The first round of the NCAA Tournament tips off on Friday, March 19, and our South Region picks are in at BetRivers.com. Baylor was awarded the No. 1 seed in the South Region, but got no help from the committee with No. 8 North Carolina playing No. 9 Wisconsin in the first round, with the winner advancing to face Baylor, unless Baylor is defeated by No. 16 Hartford. The South Region is also home to the most popular upset pick of the 2021 NCAA Tournament: #12 Winthrop over #5 Villanova. The public is backing Winthrop with over 88% of the total ML handle and over 85% of ML bets to pull off the upset. Do our South Region picks line up with that upset?
Longtime national college basketball writer Rob Dauster, the co-founder of The Field of 68 Network, previews his South Region picks and breaks down the best bets to make along the way. If you are looking for a trust worthy Sportsbook in Illinois, then BetRivers should be your first choice.
Read below for a breakdown of the South 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: South Region Picks, Preview, Odds
#1 Baylor (22-2) vs. #16 Hartford (15-8)
Date/Time/TV: Friday, March 19. 3:30 p.m. ET (TruTV)
Moneyline: Baylor -10000 ML, Hartford +1600 ML
Spread: Baylor -25.5
Over/Under: 141 points
Click here for the full list of Baylor-Hartford odds.
So, generally speaking, when it comes to games like this where the spread is so massive, I tend to be wary of betting the full game line if I’m going to be on the favorite. I don’t want to get burned by the bench getting in the game early and blowing a cover. I’d much prefer to bet the underdog or the favorite’s first half line. The latter is where I’ll be for this game, but if forced to bet the full game, I would be on the Bears as well. The reason why is pretty simple, really: I spoke with Scott Drew on Sunday night. I asked him why his defense, which ranked in the top five nationally for most of the last two seasons, had been just 180th in the country since they came out of their pause. His answer? That Baylor had only had one real practice since they started playing against. They’ll have had more than a week between getting knocked out of the Big 12 tournament and starting the NCAA tournament. They’ll be able to rep out their rotations, and I do believe that will change things for them.
#8 North Carolina (18-10) vs. #9 Wisconsin (17-12)
Date/Time/TV: Friday, March 19. 7:10 p.m. ET (CBS)
Moneyline: UNC –124 ML, Wisconsin +104 ML
Spread: UNC -1.5
Over/Under: 137.5 points
Click here for the full list of North Carolina-Wisconsin odds.
Generally speaking, I am very into the idea of fading ACC teams against Big Ten teams in this event. That said, I think that I’m going to be on the Tar Heels in this spot. Outside of that weird loss to Marquette, UNC has actually played pretty well down the stretch of their season. Caleb Love started to put some things together. Walker Kessler did, too. The Tar Heels won’t have to worry about mismatches in the frontcourt against a team that wants to play two big men as well, and — to be quite frank — Wisconsin is not very good.
#5 Villanova (16-6) vs. #12 Winthrop (23-1)
Date/Time/TV: Friday, March 19. 9:57 p.m. ET (TNT)
Moneyline: Villanova -265 ML, Winthrop +215 ML
Spread: Villanova -6
Over/Under: 143 points
Click here for the full list of Villanova-Winthrop odds.
This is my favorite bet of the first round. I just do not see how Winthrop will be able to hang with Villanova even without Collin Gillespie. Justin Moore should be more than good enough to be able to handle point guard duties. The Wildcats have a pair of long, athletic wings that can handle Winthrop’s Chandler Vaudrin. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is going to be a PROBLEM for the Eagles. Villanova’s two most recent losses came in their first game without Gillespie — when Moore went down with an injury in the first half — and then against a Georgetown team that got red hot in MSG. Plus, Jay Wright will have had nine days to implement a plan to play without Gillespie.
I think Villanova wins by 15. I’m fine being on an island here.
#4 Purdue (18-9) vs. #13 North Texas (17-9)
Date/Time/TV: Friday, March 19. 7:25 p.m. ET (TNT)
Moneyline: Purdue -335 ML, North Texas +260 ML
Spread: Purdue -7.5
Over/Under: 126.5 points
Click here for the full list of Purdue-North Texas odds.
