The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, or March Madness, captivates the country each year with its high drama. The question always circling fans’ minds is which lower-seeded teams will prevail against the higher seeds — the so-called “better” teams. Here is a list of the five best upset bets for the first round of this year’s tournament.
Note: Moneylines appear according to current DraftKings Sportsbook odds.
#12 Murray State (+155) over #5 Marquette (-186)
The 12-over-5 upset is almost a yearly tradition for March Madness. The seeding seems to pit rising mid-major teams against suspect large-conference foes, and those smaller schools can be quite tough at times.
This matchup fits that bill perfectly. Plus, Murray State comes into the game with greater star power in NBA-bound guard Ja Morant.
Marquette hopes to counter Morant with its own star guard, Markus Howard. However, Howard is battling some nagging injuries along with a five-inch height deficit to Morant. So, at this point, the Murray State Racers seem the best bet for underdogs on the moneyline.
#13 UC-Irvine (+170) over #4 Kansas State (-205)
There are reasons to bet on the Anteaters that go beyond their awesome mascot. The team from California hasn’t lost a game since January and has 30 wins on its record, albeit against lighter competition.
Meanwhile, the Kansas State Wildcats are a sketchy shooting team and the sort of squad that is a few breaks away from falling apart. Obviously, Kansas State has a decent enough record, but the team’s fortunes have yo-yoed enough to suspect that something may go awry.
#14 Yale (+240) over #3 LSU (-295)
Yale is a decent enough team, to be sure. The Bulldogs can shoot the ball well, averaging over 80 points a game, and are riding high after winning the Ivy League.
However, this selection is more about the turmoil LSU is undergoing. They just suspended head coach Will Wade after he was allegedly recorded making illicit recruiting deals on the phone. Wade has been the core of the LSU program since his arrival two years ago. Hence, it remains to be seen if the Tigers will fall apart in the wake of their leader’s suspension.
Although it may seem cynical to say so, institutional trouble usually means good things for the other side of the bet.
#10 Florida (+112) over #7 Nevada (-134)
This game is the flipside of the Murray State-Marquette situation. Here, a slightly-above-average power conference team takes on an unproven mid-major media darling.
Nevada came into the season with quite a bit of buzz surrounding the team’s chances at a deep run. The team performed well enough, going 29-4 for the season. However, three of those four losses have occurred in the past month, and against decent competition. The Wolfpack‘s last game was an MWC tournament semifinal against San Diego State, a nine-point loss.
The team from Reno may be running out of gas coming down the stretch. A pesky Gator squad could reach out and bite them.
#13 Northeastern (+255) over #4 Kansas (-315)
Finally, Kansas is simply not the topflight team we usually know. This is a Jayhawks group that has had to persevere through the loss of two top players during the year. Worse yet, Kansas dropped its last game in nasty fashion. It lost by 12 to Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament Final and never looked to be the better team on the floor.
Meanwhile, Northeastern has won 12 out of its last 14 games and is riding a 7-game winning streak into the tournament. If the Huskies‘ streak is a sign that the team has put things together for good, the Jayhawks could find themselves in a lot of trouble.
Want more insight from our team here at PlayPicks? Watch this video from Matt Perrault breaking down his own potential moneyline upsets in Round 1 of the tournament.