After Tuesday and Wednesday’s opening round games, 32 contests will be played in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Predictions against the spread will be difficult to make during all of March Madness 2017, but that might be especially true in the round of 64.
The first round, scheduled for Thursday and Friday, has become synonymous with buzzer-beaters and shocking upsets. A few double-digit seeds should advance to the second round, while others will put a scare into higher seeds and cover the spread.
Below are picks against the spread for every first-round game in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, as well as updated betting odds at Las Vegas and online sportsbooks. Betting lines and trends are courtesy of OddsShark.
Thursday, March 16
No.12 Princeton (+7) vs. No.5 Notre Dame
Making 10 three-pointers per game, Princeton has what it takes to pull off a first-round upset. After going a perfect 14-0 in the Ivy League, the Tigers should be competitive with Notre Dame, at the very least.
Prediction ATS: Princeton
No.12 UNC Wilmington (+7.5) vs. No.5 Virginia
With No.12 seeds going 21-10-1 against the spread when facing No.5 seeds in recent years, via OddsShark, it’s tough to lay this many points. Virginia grinds out victories with their elite defense, and they might win a close, low-scoring game.
Prediction ATS: UNC Wilmington
No.13 Winthrop (+11) vs. No.4 Butler
The Bulldogs finished second in a very competitive Big East conference. Winthrop is 0-2 against tournament teams, losing by double digits in both contests, and their first-round matchup could be more of the same.
Prediction ATS: Butler
No.16 South Dakota State (+22.5) vs. No.1 Gonzaga
Gonzaga might have trouble in their region, but they shouldn’t have any problems in their first game. Their defense is too good for South Dakota State to make things close in the second half.
Prediction ATS: Gonzaga
No.13 Bucknell (+14) vs. No.4 West Virginia
Considering West Virginia is under .500 against the spread as a favorite, as well as the fact that a No.13 seed has won outright in 12 of the last 16 years, Bucknell might be the right play here.
Prediction ATS: Bucknell
No.13 East Tennessee State (+10) vs. No.4 Florida
The Gators have been terrific against the spread as favorites, going 18-8 this season. With one of the nation’s best defenses, they should breeze to the round of 32.
Prediction ATS: Florida
No.12 Middle Tennessee State (-1) vs. No.5 Minnesota
Middle Tennessee State has become a popular pick because of their upset as a No.15 seed in last year’s tournament. It might be smart to bet against the public and take Minnesota, who just needs a win to cover the spread.
Prediction ATS: Minnesota
No.9 Vanderbilt (-1) vs. No.8 Northwestern
Don’t let Vanderbilt’s 15 losses fool you. They’ve improved over the last few weeks, and Northwestern might have to wait at least one more season before getting their first-ever NCAA Tournament victory.
Prediction ATS: Vanderbilt
No.11 Xavier (+2) vs. No.6 Maryland
The Musketeers have a chance to do some real damage in the bracket’s weakest region. They should be able to get by Maryland, who has lost four of their last six games.
Prediction ATS: Xavier
No.10 VCU (+4.5) vs. No.7 St. Mary’s
If it wasn’t for their losses to Gonzaga, St. Mary’s would’ve nearly had a perfect regular season. VCU could have trouble scoring in an early exit from the tournament.
Prediction ATS: St. Mary’s
No.13 Vermont (+9) vs. No.4 Purdue
It’s easy to discount Vermont’s chances because of their struggles against tournament teams, but their 16-0 conference record indicates that they’ll be a tough out in the tournament. With the country’s No.11 scoring defense, the Catamounts could spoil Purdue’s Final Four hopes.
Prediction ATS: Vermont
No.14 Florida Gulf Coast (+12) vs. No.3 Florida State
Florida State might be one of the most overrated teams in the tournament. FGCU has experienced March Madness success in recent years, and they have a chance to beat the Seminoles outright.
Prediction ATS: Florida Gulf Coast
No.9 Virginia Tech (+5.5) vs. No.8 Wisconsin
The Badgers have the talent to be a much higher seed, and that could show in the first weekend of the tournament. Wisconsin’s senior leadership should help them advance to the second round.
Prediction ATS: Wisconsin
No.15 North Dakota (+16.5) vs. No.2 Arizona
Arizona could’ve arguably been a No.1 seed, going 30-4 with a Pac-12 Championship. They’ll have no trouble winning their first tournament game.
