Most of the attention when it comes to the NCAA Tournament is around filling out brackets . While that is indeed a great part of it, you also need to remember that this is a fantastic time to be a bettor . All of these teams are going to be playing their best - at least theoretically - and we don't need to worry about home-court advantage. And every game is televised, so we can easily get an immediate sense of how teams look and what we can expect next time out. Over the first four days in particular we get just a smorgasbord of great betting opportunities. Here are four nice value bets that pop out over the first two days alone:
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UNC-Wilmington +7.5 vs. Virginia: Let's start with the most important detail - I just don't like this Virginia team. They still play defense at a very high level, but far more than the last few years they do it at the expense of having any discernible offensive strategy. They play at a very slow pace, and have really struggled this year in situations where they get behind. The Seahawks had a nice cover against Duke last year in the tournament. They have a Top 10 offense nationally, so they could be capable of setting a fast early tone and getting Virginia into a hole. For Virginia's offense to open up a lead of eight points or better here, the defense will have to be perfect and the offense will have to have one of their better days. I'm willing to bet against that. There is good value in the No. 12 seed here.
Northwestern (+1) vs. Vanderbilt: I am really tired of the perception that the Big Ten was lousy this year. It wasn't the best year the league has had by any means, but it was still a very competitive, deep group, and the Wildcats are just one of several who didn't get as much respect as they should have from the seeding committee. They are a feisty team, and they will be playing a virtual home game here despite playing in Salt Lake City because so many fans and alums are making the trek to see the team in the Big Dance for the first time. They are going to be fired up. And let's be real - they are playing Vanderbilt. This is a 15-loss squad from the SEC. Take Kentucky out this year and the SEC is almost just the MAC with better weather. They got absolutely manhandled by Arkansas last time out, and they are a streaky team - at best. I'm not saying that this is a gift of a line, but when you can bet the better team as a slight underdog when that team will be fired up then you would be an idiot not to do so.
Florida Gulf Coast (+12) vs. Florida State: I just plain don't get why Florida State is a No. 3 seed. This is a team that is very athletic and good at a lot of things, but doing anything outside the arc and securing offensive rebounds are not two of them. They have lost seven games in their last 16 and are just decidedly average right now. I think the selection committee got all the right teams into the tournament, but this is just one of many cases where I would have real questions about where they were seeded. This is a tough spot. FGCU obviously has far less talent, but they are feisty, and they will play as if they have nothing to lose - which they really don't. The game is just 150 miles from FGCU, so the crowd won't be nearly as lopsided as it could be in a further-away setting. Twelve points is a whole lot for a team that has been as flat lately as Florida State has to give up against a decent offensive team. Here's a No. 14 we can bet on comfortably.
Michigan (-2.5) vs. Oklahoma State: Finally some value in a favorite. This game will be a fascinating study in contrasts. Both teams are among the most efficient offensively in the country, but they couldn't do it more differently. Oklahoma State is among the highest-tempo teams in the country, and Michigan plays slower than anyone. Both teams have outstanding point guards who will be the stars for their respective teams. The difference, though, is current form. Michigan just rolled through the Big Ten Tournament, and there was a lot more to it than just the plane crash storyline. They have been a whole different team over the last six weeks or so and have been excellent at imposing their will on the games they play. They will be able to frustrate Oklahoma State with their defense, and the Cowboys won't be able to respond in kind because they are lousy defending. Unless Michigan absolutely falls apart with their shooting - and we have no reason to fear that happening - they are well positioned to win this by more than three.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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