March Madness betting, odds: Initial 1st-round betting thoughts after bracket release
The NCAA men's tournament bracket was released Sunday, and a few minutes after CBS' show was done, BetMGM had spreads for all 28 first-round games.
There are a few days for bettors to analyze each of the spreads at BetMGM, as well as the First Four games that will be played Tuesday and Wednesday. Here are five initial thoughts from a betting angle.
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Charleston might be a popular bet
The point spread for many games will move during the week, but one moved right away and it was worth noting. Charleston opened as a 6.5-point underdog against San Diego State, and that line went to -5 and -4.5 almost immediately.
Those who are betting immediately after the bracket and spreads are revealed aren't casual bettors who are just getting into college basketball and figuring out the difference between UCLA and UCSB. Some respected bettors must like Charleston, which had a very good season and was in the top 25 for a while.
Kentucky not getting much respect
Kentucky is a 3- or 3.5-point favorite over Providence. The Wildcats opened at -4.5 at BetMGM and it moved quickly. For many casual bettors, seeing Kentucky as a small favorite in the first round might be tempting.
There's a reason the spread is that low. The Wildcats have been disappointing all season. There will be plenty of bettors who believe Kentucky will turn it on in the tournament, and maybe they're right. The Wildcats certainly have talent. But there isn't much reason to trust them. At least you won't have to lay many points if you like UK.
Gonzaga is getting a lot of respect
Maybe Gonzaga was underseeded. The No. 3 seed Bulldogs are 15.5-point favorites against Grand Canyon in the first round. That's a line you'll typically see from a No. 2 seed, and sometimes in the No. 1 vs. No. 16 games. Marquette, a No. 2 seed, is favored by just 11.5 over Vermont, for example.
Gonzaga was playing very well late in the season, especially on offense, and the last look at the Bulldogs was a blowout win over St. Mary's in the West Coast Conference championship game. Gonzaga is a brand-name team in the tournament after all of its success, and bettors won't be able to get much value betting the Bulldogs, at least in the first round.
Oral Roberts, FAU didn't get any favors
It's never fun when an exciting mid-major gets a tough first-round matchup. There were much easier No. 5 seeds than Duke, which No. 12 seed Oral Roberts will play. Duke is one of the hottest teams in the sport, and it just won the ACC tournament. That hurts Oral Roberts' shot at a first-round upset, though it is enticing as a 7.5-point underdog.
ORU had a fantastic season, has a rare mid-major big man in 7-foot-5 Arkansas transfer Connor Vanover, a scoring phenom in guard Max Abmas and was going to be a popular upset pick ... until they drew the Blue Devils.
Florida Atlantic had a great season with a 31-3 record, but it got a No. 9 seed and a date against Memphis, which is underseeded and coming off a win over Houston in the AAC championship. FAU could still win as a 2.5-point underdog, but that's a brutal matchup after a strong season.
UConn, Tennessee were underseeded
Connecticut and Tennessee are Nos. 4 and 5 in KenPom.com's rankings, but both got No. 4 seeds in the NCAA tournament. Last season Houston was No. 5 in the KenPom rankings, got a No. 5 seed and went to the Elite Eight. Maybe that history can guide our bracket picks.
Tennessee might have been dinged due to the season-ending injury to point guard Zakai Zeigler and its early exit in the SEC tournament without him.
There's no great reason for UConn to be on the No. 4 line, at least when you look at its advanced stats. UConn had a midseason slump and lost to Marquette in the Big East tournament, but the metrics show how good the Huskies are. UConn being underseeded as a No. 4 seed in the West is bad news for Kansas, the No. 1 seed in that region. Kansas has a potential Sweet 16 game against a team that efficiency metrics identifies a top-five team in the sport.