The first round of the NCAA Tournament tips off on Friday, March 19, and our East Region picks are in at BetRivers.com. No. 1 seed Michigan has a tough draw in the East region, with several darkhorse Final Four teams primed for an upset. The NCAA Tournament bracket in the East is set up for turmoil as the Wolverines could potentially meet the ACC Tournament runners-up, the Pac-12 Tournament runners-up, the Big 12 Tournament champs and the SEC regular-season and tournament champs.
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Longtime national college basketball writer Rob Dauster, the co-founder of The Field of 68 Network, previews his East Region picks and breaks down the best bets to make along the way.
Read below for a breakdown of the East Region picks, preview and odds.
- Texas Southern, Appalachian State, and Wichita State all win in First Four. Was +523, Now +625
- Over 5.5 games go into OT in the entire NCAA Tournament. Was -110. Now +105
- Any team to win by 40+ points in the NCAA Tournament. Was +200. Now +235
- Baylor or Iowa to score the most points in the NCA Tournament. Was +150. Now +175
- Michigan State to win, Over 139.5 total game points vs. UCLA. Was +295. Now +340
- Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan all reach the Final Four. Was +656. Now +750
- Winthrop to beat Villanova or Oregon State to beat Tennessee. Was -134. Now -115
- St. Bonaventure to beat LSU. Was +107. Now +120
NCAA Tournament Predictions: East Region Picks, Preview, Odds
#1 Michigan (20-4) vs. #16 Mt. St. Mary’s/#16 Texas Southern
Date/Time/TV: Saturday, March 20. 3:00 p.m. ET (CBS)
#8 LSU (18-9) vs. #9 St. Bonaventure (16-4)
Date/Time/TV: Saturday, March 20. 1:45 p.m. ET (TNT)
Moneyline: LSU -132 ML, St. Bonaventure +112 ML
Spread: LSU -2
Over/Under: 143 points
Click here for the full list of LSU-St. Bonaventure odds.
This is the toughest game for me to figure out in the first round. On the one hand, LSU is incredibly talented. Cam Thomas, Trendon Watford, Javonte Smart. When they are clicking, the Tigers are one of the most dangerous offensive teams in America. That said, they are not always clicking, and even when they are, the Tigers spend long stretches completely uninterested in playing defense of any kind.
To me, the key here is going to be Osun Osunniyi for St. Bonaventure. The Bonnies are not deep at all, and Osunniyi is a tremendous defensive presence in the paint. If he gets into foul trouble early, then I think that Mark Schmidt’s coaching advantage may end up being irrelevant here. But the truth is that I would not be surprised if either team won by 20 points, so this is a pure stay away for me.
#5 Colorado (22-8) vs. #12 Georgetown (13-12)
Date/Time/TV: Saturday, March 20. 12:15 p.m. ET (CBS)
Moneyline: Colorado -250 ML, Georgetown +210 ML
Spread: Colorado -6
Over/Under: 138 points
Click here for the full list of Colorado-Georgetown odds.
As much as I love the Georgetown narrative, I think the play here has to be Colorado. The Big East is overrated this season, even more so than the Pac-12, so while Georgetown won six of their last ten regular season games before ripping off four straight in the Big East tournament, this is still a team that wasn’t even sniffing the bubble before their earned the automatic bid. When a team from a power conference is a No. 12 seed as an at-large, you know they spent a long time being not very good.
Plus, Colorado has dude named McKinley Wright on the roster, and he is one of the most underrated point guards in the field. I think Tad Boyle gets it done.
#4 Florida State (16-6) vs. #13 UNC Greensboro (21-8)
Date/Time/TV: Saturday, March 20. 12:45 p.m. ET (TruTV)
Moneyline: FSU -625 ML, UNCG +460 ML
Spread: Florida State -10.5
Click here for the full list of Florida State-UNC Greensboro odds.
The problem here is going to be that this is very much a stretch-on-strength matchup. Both of these teams are going to play fairly similarly. They are going to be in an aggressive man-to-man to try and take you out of what you want to do. The different is that the Seminoles have 27 guys on their roster that are long, athletic and versatile; hell, they basically start two 6-foot-7 point guards in Scottie Barnes and RayQuan Gray.
That said, Isaiah Miller is one of the most entertaining guards in this event. He’s an absolute stud that averages 19 points and four assists and windmills in games. But he’s also all of 6-foot, and the size and length of Florida State eats up smaller guards when they are locked in. I like FSU here.
#6 BYU (20-6) vs. #11 Michigan State/#11 UCLA
Date/Time/TV: Saturday, March 20. 9:40 p.m. ET (CBS)
#3 Texas (19-7) vs. #14 Abilene Christian (23-4)
Date/Time/TV: Saturday, March 20. 9:50 p.m. ET (TruTV)
Moneyline: Texas -435 ML, Abilene Christian +340 ML
Spread: Texas -9
Over/Under: 139.5 points
Click here for the full list of Texas-Abilene Christian odds.
My first lean here was to jump all over Abilene Christian. Head coach Joe Golding plays a style that is similar to what Brad Underwood ran back in his Stephen F. Austin days. They aggressively overplay in the halfcourt, they don’t allow ball-reversals and they forced turnovers on a nation’s-best 26.7 percent of opponent possessions. This is not ideal for Texas, who commits turnovers on more than 20 percent of their offensive possessions, 236th nationally. Remember, Shaka Smart’s VCU once needed a last-second four-point play to beat Underwood’s SFA back in 2014.
That said, I don’t think Texas will be bothered all that much. For starters, they have a trio of veteran guards that have seen defenses like this before (Texas Tech, Baylor), they have the size inside to deal with SFA’s 7-footer Kolton Kohl and they just have a total talent advantage. Plus, Texas had a pause in January that limited them. I’ll be all over the Longhorns here.
#7 UConn (15-7) vs. #10 Maryland (16-13)
Date/Time/TV: Saturday, March 20. 7:10 p.m. ET (CBS)
Moneyline: UConn -157 ML, Maryland +133 ML
Spread: UConn -3
Over/Under: 130 points
Click here for the full list of UConn-Maryland odds.
I don’t think that this is a very good matchup for the Huskies. Darryl Morsell is the kind of defender that is built for taking away a guy like James Bouknight, who is the engine for everything that UConn does offensively. That said, Maryland has lost three of their last four games — including getting bounced by Penn State and Northwestern — while UConn is one three-point loss against Creighton away from entering the tournament on a six-game winning streak. The line seems about right here, so I’ll be staying away.
#2 Alabama (24-6) vs. #15 Iona (12-5)
Date/Time/TV: Saturday, March 20. 4:00 p.m. ET (TBS)
Moneyline: Alabama -2000 ML, Iona +1050 ML
Spread: Alabama -17
Over/Under: 146 points
Click here for the full list of Alabama-Iona odds.
I’m not sure that Rick Pitino working his magic here can save the Gaels. For starters, Iowa has played just one team that’s ranked in the KenPom top 150 this season, and that was a 22 point loss to Seton Hall. Then there’s the fact that the Gaels rank 327th nationally in turnover rate against the nation’s second-best defense. Throw in the fact that Iowa has spent 51 days on pause and that they foul more than any team in the country — Alabama shoots 72% from the last as a team — and I think the Tide roll.