NCAA March Madness betting: Opening lines for the first-round games of the NCAA tournament

·4 min read

For most college basketball fans, the bracket reveal is the highlight of Selection Sunday.

For bettors, the big reveal comes shortly after the bracket is set.

When BetMGM released the lines for the first-round games of the NCAA tournament, that started days of studying, debating and betting. The first two rounds of March Madness has become one of the biggest betting events in American sports, and the release of the point spreads for the first round kicks it off.

The NCAA tournament has become one of the most popular sporting events among bettors. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
The NCAA tournament has become one of the most popular sporting events among bettors. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Here are the lines for the first-round games in each region, along with the over/under:

South region (Friday)

No. 1 Baylor (-25.5) vs. No. 16 Hartford, 142.5

No. 8 North Carolina (-2) vs. No. 9 Wisconsin, 139.5

No. 5 Villanova (-6.5) vs. No. 12 Winthrop, 138.5

No. 4 Purdue (-8) vs. No. 13 North Texas, 126.5

No. 6 Texas Tech (-5) vs. No. 11 Utah State, 132.5

No. 3 Arkansas (-9.5) vs. No. 14 Colgate, 157.5

No. 7 Florida (-1) vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech, 137.5

No. 2 Ohio State (-17) vs. No. 15 Oral Roberts, 154.5

The real eye-opening number from this region might be the 157.5-point over/under for Arkansas and Colgate. Those teams push the pace and it could be one of the more entertaining games of the first round. North Carolina could be a popular bet given Wisconsin's struggles late in the season. Villanova lost guard Collin Gillespie to a knee injury and has lost both games without him, so Winthrop could be the biggest play among the always-popular No. 12 seeds.

Midwest region (Friday)

No. 1 Illinois (-22) vs. No. 16 Drexel, 144.5

No. 8 Loyola Chicago (-2.5) vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech, 126.5

No. 5 Tennessee (-8.5) vs. No. 12 Oregon State, 134.5

No. 4 Oklahoma State (-9.5) vs. No. 13 Liberty, 146.5

No. 6 San Diego State (-2) vs. No. 11 Syracuse, 137.5

No. 3 West Virginia (-12) vs. No. 14 Morehead State, 137.5

No. 7 Clemson vs. No. 10 Rutgers (-1), 127.5

No. 2 Houston (-19.5) vs. No. 15 Cleveland State, 135.5

Loyola Chicago is a darling of analytics, and bettors who study sites like KenPom.com will happily back the Ramblers in the first round. Houston ended up being the biggest favorite among the No. 2 seeds.

West region (Saturday)

No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 Norfolk State/Appalachian State

No. 8 Oklahoma (-2) vs. No. 9 Missouri, 140.5

No. 5 Creighton (-7) vs. No. 12 UC Santa Barbara, 140.5

No. 4 Virginia (-9.5) vs. No. 13 Ohio, 130.5

No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 Wichita State/Drake

No. 3 Kansas (-11) vs. No. 14 Eastern Washington, 142.5

No. 7 Oregon (-6) vs. No. 10 VCU, 136.5

No. 2 Iowa (-15) vs. No. 15 Grand Canyon, 144.5

Thursday First Four games: Norfolk State vs. Appalachian State (-3), 135.5; Wichita State (-2) vs. Drake, 139.5

Gonzaga will be a huge favorite in the first round, but we have to wait to see the Bulldogs' point spread because they'll play the winner of the Norfolk State-Appalachian State First Four game on Thursday. UC Santa Barbara could be a popular 12 vs. 5 upset pick, and the moneyline on the Gauchos is +260. Oregon is by far the biggest favorite among the four No. 7 seeds in the tournament.

East region (Saturday)

No. 1 Michigan vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's/Texas Southern

No. 8 LSU (-1.5) vs. No. 9 St. Bonaventure, 133.5

No. 5 Colorado (-5) vs. No. 12 Georgetown, 138.5

No. 4 Florida State (-11.5) vs. No. 13 UNC-Greensboro, 145.5

No. 6 BYU vs. No. 11 Michigan State/UCLA

No. 3 Texas (-8.5) vs. No. 14 Abilene Christian, 140.5

No. 7 UConn (-2.5) vs. No. 10 Maryland, 129.5

No. 2 Alabama (-17.5) vs. No. 15 Iona, 145.5

Thursday First Four games: Mount St. Mary's vs. Texas Southern (-2), 132.5; Michigan State (-1.5) vs. UCLA, 136.5

LSU-St. Bonaventure could be the best game of the first round, and the line is one of the smallest on the board. Given Georgetown's incredible run through the Big East tournament, its first-round spread against Colorado could go down some. 

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