Free March Madness Picks: Potential First-Round Upsets
by Trevor Whenham - 3/16/2010
My favorite part of the NCAA Tournament is the same as everyone else - trying to decode the March Madness bracket to try to win a pool or two. My second favorite part, though, is betting underdogs on the money line. We know that upsets are a big part of the tournament - there are an average of 16 every year. The money line is a great way to take maximum advantage of those upsets to (hopefully) turn a profit. Here's a look at eight games at even money or better that seem attractive in my eyes – these are free March Madness picks to play on the money line:
Wake Forest (+180) vs. Texas (Thursday, 9:30 pm ET) - This isn't so much a bet for the Deacons as it is a bet against Texas. Texas has shown a shocking lack of effort since starting the season 17-0 and rising to No. 1 in the rankings. That's bad enough, but even more concerning is that coach Rick Barnes doesn't seem nearly as concerned about the struggles as you would expect him to. Wake Forest hasn't exactly been dominant, either, but this game seems pretty close to a coin flip in my eyes, so this is a pleasant price.
Murray State (+130) vs. Vanderbilt (Thursday, 2:30 pm ET) - Murray State got a tough draw, but they have Cinderella written all over them. They are strong on both sides of the ball, and they play a style that can be very hard to deal with if you aren't used to it. Vandy is a team that can be dangerous, but I don't respect the SEC nearly as much as I do a lot of other conferences, so I think that they could be vulnerable against a very good team here.
Gonzaga (+105) vs. Florida State (Friday, 7:10 pm ET) - I think that the Bulldogs got robbed with their seeding - they should have been at least a seven and probably a six. They are up against a team that I am not in love with. Mark Few always has the Zags ready for early rounds, and I think this matchup is a better one for them than a lot of people obviously do. Even money or better makes this very attractive in my eyes.
Cornell (+150) vs. Temple (Friday, 12:30 pm ET) - I respect Temple a lot for their accomplishments in a very tough A-10 Conference. They are in tough here, though. Cornell doesn't get a lot of attention because they are stuck in the Ivy League, but they play some really exceptional basketball, and they just keep getting better. This is their third straight trip to the dance, and they could win a game or two on this visit. the game will be tight, and in a tight game this kind of payoff is very nice.
Xavier (+100) at Minnesota (Friday, 12:30 pm ET) - I like Xavier a lot. They have two Elite Eight appearances and a Sweet 16 trip in the last five years, and they could be as good this year as ever. This is a strong matchup for them as well. Minnesota can play well when they get hot, as they did in the Big Ten Tournament, but they don't handle teams well that can score easily or set the tempo, and the Musketeers excel at both. Even money is a gift in this one.
Utah State (+140) vs. Texas A&M (Friday, 4:45 pm ET) - The Aggies have a bad habit of giving just enough effort in any situation. They don't blow teams out that they should beat easily, and they have lost a lot of games against teams that I would like to see them beat. Utah State hasn't played a great schedule, but they have looked good doing it, and deserve more respect than this price indicates. The 5-12 games are always prime ground for upsets,and one could certainly happen here.
Siena (+165) vs. Purdue (Friday, 2:30 pm ET) - Purdue is still a pretty nice team without Robbie Hummel, but Minnesota did a great job in the Big Ten semifinal of exposing a blueprint to shut them down. Siena is a team that is more than talented enough to enact that plan and come out on top. Purdue still has an edge in this game, but that edge isn't nearly as big as this price would indicate, so there is value in Siena.
Old Dominion (+115) vs. Notre Dame (Thursday, 12:30 pm ET) - Notre Dame got way too much respect by being named a No. 6 seed, and they land in a tough spot here. The CAA is a very tough, underappreciated conference, and ODU managed to win both the regular season and the conference tournament. They know how to get the job done, and they are up against a team that isn't consistent, and has adopted a new style of play since Luke Harangody was hurt, and have kept that style since he has returned. I don't like it when teams are forced to change what they do late, so don't like Notre Dame as much as a lot of people.
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