March Madness 2017: Bracket Predictions, Odds, Tips for 1st-Round Day 1 Schedule

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 14, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 11: Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers dunks against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first half in the semifinals of the Big Ten Basketball Tournament at Verizon Center on March 11, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

If you're looking to select some double-digit upsets in your NCAA tournament bracket or if you are stuck trying to choose between a No. 8 seed and No. 9 seed you know nothing about, consider looking at the odds to see how the sportsbooks feel about the game instead of haphazardly picking a random team because you just don't like them (something I have done before, with no success).

Here's a look at the bracket, the Thursday schedule, the odds and three games with some notable spreads, along with a trio of picks.

March Madness Bracket

Day 1 Schedule and Odds

Games (First Round)RegionalOddsTime (ET)Network
No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 PrincetonEastNotre Dame (-7)12:15 p.m.CBS
No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 13 UNC-WilmingtonEastVirginia (-7.5)12:40 p.m.truTV
No. 4 Butler vs. No. 13 WinthropMidwestButler (-11)1:30 p.m.TNT
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 16 South Dakota St.WestGonzaga (-23)2 p.m.TBS
No. 4 West Virginia vs. No. 13 BucknellEastWest Virginia (-13.5)2:45 p.m.CBS
No. 4 Florida vs. No. 13 East Tennessee St.EastFlorida (-9.5)3:10 p.m.truTV
No. 5 Minnesota vs. No. 12 Middle Tennessee St.MidwestEven4 p.m.TNT
No. 8 Northwestern vs. No. 9 VanderbiltWestVanderbilt (-1)4:30 p.m.TBS
No. 6 Maryland vs. No. 11 XavierWestMaryland (-2)6:50 p.m.TNT
No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 16 Mount St Mary's/New OrleansEastN/A7:10 p.m.CBS
No. 7 Saint Mary's vs. No. 10 VCUWestSt. Mary's (-4.5)7:20 p.m.TBS
No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 VermontMidwestPurdue (-8.5)7:27 p.m.truTV
No. 3 Florida State vs. No. 14 Florida Gulf CoastWestFlorida State (-12)9:20 p.m.TNT
No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 9 Virginia TechEastWisconsin (-5.5)9:40 p.m.CBS
No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 15 North DakotaWestArizona (-16.5)9:50 p.m.TBS
No. 5 Iowa State vs. No. 12 NevadaMidwestIowa State (-6)9:57 p.mtruTV

Odds via OddsShark


Tips and Predictions

Middle Tennessee vs. Minnesota

The Blue Raiders made a name for themselves by upsetting Michigan State in the first round of last year's NCAA tournament, but they aren't sneaking up on anyone this year. In fact, they are the only team with an No. 11 seed or lower that isn't an underdog in its first-round game.

The spread is even for this No. 5 vs. No. 12 matchup, which is remarkable considering the average spread for the other No. 5 vs. No. 12 games is 6.33 points, per OddsShark.

This is the first game to look at if you're looking to pick that popular No. 12 seed upset, but Vegas wouldn't even consider this game an upset.

Diving into the matchup a little bit, however, and it's a little odd that Minnesota isn't favored to win by at least a couple points. The Golden Gophers finished in fourth place in the Big Ten and won 24 games. Granted, the Big Ten had a down year, but it's still a power conference and teams just don't fluke their way to 24 victories. Seven of those 24 wins were against NCAA tournament teams.

Middle Tennessee does return Giddy Potts and Reggie Upshaw from last year's team, and they also have senior transfer JaCorey Williams, who leads the team in scoring. The Blue Raiders also went 30-4 this season and have a very strong RPI for a mid-major (35).

This game could go either way, but Minnesota is being overlooked too much, considering its body of work this season. Take the Golden Gophers to win a close game.

Pick: Minnesota

Maryland vs. Xavier

Maryland is only a two-point favorite in this No. 6 vs. No. 11 matchup.

The Terps offense is a bit too one-dimensional, as it revolves too much around the scoring exploits of junior guard Melo Trimble, but they should be able to beat the Musketeers in the first round.

If Edmond Sumner didn't get hurt, Xavier would have been a top-five or top-six seed. But the sophomore guard, who averaged 15.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game this season, is out for the year with a torn ACL. Since his injury, the Muskies have gone 6-7, including five losses by nine points or more.

Going further in depth, Xavier went 3-7 in their last 10, but two of those three wins were against DePaul, which finished in last place in the Big East. The Musketeers did beat Butler in the Big East tournament quarterfinals, however.

Ultimately, expect Trimble to do just enough to give Maryland a win and hold off a struggling Xavier squad in the first round.

Pick: Maryland

Wisconsin vs. Virginia Tech

The Badgers' No. 8 seed or Wichita State's No. 10 seed takes the top prize for the worst seed in the tournament this year.

Wisconsin finished in second place in the Big Ten and made the conference championship game en route to a 25-win season.

The reward was a potential second-round matchup with defending national champion and No. 1 overall seed Villanova.

Of course, No. 9 seed Virginia Tech gets punished as well, as it plays a team that should be two or three lines higher. The sportsbooks took note of this peculiar first-round matchup and favor Wisconsin by 5.5 points. To put that number in perspective, the spreads for the other No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchups are either one or two points, per OddsShark.

The Badgers should be able to beat the Hokies in Buffalo, New York. They can score from the outside with senior Bronson Koenig (14.1 points per game) or down low with sophomore forward Ethan Happ (13.9 points) and senior forward Nigel Hayes (13.5 points).

Wisconsin also has the eighth-ranked defense per the Ken Pomeroy ratings, which should help slow down the potent Hokie offense.

Pick: Wisconsin

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