Get upsets best bets for the first round of March Madness, featuring predictions for Louisiana Lafayette vs Tennessee, Kent State vs Indiana, Oral Roberts vs Duke, and Colgate vs Texas.
March Madness Upset Best Bets
The NCAA Tournament is here, and there will be upsets. The only question is whether this year will be more like 2021, when four seeds of 13 or lower won a first round game, or like 2022, when only one team seeded 13 or lower won (Saint Peter’s). Either way, a 12-seed has won a game in 32 of 37 tournaments since expansion, so there are bound to be some surprises.
Let’s take a look at which underdogs are the best bets to pull off an upset.
Louisiana Lafayette(+530) vs Tennessee
Louisiana isn’t my pick to beat Tennessee, but it does feel like the Ragin’ Cajuns are being undervalued leading up to the tournament. Tennessee is going to have to learn how to play without PG Zakai Zeigler, and the Vols already have a severely limited offense.
Hurting Louisiana is the fact it was not the best team in the Sun Belt, where Southern Miss and Marshall led all season, but the top of the conference was especially strong and the Ragin’ Cajuns still finished the season 26-7. With 78 points per game and excellent three-point shooting, Louisiana may be uniquely qualified to break a tough Tennessee defense.
This is by no means a lock, but Louisiana shouldn’t be more of an underdog than Kennesaw State, Vermont, and Montana State in this round – that makes Ragin’ Cajuns +11.5 another attractive option.
Kent State (+150) vs Indiana
I was excited about this one until everyone else’s excitement erased so much of the value on Kent State. Still, the buzz is justified.
Kent State lost only three games in the MAC, but the real hint for why this line is so close is what the Golden Flashes did in non-conference play. Kent State lost by two to Charleston, five to Houston, and seven to Gonzaga, taking each game down to the wire. The emergence of guard Sincere Carry, who’s looked like a star of late with an average of 23.6 points over his last five games, makes the Golden Flashes even more dangerous.
Indiana is a very solid team with second weekend potential, but the Hoosiers got a tough draw here. At the very least we could see a close game. If you’re all in, +150 is still positive value.
Oral Roberts (+220) vs Duke
At +220, Oral Roberts could easily be a better value than Kent State. The Golden Eagles would have a case to be favored against any other No. 5 seed, but Duke is rolling into this matchup on a nine-game win streak.
Yes, the Blue Devils have the raw talent advantage, but they’re still a young team that showed more than a few flaws earlier in the season. Duke’s streak also might not mean very much in a weak ACC.
Oral Roberts has an elite offense, averaging more than 84 points per game and posting ridiculously efficient marks inside the three-point line. The Golden Eagles have a grizzled veteran in 2021 tournament star Max Abmas, and they can compete with Duke’s size thanks to 7’5” center Connor Vanover.
Duke thrives on its defense. If Oral Roberts makes its shots and proves to be a tough matchup, I’m not sure the Blue Devils will keep up on the offensive end.
Colgate (+720) vs Texas
Why not take some chances? Colgate hasn’t turned its Patriot League dominance into NCAA Tournament success yet, but it feels like that day is coming. The Raiders are only seeded this low because of an uncharacteristic slow start to the season – they ultimately turned it around in conference play and went 17-1.
I’m a believer in Texas thanks to the Longhorns’ experience and Sir’Jabari Rice’s emergence, but Colgate might be the best bet of the 14-16 seeds for one reason: three-point shooting. The Raiders are the nation’s most efficient team at 40.8%, and they have run one of the best mid-major offenses in the country for years under Matt Langel.
I picked Colgate to upset Wisconsin in last year’s tournament, and the opportunity was there – the Raiders squandered a late lead because they couldn’t hit a shot. If the shots happen to fall this time around, even Texas could be vulnerable.