March Madness Opening Round Best Bets: Thursday Edition

First off, if you even thought to correct me by saying “well, actually this is considered Round 2,” you can fuck right off. As far as I can concerned, those play-in games are appetizers and the games played this Thursday and Friday are the real Round 1. Now that we cleared that up, let’s get crazy pumped because this is one of the best times of the year. The weather is starting to get nicer, baseball regular season is about to start, NBA and NHL are nearing playoff season and the NFL is relevant because of free agency and draft hype. But at least for the next three weeks, its all about March Madness baby! If you are a true degenerate like me, you took vacation days from work for the first two days of the tournament. If not, enjoy trying to refresh the live scores while working on those TPS reports, loser!

The next few days are about relaxing, watching hoops, eating shit, drinking beers and most importantly, making money. One quick thing; brackets are fun, but that is not a realistic way to make money. Sure you may get lucky and win your pool, but the bracket contests are so random and they are usually won by some girl who just picked schools because of their mascots or based on the hoodies she “accumulated” over her college career. Guys like me and you who know the 6th man on fucking Fairleigh Dickinson (don’t quiz me I was exaggerating) always end up coming up empty handed because nothing ever happens the way it should. I am not saying don’t do the pools, they are fun and provide a solid social experience, but don’t actually count on them to make money. That is reserved for betting on the games.

I will be honest with you, while I am going to list a thought or two for every game, I do not consider straight betting to be the best way to win during March Madness. If your book allows in-game betting, that is hands down the best way to make cash (if your book doesn’t, you need a new book like, yesterday.) Basketball is a game of runs; of ebbs and flows if you will. As long as both teams are competent, it is likely that leads will be changed and teams will go on hot streaks.

Take last night’s play-in game for example: Fairleigh Dickinson tipped off as a 2 point favorite against Prairie View A&M. Ten minutes into the game, A&M was up 11 and the in-game line was FDU +7.5. I pounded that; yeah they got off to a slow start, but a run was coming, there was no way they were going to roll over so early. By the time there was four minutes left in the game, FDU was up 6 and the in game line was FDU -6.5. In cases like this, you can either sit pretty with your winning wager, or get greedy like I did and take A&M +6.5 in game. Worst case scenario, they cancel each other out and you just lose the juice, but there is a very real scenario the game lands on a number in between those two and you win both. That is my favorite feeling in sports betting; nailing a middle like that.

So be sure to follow us on Twitter @BrandedBets and I will try to post as many in game wagers as I can. Or better yet, if you bet on sports, you must download the Action Network app where you can follow my action, full game and in-game at GamblinDan88. This app is a great way to track all of your own bets as well as follow others, and they are not paying us to say this. However, this column is about the full game bets; who is going to crush, what potential upsets await us, and who is going home early? We are going to go game by game for a quick overview in order of start time. We will post Friday’s action soon, but see below for all of Thursday’s match-ups.


Minnesota vs Louisville (-5)


Not gonna lie to you; this game isn’t great. It’s a fine way to get things started in what will be a loooong day of basketball, but the fact that all people are talking about regarding this game is somebody who is not involved in it says it all. Legendary but disgraced coach Rick Pitino’s former team faces off against the team now coached by his son. I guess that is kind of interesting?  Anyway, no value in the line here,the game should end close to the number and we will hope Minnesota gets off to a hot start and allows us to play Louisville in-game at a good number.

Play: None

Lean: Louisville -5

Yale vs LSU -7.5

Everybody loves upsets this time of year, and rightfully so, they are fun. But the fact that everyone wants to see them can often result in people talking themselves into picking them for more games than they should. I have seen a ton of love for Yale in this spot by people who forget that this team was a few mins away from losing to fucking Princeton in the Ivy League Championship. It is nice of the Ivy League to let the kids miss class for one day, but Yale is going to be back on campus in no time. LSU takes care of business.

Play: LSU -7.5

University of Vermont vs Florida State -9

This one is another stay away from me. If you want to follow a guy who needs action on every game, I am not your man. But this one could end up being a 25 point FSU win, or it could come down to the wire. Vermont can play a little, and they have this dude Anthony Lamb who you should keep an eye on. This kid can play. In an ideal world, Lamb comes out firing, Vermont goes up something like 14-5 at the first TV time out, and we can get FSU at -6 in the in game line.

No play or lean.

