Two schools looking for their first NCAA tournament wins in more than a decade will square off in the round of 64 on Thursday when the eighth-seeded Virginia Tech Hokies (21-11) meet the ninth-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide (19-15) as small favorites.
The Hokies were bounced in the first round last season by the eighth-seeded Wisconsin Badgers 84-74 as the No. 9 seed, while the Tide are making their first appearance in the Big Dance since 2012.
March Madness point spread: The Hokies opened as two-point favorites; the total is at 141.5, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. (Line updates and matchup report.)
March Madness betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 83.4-64.0, Hokies (March Madness picks on every game.)
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Why Alabama can cover the spread
Alabama also fell in its last trip to the NCAA tournament as the No. 9 seed to the eighth-seeded Creighton Bluejays, but that was obviously a long time ago. This year's squad is led by star guard Collin Sexton, who is the leading scorer with 19 points per game and capable of carrying the team far.
Sexton just needs some more help from his teammates in order to be one of the top sleepers in the field. The Tide are 6-2 against the spread in their last eight March games, according to the OddsShark College Basketball Database, and have gone 21-9 straight up in their last 30 following a loss.
Why Virginia Tech can cover the spread
Virginia Tech owns wins over some of the best ACC teams, including the top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers, ninth-ranked Duke Blue Devils, 10th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels and 20th-ranked Clemson Tigers. The Hokies held all of those teams below 70 points, so their defense will definitely be the key to this year's run in the tournament.
Like Alabama, Virginia Tech has also fared well ATS in March recently with a 11-3 mark in its last 14. The Hokies might also be underrated a bit in this spot because they have lost three of their last four, although that followed a run of four wins in five games.
Smart betting pick
The SEC is not the ACC, and Virginia Tech has struggled versus opponents from this conference lately. The Hokies are just 4-10 SU in their previous 14 against SEC foes, a betting trend that definitely favors the Tide here. Alabama had upset both the Texas A&M Aggies and Auburn Tigers in the SEC tournament before falling to the eventual champion Kentucky Wildcats prior to the Big Dance. Bet on the Tide to roll in an upset.
March Madness betting trends
The total has gone under in Virginia Tech's last nine games.
Virginia Tech is 11-3 ATS in its last 14 games in March.
The total has gone under in 14 of Alabama's last 20 games.
All college basketball odds and betting trends courtesy of Bleacher Report's official odds partner, OddsShark. Check out OddsShark on Twitter and Instagram or head to YouTube for more betting picks and analysis on this week's top games. You can also download the free odds tracker app.