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The annual March Madness kicked off Tuesday night with the opening of the 2023 NCAA tournament’s First Four round. Half of the eight First Four teams took the court in a bid to become part of the traditional 64-team tournament field that competes for the prestigious national championship. When the round of 64 kicks off on Thursday, there are sure to be fireworks, given the emotional intensity involved. It is win-or-go-home time, and every possession matters. Once the NCAA tournament – the best postseason in sports -- is officially under way, rankings and records no longer matter. What teams do in each game’s 40 minutes can make or break their seasons.

Best College Basketball Bets Today - NCAA Tournament Odds, Predictions and Parlays for First Round: 5-Leg Parlay Picks (+2340)

Utah State vs. Missouri Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – NCAAB Betting Lines 3/16

Moneyline: Utah State -125, Missouri +105
Spread: Utah State -1.5, Missouri +1.5
Total: Over/Under 155.5

Utah State vs. Missouri Prediction and Pick

It could be a very high-scoring game on Thursday when these two teams take the floor. Missouri’s 80.1 points-per-game average ranks 21st in the nation, while Utah State’s 79.1 average ranks 28th. Utah State head coach Ryan Odom has NCAA tournament coaching experience and knows what it takes to pull off an upset, because he led UMBC to a history-making 74-54 victory over Virginia back in 2018. It’s a completely different scenario for Odom now. While Utah State’s team culture might be the same as the one Odom created at UMBC, the Aggies’ Missouri opponent is battle-tested -- having faced and defeated some of the best defenses in college basketball this season. Missouri beat Tennessee twice, even though the Vols rank third in all of college basketball in holding opponents to an average of 58 points per game. Missouri is also the only team to score 80-plus points against Tennessee this season, having put up 86 and 79 points in those two victories. Tennessee wasn’t the only defensive juggernaut that Missouri handled. The Tigers also recorded a 78-61 win over Iowa State, whose defense ranks 18th in the nation. Missouri has three players that average double-digit scoring and two more who average over nine points per game. Four of the five Missouri starters are seniors. They are a deep team that can score at will and will embarrass Utah State on Thursday.

Leg-1 Parlay Pick: Missouri ML (+105)

Charleston vs. San Diego State Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – NCAAB Betting Lines 3/16

Moneyline: Charleston +180, San Diego State -222
Spread: Charleston +5.5, San Diego State -5.5
Total: Over/Under 141.5

Charleston vs. San Diego State Prediction and Pick

You’re going to hear me say this a lot, but the Mountain West Conference is completely overrated this season. It got four teams into the tournament, but only time will tell if that was deserved. I believe all four of those teams won’t make it past the tournament’s first weekend. While I expect Nevada to be the first of the four to fall on Wednesday night, San Diego State will be the third Mountain West team to fall on Thursday. Despite playing in the Colonial Conference, Charleston could very well be the NCAA’s 2023 Cinderella team. With three seniors in its starting lineup -- including Dalton Bolon and Ryan Larson -- Charleston has the experience to make a run. Ante Brzovic, a standout, 6-foot-10 sophomore forward from Croatia will pose a big test for San Diego State and will be a key factor if Charleston makes a run. Charleston had North Carolina on the ropes earlier in the season after leading by seven at halftime, but that wasn’t the Cougars’ only impressive non-conference outing. They also had upset victories over Richmond, Davidson, and Virginia Tech. Against Colorado State, a Mountain West team, Charleston came away with a 74-64 win. While San Diego State beat Colorado State three times in 2022-23, they struggled with them in two of those matchups. Earlier in the season, when Brzovic was still getting used to Division I play, Charleston still had success, since the Cougars have only lost three times this season. Given that the Mountain West is overrated, Charleston will register the first big upset of the NCAA tournament, and everyone will jump on the Brzovic train.

Leg-2 Parlay Pick: Charleston ML (+180)

Oral Roberts vs. Duke Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – NCAAB Betting Lines 3/16

Moneyline: Oral Roberts +225, Duke -263
Spread: Oral Roberts +6.5, Duke -6.5
Total: Over/Under 145.5

Oral Roberts vs. Duke Prediction and Pick

The ACC ha been really disrespected this year, and I’m not sure why. The NCAA selection committee’s decision to snub North Carolina was absurd, especially when the field includes four teams from the Mountain West. North Carolina would run any of those four teams off the court. While I respect what Oral Roberts did this season in the Summit Conference, Duke is coming off an impressive ACC tournament championship run. The Blue Devils are clearly the better team in this matchup. While the spread is lower than it should be, take Duke moneyline and play it safe here. It is March, of course, but this juice is really low, and Duke will likely win this game the way a -1000 moneyline team would win. Duke wins big.

Leg-3 Parlay Pick: Duke ML (-263)

Drake vs. Miami (Florida) Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – NCAAB Betting Lines 3/17

Moneyline: Drake +115, Miami Florida -135
Spread: Drake +2.5, Miami Florida -2.5
Total: Over/Under 146.5

Drake vs. Miami (Florida) Prediction and Pick

Everyone and their mother likes Drake as a Cinderella team that will make a run in this tournament. Rightfully so, since Drake had a very impressive season in the Missouri Valley Conference. They’re a complete and disciplined basketball team, but they drew a bad hand and matchup against Miami. The Hurricanes play very fast, can score, and are very efficient offensively. Miami’s 79.1 points per game ranks 19th in college basketball, and the Hurricanes are eighth in offensive efficiency this season. A good Duke team stunned Miami in the ACC tournament, but that was a wake-up call for the NCAAs. The bear has been poked. The health of big man Norchad Omier will be critical going forward if the Hurricanes want to make a run. He’s expected to miss the tournament opener on Friday with an ankle injury, but Miami has more than enough offense with Jordan Miller, Nijel Pack and ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong to get past Drake in the opening round. Let the public ride Drake, and thank them for hyping the Bulldogs enough to make this a very great buy-low spot for a talented Miami team.

Leg-4 Parlay Pick: Miami ML (-130)

Florida Atlantic vs. Memphis Florida Odds, Spread, Moneyline, Over/Under – NCAAB Betting Lines 3/17

Moneyline: FAU +115, Miami Florida -135
Spread: Drake +2.5, Miami Florida -2.5
Total: Over/Under 153.5
Florida Atlantic vs. Memphis Prediction and Pick

When Houston was awarded a top seed by the NCAA committee, the Cougars were instantly bashed on Selection Sunday’s broadcast. The AAC should have been awarded another team in the NCAA tournament, however. The fact that Cincinnati could have made a run is all but ignored because of Houston’s dominance. In fact, I think Houston is overshadowing the entire conference. Memphis defeated Houston in the AAC championship game when Cougars guard Marcus Sasser was out with a lower-body injury, but that was still an impressive win because Houston is one of the deepest teams in college basketball. Head coach Penny Hardaway has his Memphis Tigers locked-in and bought-in. They have been playing some great basketball over the past few weeks. The 1-2 punch of guard Kendric Davis and forward DeAndre Williams will be why the Tigers make a run in this tournament. Memphis will be too much for FAU to handle. FAU did run through to the Conference USA championship, and the Owls have faced some talented mid-major teams such as Bryant and conference opponent UAB, but FAU has not faced anything like the talent of Davis and Williams this season. It will show on Friday.

Leg-5 Parlay Pick: Memphis ML (-135)

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