Free 2019 March Madness Betting Picks: Best Value Bets
The bracket has been out for only about 15 hours as I write this, so most of the focus is still on picking your NCAA Tournament brackets. But the early lines are out as well, and looking there is just as important - and probably more profitable over the long term. Based on the early numbers posted, here are some free 2019 March Madness picks - the best value bets on the board at BetOnline early on. Three are dogs, and one is a big favorite that should be bigger.
Murray State +4.5 vs. Marquette, Thursday, 4:30 p.m. ET: Ja Morant is the guy who could be the second overall pick behind Zion Williamson in the draft, so when you can bet on him and get 4.5 points you at least have to take a look. Marquette was second in the Big East this year, but it was far from a great year for the conference. They are not coming in in top form, either, having lost five of their final six games. Markus Howard is a nice player for Marquette, but this is a team that is vulnerable right now. Murray State won 11 in a row to end their season and capped the year with a very nice win over Belmont in the Ohio Valley Championship Game. When you can back the best player in the game and get points to do it, and the favorite is a long way from intimidating, it's a play I'm going to be interested in.
No. 2 Michigan -15.5 vs. No. 15 Montana, Thursday, 9:20 p.m. ET: This is a rematch of last year's first-round game, which isn't supposed to be able to happen when brackets are set. And it's a matchup that no one was crying for - last year's game was lopsided and dull, and there is no real reason to expect any different here. Montana has 26 wins, but the only tournament team they played is Georgia State, and they were beaten up by teams in Arizona and Creighton that weren't able to make it here. They aren't a particularly impressive team. Michigan is coming off a frustrating loss in the Big Ten Championship Game when they shut down in the last two minutes and allowed the final 10 points. They will be angry and have done a good job of channeling setbacks. Their two tournament games before the final were dominant. And if they show that side of their game again, they will shut down Montana and pile up points of their own. The Wolverines will comfortably cover this one.
No. 16 Gardner-Webb +23.5 vs. No. 1 Virginia, Friday, 3 p.m. ET: This is not just picking on Virginia after their debacle of last year - though that is part of it for sure. But this number feels aggressive for this spot - or at least it is more attractive than the other No. 16 seeds likely are. For one, Virginia allows the fewest points in the country and doesn't run the ball to death, so this is a lot of points. Gardner-Webb, like several of the No. 16 teams, have already played a handful of tournament teams. But what stands out about this team is that they have not only already played two ACC teams, but they beat both of them. That was just Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, so this is a big step up. But at least they have a sense of what is up, and they won't be intimidated. And the Bulldogs rolled through the Big South Tournament thanks to very hot shooting. If they can keep that rolling, they could make some noise. I obviously don't think they are going to pull off the upset for the second year in a row, but they could keep it close enough to cover here.
No. 12 Liberty +7 vs. No. 5 Mississippi State, Friday, 3 p.m. ET: Liberty is a miserable team to play against. They are coached by former Virginia assistant Ritchie McKay, and from his former gig he brought a real commitment to taking the air out of the ball and really slowing things down. And because they play that kind of style with real commitment, they are able to get their shot when the opportunity presents itself. They are at a talent disadvantage here, but they have exactly the style of play that can help overcome that. And Mississippi State, while a decent enough team, isn't so good that they can't be caught flat-footed. The team won only two of their last five games, and those wins were both against a Texas A&M team that is just plain bad. Ben Howland isn't what he was, so him at the helm doesn't give this squad a real boost. Mississippi State is vulnerable, and the price is right for the dog here.
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