This Week’s Betting Edge: Picking NCAA Tournament Opening-Round Upsets

betting edge

David Schwab

Monday, March 12, 2018 2:27 PM UTC

Monday, Mar. 12, 2018 2:27 PM UTC

The field for the 2018 Men’s NCAA Tournament has been set with the quest for this season’s national title set to get underway this week. The opening round offers the most betting action at Bovada with 32 games on the slate, and this week’s betting edge has uncovered an upset play in each of the four regions.

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South Region

The opening-round game that jumps off the page in the South Region is the Horizon League’s No. 14 Wright State as a heavy 13.5-point underdog against the SEC’s No. 3 Tennessee Volunteers. I am not saying that you should pencil in the Raiders to the second round with a straight-up win, but this is going to be a much closer game than the current spread at Bovada.

Wright State went 25-9 this season, culminated by a 74-57 victory against Cleveland State in the Horizon League Tournament title game as a 9.5-point favorite. The Raiders have covered in their last four games overall, and they are 4-1 ATS in their last five games closing as underdogs.

The Volunteers made a nice run to the SEC Tournament Championship before losing to Kentucky 77-72 as two-point favorites. Going back over their last 10 games, they have gone just 4-6 against the spread. Tennessee is 1-3 ATS this season as a double-digit favorite.

West Region

My upset special in the West Region could be a SU win by the underdog in the dreaded No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchup. The Big Ten’s Ohio State Buckeyes have been opened as eight-point favorites for their opening round matchup against the Summit League’s South Dakota State Jackrabbits.

At one point this season, the Buckeyes won 13 of 14 games SU, including a 9-0 start in conference play, but all that momentum was lost with 2-3 run over their last five games, including a 69-68 loss to Penn State as five-point favorites in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

The Jackrabbits earned the No. 12 seed in the West with an 11-game winning streak while going a profitable 8-2 ATS in their final 10 games. I am banking on South Dakota State to, at the very least, cover with the eight points.

East Region

It would be hard to call a No. 9 seed beating a No. 8 seed as a two-point underdog a major upset in the East Region, but it is all about cashing winners when betting on the games. The No. 8 Virginia Tech Hokies, out of the ACC will face the SEC’s No. 9 Alabama Crimson Tide, with the Hokies favored by two.

Virginia Tech has posted some quality wins in the ACC this season, including against Virginia, Duke and North Carolina. My concern is a 1-3 SU record in its last four games. Thursday, the Hokies will find themselves in tight matchup against an evenly-matched opponent, so those recent losses could cast a shadow on their chances to advance.

I also like the fact that the Crimson Tide come into this game at 3-1 ATS in their last four games after closing as underdogs in all four contests.

Midwest Region

My top upset in the Midwest is another cover ATS with the SEC’s No. 4 Auburn Tigers listed as 10.5-point favorites against the No. 13 Charleston Cougars, out of the CAA. Auburn should win this game SU, but it is going to know it was in a battle against a Cougars team that has just one SU loss in the last 15 games.

Auburn won the SEC regular-season title, but it backs into this game with just one SU win in its last four outings. This includes an ugly 81-63 loss to Alabama in the SEC Tournament as a 6.5-point favorite. The Tigers have failed to cover in five of their last six games, closing as favorites in five of those contests.

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