I know a lot of you are probably mostly focused on your brackets right now as the tournament nears. There are good profits to pursue on the betting side of things, though - and they are easier to earn than winning a big bracket pool is. Successful long-term betting is obviously all about value, so it only makes sense that we would focus on finding the games in the first round of the NCAA Tournament that look like the best value bets on the board.
Here are five that stand out:
Gonzaga (-1.5) vs. Seton Hall: Seton Hall pulled off a couple of shockers in a row in the Big East Tournament, upsetting both Xavier and Villanova to win. I didn't see that coming, and anyone who says that they did is either lying or lucky. It was very impressive and well-earned. There are certainly teams that can build on that momentum - UConn did a heck of a job of it, for example. More often, though, we see weariness and a real difficulty in carrying momentum forward. This is a brutal matchup for them. Gonzaga has had an inconsistent and often frustrating season, but in Sabonis and Wiltjer they have two very good players that offer real matchup issues and are capable of pulling off wins by carrying teams on their back. It isn't often that you see a No. 11 seed favored, but in this case the lower seed is not only favored but also not favored by enough points.
Yale (+6) vs. Baylor: Yale hasn't been in the tournament since 1962, so everything will be new and potentially overwhelming. Here's the thing, though - despite the lack of real experience, this is an older, deep team that is capable of playing well. Baylor is strong when they are on their game, but they are tough to trust at times. They are not nearly as consistent as they should be. Yale has a chance to keep this one close - heck, they have the chance to win this one - so there is some value here at this price.
Villanova (-17) vs. UNC-Asheville: I just don't like this Wildcats team much right now. I didn't like their loss to Seton Hall at all. I don't like that they played their worst regular-season games - their four losses - against their strongest opponents, so they did not rise to the occasion at all. I don't like their recent history - if they were to underwhelm and disappoint this year it certainly wouldn't be the first time. Add it all up and I just don't trust this team. They are much better than their opponent here and should be capable of winning much more than this. Will their motivation be enough to make it happen though? I sure am not willing to bet it will. In fact, I am more than happy to bet against.
South Dakota State (+8.5) vs. Maryland: Mike Daum is the leading scorer for South Dakota State. That is remarkable for two reasons beyond the fact that he is impressive - he is a freshman, and he comes off the bench. He is proof of just how deep and impressive this team is. They are well-coach and solid. Maryland lost four of their last five in the regular season and six of their last nine. They are not in a good place right now. They have a whole lot of talent, but they don't play as a single unit consistently - exactly the opposite of South Dakota State right now. If only talent mattered then this wouldn't be even remotely a contest - Maryland is very talented. It is about so much more, though, and that makes South Dakota State an intriguing underdog bet.
Kentucky (-14.5) vs. Stony Brook: Kentucky is much more talented than they have played for much of the year. They showed that they are figuring things out by winning the SEC Tournament. Now they should be ready to carry that momentum forward and be ready to make some noise. Stony Brook does some things well, but they have an issue - a lot of the offense is driven heavily by Jameel Warney, so if Kentucky double teams him, which they will, then Stony Brook is in trouble. The Wildcats are giving up a lot of points here, but they are going to win by quite a bit more. Nice value here.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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