NCAA Tournament First Round Picks 2019

Written by:
Phil Simon
Published on:
Mar/21/2019

Get strapped in because the Madness is about to begin. The NCAA Tournament starts in full on Thursday with 16 first-round games. It’s the first step toward Minneapolis for the higher-seeded teams while the others look to become a Cinderella story.


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*Note: The following article is courtesy of Bookmaker

There’s never been a team seeded worse than No. 8 reach the National Championship game, but we have seen some get to the Final Four. It happened just last year when 11-seed Loyola-Chicago made it before bowing to Michigan in the semis. And who can forget the monumental upset pulled UMBC, the first No. 16 to win a first-round game in Tournament history.

Let’s take a look at a few first round matchups that can make you some money. And, oh yeah, let the Madness begin.

No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson vs. No. 1 Gonzaga

Date and Time: Thursday, March 21, 2019, 7:27 p.m. ET

Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, UT

Opening CBB Odds: Gonzaga -27, O/U 152.5

Fairleigh Dickinson vs. Gonzaga TV Coverage: truTV

Everybody loves a good underdog story and this could be one. But it won’t be. Gonzaga is laying the most points of any team on the first day, and there’s a reason for that. Sure, they are a No. 1 seed, but they are also one of the most talented teams in the country. And they have some added motivation after losing the West Coast Conference final to Saint Mary’s a little over a week ago.

While it looked bad, it was actually the best thing that could have happened to the Zags, They cruised through their league slate and hadn’t been in a tough game since December. Complacency or boredom, or both, may have settled in after demolishing the field. “It will be good for us because now we have that fire and hype to want to go play again,” Brandon Clarke said.

The Zags lead the nation in scoring and field goal percentage while boasting a team with size, quickness and depth. Clarke and Rui Hachimura are a formidable front court duo and Josh Perkins dishes out 6.5 assists from the point. Gonzaga scores nearly 89 points per outing while shooting better than 53 percent from the floor. And the Zags can play defense, too. They hold teams below 39 percent from the field while allowing just 65 points per outing.

The Knights are coming off their first NCAA Tournament win and will look to Darnell Edge to keep them close. Edge dropped 33 on Prairie View A&M and his three-point shooting could be the X-factor. Edge makes 48.4 percent of his triples. But the Zags’ depth, defense and hunger will prevail and I like Gonzaga to cover the enormous line.

NCAA Tournament Score Prediction: Gonzaga 86, Fairleigh Dickinson 56

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No. 9 Baylor vs. No. 8 Syracuse

Date and Time: Thursday, March 21, 2019, 9:57 p.m. ET

Location: Vivint Smart Home Arena, Salt Lake City, UT

Opening CBB Odds: Syracuse -2, O/U 129.5

Baylor vs. Syracuse TV Coverage: truTV

We can expect this game to be close, and we can expect it to be low-scoring. That would suit both teams just fine since that’s how they’ve played all season. They both skidded into the Tournament with Baylor losing its last four while Syracuse dropped three of four, so something’s gotta give.

The Orange were dealt a blow when it was announced just days before the first game that Frank Howard was suspended indefinitely. The senior guard had a remarkable scoring spree at the ACC tournament hitting 8 of 16 three-pointers and scoring 46 points over two games. He also played over 37 minutes in each game in place of leading scorer Tyus Battle, who was sidelined with an injury. Battle is expected back, but just how effective will he be? And not having Howard to pick up some minutes and extend an already short bench is troublesome for Jim Boeheim.

Syracuse has a way of flipping the switch come Tournament time and they’ll have to do it again. They entered last year’s Tournament on a slide, won a First Four game and reached the Sweet 16. Three years ago their selection was questioned and the Orange reached the Final Four as a 10-seed, so don’t count them out.

Boeheim’s matchup zone can give teams fits and the Bears haven’t been exactly deadly from outside this season. Baylor shoots just 44 percent as a team and they’ll have to be better to shake the defense. The Bears have more depth which will come into play if Syracuse gets into foul trouble or sustains an injury to a starter. But those are things coaches can’t worry about.

A look at the numbers and you can see how evenly-matched these teams are. Both went 10-8 in league while Syracuse won one more game overall. The Orange allow 65.7 points per game while the Bears surrender 67.2. And Baylor scores just about two points more per game than Cuse. The Orange have a number of players back from last year’s team and they have experience in this setting. They also possess a defense that will shut Baylor down, leading to this game falling below the total.

NCAA Tournament Score Prediction: Syracuse 62, Baylor 58

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