The "first round" of the 2017 NCAA Tournament gets underway tomorrow with the first pair of play-in games set to tip off at 6:40 p.m. EST. In the first matchup, we will see No.16 New Orleans ( -1.5) do battle with No.16 Mount St. Mary's. That game will be followed up by a battle of No.11 seeds -- Wake Forest (-1) versus Kansas State. The winner of those games get to stake claim to a tournament win despite much of the sporting world not recognizing these play-in games as tournament action.
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Nonetheless, these games mark the start of March Madness, and I couldn't be more excited to witness great basketball and the ups and downs this tournament has to offer. Not to mention, who doesn't love several full days of college basketball action for two consecutive weekends? If you are just now getting into the college basketball scene, this is definitely the article for you to read.
For starters, Villanova earned the No.1 overall seed, while Bovada has tabbed North Carolina as the favorite to extract some revenge from a heart-breaking finals loss last year. Many talking-heads and experts alike are considering this field one of the weaker ones in recent years. The bubble teams are soft, and the No.1 seeds are probably the best crop we've had in a while.
If you are looking to wager on the event or simply want to produce a winning bracket and finally win that office pool, here is cheat sheet with everything you need to know about the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
North Carolina (+130), Villanova (+160), Gonzaga (+160) and Kansas (+220) are the odds-on favorites to make it out of their respective divisions.
No.1 Doesn't Guarantee Success
Taking an all-No. 1 seed Final Four is always temping and the easy way to pick your bracket . However, an all-chalk Final Four has happened only once in the tournament's history (2008). In fact, a Final Four without any top seeds has happened twice over the last 10 years.
Defending Aint Easy
History isn't on the side of the defending champion Villanova Wildcats heading into this tournament. There have been only seven teams to win two or more consecutive champions, the last being the Florida Gators in 2006-07. If any squad is built to defend their title, it's this year's Wildcats squad, who have the core of last year's winning team all ready to put it all on the line once again.
No.16 is not Sweet 16
I've mentioned this in every article I've written about the NCAA Tournament. Do not fill out a single bracket with a No.16 seed defeating a No.1 seed. It just won't happen. No.1 seeds are 128-0 against No.16 seeds and will likely be 132-0 after this year's tournament and 136-0 after next year's tournament.
This is the most highly-regarded spot for an upset in the first round of action. Nobody knows why, but the tournament has been kind to No.12 seeds. They have won 46 matchups since the postseason expanded to a 64-team format, which is good enough for a 36 percent win rate. Last season there were two such upsets, with Little Rock beating Purdue and Yale topping Butler.
Hottest ATS Team
Nevada closed out the regular season and conference tournament on a tear. They went 9-0 straight up and against the spread. What's more impressive is the fact that they covered all those games as favorites of between four and nine points. They open up the tournament as 6.5-point underdogs against Iowa State . The Wolfpack have covered that number three times already this year.
Coldest ATS Team
I love the motto "Good teams win. Great teams cover." While South Carolina may be a good team this year, they closed out the regular season going just 3-5 straight up. To make matters worse for bettors, they went 1-9 ATS and they were a favorite in nine of those games. They are currently a small 1.5-point favorite against Marquette.
Hottest "Over" Bet
If you are a totals player, I would suggest taking a look at the "over" in the Iowa State vs. Nevada game. The Cyclones have scored at least 80 points in nine of their last 12 games. They have also gone over the total in 12 of their past 14 games, and that includes the current nine-game over streak they are riding. Both the Cyclones and the Wolfpack love to shoot the 3-ball, so if that shot is dropping then this may eclipse the total comfortably.
Hottest "Under" Bet
The Jacksonville State Gamecocks take on the Louisville Cardinals in their tournament-opening game. For those who don't know, this Jacksonville State team is one of the hottest under bets in the country. They are also located in Alabama and not Florida. The Gamecocks have gone under the total in 15 of their last 17 games, including five straight to enter tournament play. The reason for the trend is that they play a slow methodical half-court style game that is based around limiting the possessions and not turning the ball over.
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