March Madness is back after last year’s tournament was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While COVID has still taken a toll on certain teams, most notably Duke, the tournament is intact. Round one will be tipping off at noon Eastern Time when Florida takes on Virginia Tech in an 8-9 seed match-up.
Of course, March Madness is one of the biggest sports betting events of the year. Given the wild nature of the current college hoops season, this tournament provides some interesting betting opportunities. On both opening days, there are multiple upset picks worth taking an eye on. The time for filling out brackets has passed, but March Madness match-ups can provide some of the best sports betting opportunities of the year.
In this article, we’ll focus on games that aren’t quite worth betting by themselves, but could easily be used in parlays.
Winthrop (+225) vs. Villanova (-275)
Just a few weeks ago, Villanova seemed poised for another deep run. The fifth seeded Wildcats have a potential lottery pick in Jerimiah Robinson Earl, who accompanied his teammate Colin Gillespie in a three way tie for Big East Player of The Year. Jay Wright has of course rocketed to elite status after two NCAA Championships and has again fielded a deep and competitive roster.
With that said, Villanova enters the 2021 tournament on shaky ground. The team is riddled with injuries, losing Collin Gillespie to a brutal knee injury just two weeks ago. Gillespie finished in the top 10 for the Bob Cousy award, which recognizes the best point guard in the nation.
Following Gillespie’s injury, Nova was upset in the Big East Tournament and lost to Georgetown. They head into the tournament with a 3-4 record over their last seven with losses coming to Georgetown, Providence Butler and fellow five seed Creighton. As a result, Villanova isn’t as big of a favorite as they could have been and have a lower seeding. Naturally, this has led to Winthrop becoming a sneaky underdog play.
Winthrop is a team that plays with plenty of pace, so the loss of Gillespie could be exploited to the max. With that said, Villanova makes up for their lack of pace with big size advantages. Ultimately, it’s just hard to see Winthrop getting by a Jay Wright team that still has plenty of talent. Villanova might not be making a deep run, but at (-275), they’re certainly worth betting as a nice parlay piece.
Prediction and play: Villanova (-275)
North Texas (+245) vs. Perdue (-300)
After getting through a gauntlet Big Ten season and tournament, the Perdue Boilermakers have earned themselves a four seed. A great defensive team, Perdue won six of their last seven games to close out the season, but were bounced from the tournament by Ohio State in round one.
Still, Perdue comes in hot. An overtime loss to Ohio State is nothing to get upset about, as evidenced by the Buckeyes earning themselves a two seed. The Boilermakers also swept Ohio State in the regular season and held their own in a Big Ten that has generated multiple highly ranked teams in the NCAA tournament.
Ultimately I expect Perdue to get it done here. As a three-to-one favorite, Perdue is another team worth throwing in a parlay.
Prediction and play: Perdue (-300)
Wisconsin (+106) vs. North Carolina (-124)
The classic 8-9 seed match-up always provides some of the toughest games to predict. This one is no exception when two teams from the middle of the pack in elite conferences, square off.
Wisconsin spent much of the season ranked in the top 25 but faltered late in the year. The team was bounced in round two of the Big Ten tournament, losing to a heavy hitting Iowa team. All told, the Badgers have dropped six of their last eight games.
As for North Carolina, they were bounced from the ACC tournament semi-finals by Florida State in a close game. UNC closed out the season with some notable performances, including a dominant win over Duke and an ACC tournament win over Virginia Tech.
I will definitely be going with North Carolina in this one due to recent form above all else. These teams just have two different trajectories right now, though of course they call it “March Madness” for a reason. Anything can happen, but it’s hard to bet on this Wisconsin team right now. Plus, we see the ACC punch above their weight routinely, even in down years.
Betting wise, this game has a solid enough line to bet straight. Parlay it with one of the above picks and you’ll have a solid two-leg parlay for day one of March Madness, however.
Prediction and play: North Carolina (-124)