Prediction ATS: Arizona
No.12 Nevada (+6) vs. No.5 Iowa State
Playing the percentages here and taking the points with another No.12 seed might be the best bet. Nevada enters the tournament on a nine-game winning streak.
Prediction ATS: Nevada
No.16 Mount St. Mary’s (+26.5) vs. No.1 Villanova
With Mount. St. Mary's playing just two days after a win and Villanova having a week off, it might be hard for the Wildcats to win by close to 30 points.
Prediction ATS: Mount St. Mary's
Friday, March 17
No.10 Oklahoma State (+2.5) vs. No.7 Michigan
Both teams can really score, and this might make for the best game in the entire round of 64. The problem for Oklahoma State is that they can’t stop anyone.
Prediction ATS: Michigan
No.14 New Mexico State (+12.5) vs. No.3 Baylor
With five losses in their last nine games, Baylor isn’t exactly playing like a No.3 seed. Even if they’re able to advance, this contest could end up being closer than they would’ve liked.
Prediction ATS: New Mexico State
No.9 Seton Hall (+1) vs. No.8 Arkansas
This game is basically a toss-up, but Arkansas might have the slight edge because of their ability to score. Before losing in the SEC Championship Game, the Razorbacks had averaged nearly 81 points in their previous eight games.
Prediction ATS: Arkansas
No.14 Iona (+15) vs. No.3 Oregon
Oregon isn’t the same team without Chris Boucher. They’ll probably beat Iona, but the No.14 seed could keep it within single digits.
Prediction ATS: Iona
No.15 Jacksonville State (+20) vs. No.2 Louisville
Louisville might be headed to the Final Four, and it begins with an easy win over Jacksonville State.
Prediction ATS: Louisville
No.16 Texas Southern (+27) vs. No.1 North Carolina
Only one No.16 seed kept their first-round game within 25 points a year ago. Having lost by an average of 29.3 points in their four games against ranked opponents, Texas Southern isn’t likely to keep things close against the Tar Heels.
Prediction ATS: North Carolina
No.11 Rhode Island (+1) vs. No.6 Creighton
Rhode Island is very good defensively, and they match up well with Creighton. With the best three-point defense of any team in the field, the Rams should be able to limit the Blue Jays’ opportunities from behind the arc, where they shoot 40 percent.
Prediction ATS: Rhode Island
No.10 Wichita State (-6) vs. No.7 Dayton
It makes little sense that the Shockers are a No.10 seed. Dayton is certainly no pushover, but Wichita State has beat up on mid-majors all season long.
Prediction ATS: Wichita State
No.15 Troy (+19) vs. No.2 Duke
It would make sense to lay the 19 points if this game was being played last weekend, but Duke might have cooled off with nearly a week in between their first-round game and winning the ACC Championship. The Blue Devils failed to blow out two double-digit seeds in last year’s tournament, and their 2017 run could be similar.
Prediction ATS: Troy
No.9 Michigan State (+2) vs. No.8 Miami
Tom Izzo doesn’t have the same caliber of players that he often leads on deep tournament runs. Michigan State could be headed for a second straight first-round knockout, and Miami is the most dangerous sleeper in the Midwest region.
Prediction ATS: Miami
No.15 Northern Kentucky (+20) vs. No.2 Kentucky
The Wildcats might have problems after the first round, but the talent gap is too great for Northern Kentucky to have any chance at all. This one could be over at halftime.
Prediction ATS: Kentucky
No.10 Marquette (+1.5) vs. No.7 South Carolina
When a top defense faces a top offense, it’s usually the defense that comes out on top. That should be the case for South Carolina, who is fifth in the country in defensive efficiency.
Prediction ATS: South Carolina
No.14 Kent State (+18) vs. No.3 UCLA
UCLA might have the best offense of any team in the Big Dance. Lonzo Ball will prove exactly why there is so much hype surrounding him ahead of the 2017 NBA Draft.
Prediction ATS: UCLA
No.11 Kansas State (+3) vs. No.6 Cincinnati
The Bearcats might be one of the most underrated teams in March Madness, and they have a real chance to reach the second weekend of the tournament.
Prediction ATS: Cincinnati
No.11 USC (+6.5) vs. No.6 SMU
The Trojans already beat SMU earlier this season, and they could benefit from having played in the preliminary round.
Prediction ATS: USC
No.16 UC Davis (+22.5) vs. No.1 Kansas
Kansas has beaten four mid-majors by at least 20 points this season, and UC Davis will be added to the list Friday.
Prediction ATS: Kansas