So this is going to sound a little bit weird, but here goes: I think Purdue has a real shot to get to the Final Four. I also think that I’m going to be taking the points on North Texas here. This is a game that is going to be played in the high 50s or low 60s. There are going to be ~63 possessions, give or take a few. Where Purdue is going to have the advantage is in the paint, and I’ll concede that the Mean Green are going to have a very difficult time slowing down the twin towers of Zach Edey and Trevion Williams. That said, North Texas shoots threes at a 37% clip while Purdue allows opponents to shoot 45.7 percent of their FGAs from beyond the arc, one of the highest marks in the country. Throw in that Purdue won’t be able t take advantage of UNT’s issues turning the ball over, and I like the Mean Green to cover.
#6 Texas Tech (17-10) vs. #11 Utah State (20-8)
Date/Time/TV: Friday, March 19. 1:45 p.m. ET (TNT)
Moneyline: Texas Tech -186 ML, Utah State +155 ML
Spread: Texas Tech -4
Over/Under: 131 points
Click here for the full list of Texas Tech-Utah State odds.
I really want to like Utah State in this spot. They are an elite defense, they do not foul and they give up next to nothing around the rim. That’s largely due to the presence of Neemias Queta, who should be able to control the lane on both ends of the floor as well as dominate the offensive glass.
That said, I just have trouble seeing Utah State being able to run offensive effectively. Texas Tech is so good at taking you out of what you want to do with their defense. They are so good at forcing turnovers, and eliminating your sets. I think the Aggie guards are really going to struggle on Friday.
#3 Arkansas (22-6) vs. #14 Colgate (14-1)
Date/Time/TV: Friday, March 19. 12:45 p.m. ET (TruTV)
Moneyline: Arkansas -385 ML, Colgate +310 ML
Spread: Arkansas -8.5
Over/Under: 161.5 points
Click here for the full list of Arkansas-Colgate odds.
This is my second favorite bet of the first round. I just cannot see how this line should be so low. Colgate wants to run and gun, which plays directly into Arkansas’ hands. The more possessions that get played in a game like this, the less variance there is going to be in the outcome. And while Colgate has great metrics, they’ve played five different teams all season long, all of whom are from the Patriot League. They have not seen the kind of length, athleticism and talent that Arkansas has at all. The Hogs in a route.
#7 Florida (14-9) vs. #10 Virginia Tech (15-6)
Date/Time/TV: Friday, March 19. 12:15 p.m. ET (CBS)
Moneyline: Florida -114 ML, Virginia Tech -105 ML
Spread: Florida -1
Over/Under: 135 points
Click here for the full list of Florida-Virginia Tech odds.
On the one hand, we have a Virginia Tech team that has played just three games in the last six weeks. On the other hand, we have a Florida team that has lost three of their last four games. It’s amazing how often the 7-10 games end up being so uninspiring and uninteresting. I like the Hokies here, mostly because I think this team has been better and more consistent this season than Florida has been.
#2 Ohio State (21-9) vs. #15 Oral Roberts (16-10)
Date/Time/TV: Friday, March 19. 3:00 p.m. ET (CBS)
Moneyline: Ohio State -1667 ML, Oral Roberts +1950 ML
Spread: Ohio State -16
Over/Under: 157.5 points
Click here for the full list of Ohio State-Oral Roberts odds.
Let’s start with this: Ohio State is the fourth-best offense in America, according to KenPom. And Oral Roberts is the worst defensive team in this tournament field, and by a fairly wide margin. There’s a non-zero chance that Ohio state could score on every single possession here. That said, I don’t see Ohio State getting all that many stops of their own. Max Abmas nd Kevin Obanor combine to form one of the best pick and roll duos in America, something that Ohio State struggles to stop, and as a team, they shooting 39 percent from three with more than 46 percent of their FGAs coming from beyond the arc. I think this is going to be an absolute shootout. So I will be on the over here.