March Madness Bracket Picks First Round

MARCH MADNESS FIRST ROUND PICKS

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This is my favorite time of the year in sports and below is my prediction for each game in the 1st Round of March Madness! I’ve followed college basketball all throughout the year so this should help you get a great start to filling out your tournament bracket. Plan on breaking down each round of games. With that being said let’s get to the matchups!

WEST REGION

(1) GONZAGA VS (16) NORFOLK ST./APP ST.

Gonzaga wins this game easily as the most talented team in the tournament no further breakdown is needed.

Prediction: Gonzaga

(8) OKLAHOMA VS (9) MISSOURI

These teams have very similar play styles and can both defend. Oklahoma has the edge in 3-point & free throw shooting. Both these teams rely on 2 pointers and getting to the free throw line. I like the leadership & defensive grit Dru Smith gives Missouri but there are times in games he passes up open shots that he needs to take. With that said I’m going with Oklahoma to win the game as I think their guard play on offense down the stretch will be the difference in what should be a very close game.

Prediction: Oklahoma

(5) CREIGHTON VS (12) UCSB

UCSB is a balanced team that is good on both offense and defense. UCSB’s starting 5 is a lot better than other 12 seed teams in the tourney & they are experienced. They don’t settle for 3’s and they are good in the half-court as well. Creighton on the other hand although they are a talented team, they have been so inconsistent all throughout the season. Ultimately, I feel Creighton will win the game as I see Zegarowski leading them to a victory in the final minutes of the game. Should be an entertaining game nonetheless.  

Prediction: Creighton

(4) VIRGINIA VS (13) OHIO

Virginia is a tough team to prepare for as their defense gives teams fits and when they have a lead late in the game a 10 point lead feels like a 20 point lead due to their pace of offense being so slow which also causing the opposing teams to take fast & bad shots. The wrench in the game is there is a player who hasn’t been named on Virginia that has the corona so depending on who that player is it will obviously affect how they play if it’s a key player. That said, Ohio’s defense is bad at the rim, and with the game being slowed down I will take the more efficient team on offense to win the game in Virginia.

Prediction: Virginia

(6) USC VS (11) WICHITA ST./DRAKE

Doesn’t matter to me who the winner will be between Wichita St & Drake as I like USC to beat either team. USC is on the top teams in the country in rebound rate & neither Wichita St nor Drake will be able to match up with the size of USC. The one knock on USC is being 65% from the free throw line but the amount of offensive board they get in this game will easily make up for it.

Prediction: USC

(3) KANSAS VS (14) EASTERN WASHINGTON 

Kansas currently has covid issues and they are a vulnerable team. Eastern Washington is a very good team that is a fast up and down offense that doesn’t turn the ball over. On top of that Eastern Washington is great from the free throw line at 78.4%. I like Eastern Washington a lot in this spot & I think they can pull off the upset here. If you bet spreads, I really like them at +10.5 points.

Prediction: Eastern Washington

(7) OREGON VS (10) VCU

Oregon is finally fully healthy. VCU is a deep team that can press & force turnovers but I don’t expect them to slow down Oregon. VCU doesn’t have a single guy who averages more than 6 rebounds per game which is bad. Also, while VCU forces teams into turnovers they turn the ball over 14.6 times per game as well. Oregon has more depth and versatility than VCU. You have to be able to shoot against Oregon’s zone and with VCU not being a good 3 point team (32.9%) I like Oregon to win the game.

Prediction: Oregon

(2) IOWA VS (15) GRAND CANYON

This is a bad matchup for Iowa as Grand Canyon has two talented 7 footers on their team. Grand Canyon plays a slow pace & won’t let Iowa push the pace. Bryce Drew is a very good coach as well for Grand Canyon. This will not be a game where Iowa can feed Luka Garza as Grand Canyon’s 7 footers will make him really work for points. When Luka Garza struggles to get it going offensively Iowa is a much different team. I would not be shocked to see Grand Canyon pull off the upset but I will be taking Iowa to win straight up. Spread wise I really like Grand Canyon at +14.5.