Bradley vs Michigan State -18.5

Bradley was able to win their conference by playing a hideous slow style of basketball that worked against shitty teams. That will not happen in this one; Michigan State can name the score here. The thing you have to worry about laying a lot of points in these games is that these teams don’t care about winning by a certain amount, so if MSU is up by 26 with 5 mins left and Tom Izzo starts getting his horses rest for the next round, what’s to stop Bradley from going on a meaningless run to cut the lead to 18? That is why they call it gambling, but I am willing to bet on a rout here. Like Cooper at the Oscars, this Bradley will also be going home empty handed.

Play: MSU -18.5

Belmont vs Maryland -3

Now we’re talking baby! This is a heck of a game and a nightmare match-up for UMD. Belmont can shoot and shoot they will. Maryland has limped into the tournament, playing their worst basketball to end the year, while Belmont is on a hot streak. UMD looks ripe for an early exit. Belmont wins this game outright.

Play: Belmont +3

Northeastern vs Kansas -6.5

The down side to writing this article now is that I have to give you NE +6.5 as a play when they opened at 8 but have since been bet down. I really like Northeastern here and I think they have a chance to win this game outright. Northeastern shoots lights out and have won 12 of their last 13. Kansas can be scary at home but elsewhere they are very vulnerable.

Play: Northeastern +6.5

Murray State vs Marquette -3.5

Wow, this is a fun one. While there are two whole teams going head to head here, everybody is watching this game for one match-up: Ja Morant vs Markus Howard. Howard is great and all, but Morant is a phenom, and we have seen guys like him lead small schools to tournament runs. Im in on the Morant hype. Lets go!


Play: Murray State +3.5

Florida vs Nevada -2.5

I like to fade teams with great records who have played shitty schools all year. Nevada comes into the tournament with an impressive 29-4 record, but believe me when I say the Mountain West Conference was a bunch of doody this year. Florida is at least battle tested and better coached. Look for a UF win here.

Florida +2.5

ACU vs Kentucky -22

We know Kentucky is going to win this game, but Abelene Christian can shoot. I’m not trying to mess around with a 22 point spread here; Kentucky could win by 50 if they try, or they could sleepwalk through this one a bit and win 84-75. Your guess is as good as mine. No play.

Plays or leans: None

St. Mary’s vs Villanova -4.5

Where I’m from in Philly, everyone wants to root for Villanova. They have given us many thrilling seasons recently and Jay Wright is a great coach. But even the biggest Nova fan must admit that this team is just not the same as previous seasons. Its not an insult to them; they have lost so much talent that the fact that they are still one of the better teams in the country is a testament to the program. But St. Mary’s is scrappy and they defend the three extremely well. Villanova relies heavily on the three. I think SMC could win this game, but at the very least I think they keep it close.

Play: St. Mary’s +4.5

Fairleigh Dickinson vs Gonzaga -27.5

Well FDU, congratulations, you won the play in game and got to play in a real tournament game. Unfortunately, you are going to get smoked by the Zags. I’ve already expressed my reservations of laying this many points, but this is a mismatch of epic proportions. Gonzaga can name the score here, and I do think they win by 30+.

Play: Gonzaga -27.5

Montana vs Michigan -15

The NCAA does try to avoid teams facing each other in the first round in back to back years, so it happens very rarely. However, this is one of those occasions. Montana is nothing if not experienced, and while Michigan had a successful season, it is hard to watch them and not think that they are missing something. I think Montana shows up big time here and puts a scare into UM. They won’t win the game, but they will stay within the number.

Play: Montana +15

Seton Hall vs Wofford -2.5

It is rare to see a mid major favored against a team from a major conference like this, but Wofford is legit. Wofford lost four games all year with their only losses coming at Mississippi State, at Kansas, at UNC and at Oklahoma. That is an insane resume for any team let alone a team from the Southern conference. On the other hand, Seton Hall is hot and they have Myles Powell who is an absolute monster and could take over this game by himself.

I could see either side winning this game, and it could end up being a great in-game spot, but for now this is a no-play and a game I am very much looking forward to enjoying.

Old Dominion vs Purdue -12.5

Eh, who knows. This is right in the “we know Purdue is going to win we just don’t know by how much” zone. I don’t think this game has any upset potential, but could it end up as a 10 point game? Sure. No thanks on this one.

No play or lean.

Baylor vs Syracuse -1

One annoying zone defense vs another zone defense. Flip a coin. Neither of these teams are going far. If you want a safe bet, you can bet “yes” for “Will Degenerate Dan fall asleep during this game?” at -2300. Lots of juice, but worth laying it.


That is what I got for Thursday. I know my writeups for the last few games got stingy because I honestly don’t have any feel for them so I didn’t want to waste any time writing about them. I am so pumped for beer and hoops, make sure you follow us for winners all weekend.

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