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The madness of the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament begins in earnest Thursday, as the round of 64 takes place in four cities across the nation.
Powerhouse programs Kansas, Duke, Kentucky and Arizona are among the headliners of Thursday’s slate, but their matchups might not be as interesting to watch as others.
Thursday starts with an explosive showdown between Rhode Island and Oklahoma featuring Sooners freshman Trae Young and it concludes with Florida’s meeting versus either St. Bonaventure or UCLA.
Throughout the day, unexpected results that drive bettors crazy will pop up at the worst times, but there will also be risks that pay off if calculated to perfection.
Thursday 1st-Round Schedule (Odds via OddsShark, Times ET)
No. 7 Rhode Island (Even) vs. No. 10 Oklahoma (12:15 p.m., CBS)
No. 3 Tennessee (-13.5) vs. No. 14 Wright State (12:40 p.m., truTV)
No. 4 Gonzaga (-11) vs. No. 13 UNC Greensboro (1:30 p.m., TNT)
No. 1 Kansas (-15) vs. No. 16 Penn (2 p.m., TBS)
No. 2 Duke (-20) vs. No. 15 Iona (2:45 p.m., CBS)
No. 6 Miami (-1) vs. No. 11 Loyola-Chicago (3:10 p.m., truTV)
No. 5 Ohio State (-8.5) vs. No. 12 South Dakota State (4 p.m., TNT)
No. 8 Seton Hall (-2) vs. No. 9 NC State (4:30 p.m., TBS)
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 LIU Brooklyn or No. 16 Radford (6:50 p.m., TNT)
No. 5 Kentucky (-6) vs. No. 12 Davidson (7:10 p.m., CBS)
No. 6 Houston (-3.5) vs. No. 11 San Diego State (7:20 p.m., TBS)
No. 3 Texas Tech (-11.5) vs. No. 14 Stephen F. Austin (7:27 p.m., truTV)
No. 8 Virginia Tech (-2) vs. No. 9 Alabama (9:20 p.m., TNT)
No. 4 Arizona (-8) vs. No. 13 Buffalo (9:40 p.m., CBS)
No. 3 Michigan (-12) vs. No. 14 Montana (9:50 p.m., TBS)
No. 6 Florida vs. No. 11 St. Bonaventure or No. 11 UCLA (9:57 p.m., truTV)
No. 10 Oklahoma def. No. 7 Rhode Island
No. 3 Tennessee def. No. 14 Wright State
No. 4 Gonzaga def. No. 13 UNC Greensboro
No. 1 Kansas def. No. 16 Penn
No. 2 Duke def. No. 15 Iona
No. 11 Loyola-Chicago def. No. 6 Miami
No. 12 South Dakota State def. No. 5 Ohio State
No. 8 Seton Hall def. No. 9 NC State
No. 1 Villanova def. No. 16 LIU Brooklyn or No. 16 Radford
No. 5 Kentucky def. No. 12 Davidson
No. 6 Houston def. No. 11 San Diego State
No. 3 Texas Tech def. No. 14 Stephen F. Austin
No. 9 Alabama def. No. 8 Virginia Tech
No. 4 Arizona def. No. 13 Buffalo
No. 3 Michigan def. No. 14 Montana
No. 6 Florida def. No. 11 St. Bonaventure or No. 11 UCLA
Stay Far Away from Oklahoma vs. Rhode Island
It’s hard to stay away from betting any game in the NCAA tournament because of the intrigue the event provides, but it’s worth your while to stay far away from the opening game in the round of 64.
The temptation is there to start your day off on a hot streak, but there’s no way you can trust either No. 7 Rhode Island or No. 10 Oklahoma.
Both the Rams and Sooners come into the Big Dance off a downturn in form, as Rhode Island dropped three of its last five games, including the Atlantic 10 tournament final to Davidson.
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Much was made of Oklahoma’s rough patch in February, as it went 2-8 to close the season, with its only victories coming against Kansas State and Iowa State.
The intrigue to wager on the contest taking place in Pittsburgh comes from the presence of Trae Young, and while it is certainly possible for him to go off from the field and shine on the sport’s biggest stage, there is no guarantee it will happen.
Since the start of February, Young has scored in double digits in all of his games, but his totals vary between 11 and 32 points.
What makes this game even less attractive to bettors is the even line it currently possesses. Even if the line moves in either direction, it is going to be one of Thursday’s smallest and provides little wiggle room outside of picking a straight-up win by either team.
Embrace the Potential Cinderella Teams
Two of the top potential threats to bust your bracket appear on Thursday afternoon’s slate.
No. 11 Loyola-Chicago and No. 12 South Dakota State have the talent on their respective rosters capable of knocking off No. 6 Miami and No. 5 Ohio State.
The Ramblers out of the Missouri Valley Conference are already picking up steam with bettors, as they are a one-point underdog against Miami at the moment, which means you must have more confidence in them to win straight up.
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The Jackrabbits of South Dakota State sit as an 8.5-point underdog against the Buckeyes, which is a much more favorable line to bet on in case the Summit League champion comes up short of its upset bid.
Loyola’s Clayton Custer and South Dakota State’s Mike Daum are two of the individuals from mid-major programs worth keeping an eye on as difference-makers Thursday.
If you are looking for an upset special Thursday night, keep an eye on No. 14 Montana, who won’t receive a ton of attention because it is playing No. 3 Michigan.
Taking the Grizzlies as a 12-point underdog against a red-hot Wolverines team that won the Big Ten tournament is a risky move, but the Big Sky champion has the potential to play with anyone with a trio of players who average over 13 points per game.
Selecting Montana to either cover or win in the late quartet of games could be an added bonus to your haul, and it should create momentum going into Friday’s 16-game slate chock-full of intriguing bets.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.
Statistics obtained from ESPN.com.