucial mistake in the final seconds that ended the Cavs season.
Leading by two with the basketball and nine seconds left, the Cavaliers attempted to inbound from the baseline, but instead watched in horror as Kihei Clark made a dreadful decision. Clark tried to toss the ball deep down the court, but instead saw it intercepted by a Furman player. Seconds later, a three-pointer went in to put the Paladins in front.
The turnover sunk Virginia, the No. 4 seed in the South region. Two years ago, the No. 4 Cavs were defeated by Ohio in the first round. In 2018, Virginia became the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16, when they were upset by University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
The Paladins earned their first victory in March Madness since 1974. They will face the No. 5 San Diego State Aztecs in the second round. Oddsmakers have Furman at +5.5 or +198 on the moneyline (according to FanDuel).
As we wrote earlier this week, Princeton plays a style of basketball that peeves their opponents. Call it boring, call it methodical, call it genius, but the Tigers leverage strategy to limit their weaknesses and keep the game low-scoring, and thus ripe for the taking.
On Thursday, Princeton destroyed a lot of brackets (including President Joe Biden’s) when they upset No. 2 Arizona, 59-55.
The Tigers were a putrid 4-for-25 from three-point range, and shot just 40.1% overall. But they outrebounded Arizona, and Princeton’s big men blocked six shots, often halting fast break opportunities for the Wildcats.
As a result of their first tournament win over a team seeded as high as No. 2, Princeton will meet Missouri on Saturday. You can get +215 on the Tigers, which means a winning $100 bet would return $315.
The Big 10 got a winner out of the gate when the Terrapins nipped West Virginia, 67-65. The story of the game was offensive rebounding, as Maryland doubled up the Mountaineers 16-8 in the category, and held a six-rebound advantage on the boards.
For West Virginia it was its earliest exit from March Madness since 2016. The lack of consistent deep shooting, and turnovers hampered Bob Huggins and his roster on Thursday.
Maryland will need to be aggressive on the glass in its round two matchup against the overall No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide. On Thursday, Alabama crushed Texas A&M Corpus Cristi as they shot 15-for-33 from three-point land.
The Terps balanced attack inside and outside will challenge Alabama, but the odds are stacked against them. FanDuel prices the Crimson Tide at -360 (-7.5 points) for the second round game. You’ll have to bet $360 on Alabama to win $100.
Tip-off for this MArch Madness game is 2 p.m. ET, and it will be available on TBS.
Many hoops fans are unfamiliar with Saint Mary’s (CA) because they come from the West Coast Conference. Saint Mary’s is located east of Oakland and the San Francisco Bay area, in a town called Moraga. It’s famous as the alma mater of former U.S. poet Laureate Robert Hass. But prose isn’t why Saint Mary’s is in this tournament. The Gaels play an in-your-face style of ball that might make them a March Madness favorite.
Back in 2010, the Gaels advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament. That same year they defeated rival Gonzaga in the first round. But this time, Saint Mary’s is favored by 4.5 points, and -192 on the moneyline, according to FanDuel sportsbook.
Why are the small program Gaels (26-7 on the season) ranked as high as No. 5 in the tournament? Because they rank fifth in the nation in defense, and averaged 14 points in margin of victory this year. The team is led by a pair of senior guards: Alec Ducas and Logan Johnson, who combine for 27 points and nine rebounds per game.
But we like Virginia Commonwealth to make this an interesting 12/5 matchup. The Rams are making their tenth appearance in March Madness since 2011, when they went all the way to the national championship game. That year, VCU became the first team to enter the tournament via the First Four and advance to the Final Four.
The Rams are getting 4.5 points for this first round game, and you can find +158 for them. Which would pay out $258 on a winning $100 bet should VCU topple Saint Mary’s.
Also make sure not to miss the late afternoon game on TBS between No. 13 Iona and No. 4 UConn. The full court pressure and three-pointers will be on display in that game, that we expect will be exhausting even to watch.
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