Prediction: Iowa

EAST REGION

(1) MICHIGAN VS (16) Mt. St. MARY’s/TEXAS SOUTHERN

Michigan might lose later on in the tournament but they will crush either Mt. St. Mary’s or Texas Southern’s chances to get an upset here.

Prediction: Michigan

(8) LSU VS (9) ST. BONAVENTURE

Talent-wise LSU is a really good team. If they would of beat Alabama last game which was a very close game, they would have easily been a 6 seed in the tournament. I like St. Bonaventure a lot but LSU’s offense is going to be the difference in the game and I expect them to win in this matchup.

Prediction: LSU

(5) COLORADO VS (12) GEORGETOWN

Georgetown has played very well the past couple of games but with them being red hot having to wait a week to play & play at a neutral court I’m not going to be buying into the Georgetown hype. Colorado is a tough physical team that plays good defense and offensively McKinley Wright (15.5 ppg) is a player that can take a game over. Colorado is 2nd in the country in free throw shooting percentage (82.5%) & I expect the 7 footer, Dallas Walton to be a factor in limiting Georgetown from scoring.

Prediction: Colorado

(4) FLORIDA ST. VS (13) UNC GREENSBORO

Florida St. is simply too athletic for UNC Greensboro. They are one of the most physical & long teams in the tournament. UNC Greensboro only shoots 30% from 3 & just 68.3% from the free-throw line which really hurts any chance they have at an upset. Guard Isaiah Miller (19.3 ppg) is a baller but besides him, UNC Greensboro doesn’t have anyone who scores over 10 ppg which is problematic.  UNC Greensboro is a press heavy team but I expect Florida St. to break through it and easily win this game.

Prediction: Florida St.

(6) BYU VS (11) MICHIGAN ST./UCLA

Regardless of who wins the Michigan St. vs UCLA game I like BYU to beat either of those teams. BYU is a very efficient offense as they shoot 37.8% from 3 & 48.2% from the field. Alex Barcello (15.9 ppg) for BYU is one of the best 3 point shooters in the country at 48.6%!

Prediction: BYU

(3) TEXAS VS (14) ABILENE CHRISTIAN

Texas is just the better, stronger, & more physical basketball team. Abilene Christian has struggled against teams with size all season and I don’t see that changing vs Texas. Texas has the potential to make it to the final four so I’m taking Texas here.

Prediction: Texas

(7) UCONN VS (10) MARYLAND

Uconn is better than Maryland in each aspect of the game & Uconn’s playing well at the right time with James Bouknight (19 ppg) leading the way so that’s who I’m taking to win.

Prediction: Uconn

(2) ALABAMA VS (15) IONA

There won’t be an upset here just take Alabama to win the game. Jahvon Quinerly’s going to be a key piece for Alabama in trying to make a deep tourney run.

Prediction: Alabama

SOUTH REGION

(1)BAYLOR VS (16)HARTFORD

Baylor could easily win this game by 30+. Just take Baylor to win the game.

Prediction: Baylor

(8) UNC VS (9) WISCONSIN

Wisconsin has been a disappointing team this season & is inconsistent. Trice of Wisconsin is one of my favorite players to watch but UNC simply has too much overall talent compared to Wisconsin. UNC is relentless when it comes to the offensive boards and I expect them to attack Wisconsin’s big man who plays weak.

Prediction: UNC

(5) VILLANOVA VS (12) WINTHROP

Winthrop is a good team but they don’t play defense. Winthrop also won’t have an answer for Center, Robinson-Earl (15.7 ppg). Villanova has lots of shooters which Winthrop hasn’t seen this season. Even with Collin Gillespie not in the lineup I like Villanova to advance in the tourney.

Prediction: Villanova

(4) PURDUE VS (13) NORTH TEXAS

This is a great matchup and should be a low-scoring game. Purdue’s team is back at full strength with Sasha Stefanovic (9.3 ppg) back in the lineup who shoots 40% from 3. Purdue is a bit better at their style of play compared to north Texas especially with 7 ft 4 Zach Edey playing well I like Purdue to win this game.

(6) TEXAS TECH VS (11) UTAH STATE

Utah State has one of the best big men in college, Neemias Queta, who is a versatile player who can get assists, blocks & averages 15 pts/10 rebs per game. Texas Tech has the advantage when it comes to shooting 3’s and their backcourt. I expect McClung to step up in this game and get the win for Texas Tech.

Prediction: Texas Tech

(3) ARKANSAS VS (14) COLGATE

Athlete for athlete Arkansas has the better team. I don’t expect an upset at all in this spot and Colgate has no answer for the size and speed of Arkansas. Don’t believe the hype Arkansas is going to win this game.

Prediction: Arkansas

(7) FLORIDA VS (10) VIRGINIA TECH 

Virginia Tech likes to shoot a lot of 3’s & is inconsistent. Florida ranks 5th in the nation in blocks per game but there are spots in games where they don’t push the pace when they need to and I credit most of that to Florida’s coaching. This is very much a 50/50 game so I’m going to lean with the better-coached team in Virginia Tech.

Prediction: Virginia Tech

(2) OHIO STATE VS (15) ORAL ROBERTS

Ohio State is going to win the game but I see Oral Roberts covering the +16.5 points. Spread should be closer to +11 to +12. Oral Roberts is averaging 81.8 ppg on 45.4% from 2, 39% from 3, and 82.4% from the free throw line. Should be plenty of points scored in this matchup as neither team will be able to stop the other.

Prediction: Ohio State

MIDWEST REGION

(1) ILLINOIS VS (16) DREXEL

Drexel has a .00000000000000000000000000001 chance of winning this game. Please don’t pick them in your bracket.

Prediction: Illinois

(8) LOYOLA CHICAGO VS (9) GEORGIA TECH

Georgia Tech is hot right now winning their last 8 games but their lack of depth is going to hurt them in this spot. Loyola Chicago has the best defense in the tourney. I expect Loyola Chicago to do enough on offense to get the win so that’s who I’m advancing.

Prediction: Loyola Chicago

(5) TENNESSEE VS (12) OREGON ST.

I haven’t been the biggest fan of Tennessee this season with their inconsistent play but I don’t see them losing to Oregon St. Tennessee just has a bit too much size & talent for Oregon St so Tennessee is my pick.

Prediction: Tennessee

(4) OKLAHOMA ST. VS (13) LIBERTY

2 Words. Cade Cunningham. Liberty is not prepared to play the talented & athletic team in Oklahoma St. who is red hot at the moment and should probably be closer to a 2 seed.

Prediction: Oklahoma St.

(6) SAN DIEGO ST. VS (11) SYRACUSE

With San Diego St. having a week to figure out how they are going to attack Syracuse’s 2-3 defense it will be a big advantage for San Diego St. It would be a different story if they met up in the 2nd round and they only had 2 days to prepare for Syracuse. On top of that to beat Syracuse you need to hit the 3 ball which San Diego St. does at 38% on the season & San Diego St. is a great defensive team as well. Interesting to note that San Diego St. scores more on the road than at home & Syracuse is one of the worst rebounding teams in the country. I expect San Diego St. to win here.

Prediction: San Diego St.

(3) WEST VIRGINIA VS (14) MOREHEAD ST.

Morehead St. is a really good defensive team and is a lot better than most people think. Morehead St. has 5 athletic players to match up with West Virginia. West Virginia has taken a dip recently & been more reliant on the 3 this season but I just don’t see West Virginia losing this game. Overall, they are the more versatile team & they don’t turn the ball over. Should be an interesting game though.

Prediction: West Virginia

(7) CLEMSON VS (10) RUTGERS

I don’t know how Clemson is a 7 seed but here they are playing vs Rutgers. Rutgers was getting their offense going earlier on in the season & is led by Ron Harper Jr. (15.5 ppg). Clemson plays slow which Rutgers is comfortable at playing and Clemson is vulnerable beyond the arc so I’m taking Rutgers to win the game.

Prediction: Rutgers

(2) HOUSTON VS (15) CLEVELAND ST.

Cleveland St. is a good team but is simply outclassed by Houston. That said, Houston’s main weakness is allowing teams to get to the free throw line but Cleveland St. shoots less than 70% from the line. Take Houston here.

Prediction: Houston

PREDICTION

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