March Madness Bracket 2019: Latest Picks and Odds Advice Before 1st-Round Day 1

Jake RillCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2019

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 16:  Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree #21 of the Villanova Wildcats talks with head coach Jay Wright in the second half against the Seton Hall Pirates during the Big East Championship Game at Madison Square Garden on March 16, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

In addition to filling out brackets, March Madness also provides plenty of opportunities for college basketball fans to make bets, whether that's picking an NCAA tournament champion or choosing teams in individual matchups.

This week is filled with NCAA tournament games. The first large slate of contests comes on Thursday, when 16 first-round matchups will take place.

Before placing a bet, it's important to do some research. Below the bracket are three first-round games that could be good to pick a winner for on Thursday.



For a bracket to print and fill out yourself, go to NCAA.com.


Betting Advice (Odds Via OddsShark)

No. 6 Villanova (-5) over No. 11 Saint Mary's

Villanova is the national champion, but it is only a No. 6 seed this year after a 25-9 regular season. However, the Wildcats have some momentum after winning the Big East tournament championship.

In the first round, they are going up against another conference tournament champion. Saint Mary's won the West Coast Conference tourney by upsetting Gonzaga.

Although the Gaels could keep this game close in the first half, the Wildcats will pull away in the second period and continue the program's run of March Madness success. Villanova hasn't lost its first NCAA tournament game since 2013, winning at least one game in each of the past five NCAA tourneys.

Head coach Jay Wright has guided the Wildcats to the national title in two of the past three seasons. His experience is enough to push Villanova past Saint Mary's and into the second round again.


No. 12 Murray State (+4.5) over No. 5 Marquette

Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press

This has the potential to be a high-scoring matchup, with two of the top eight scorers in the country playing—Marquette's Markus Howard (25.0 points per game, sixth in the nation) and Murray State's Ja Morant (24.6, eighth).

The Racers have the edge in momentum, as they have won 11 straight games, including a victory over Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship game. The Golden Eagles have lost five of their last six games, which includes a defeat to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament semifinals.

If Marquette wins this game, it'll be by four or fewer points, making this a good game to bet on.

The prediction here is that Murray State scores the upset win, making it one of the higher seeds to advance into the second round. And with a dynamic player in Morant, the Racers could become this year's Cinderella team.


No. 10 Florida (+2) over No. 7 Nevada

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - MARCH 15:  Andrew Nembhard #2 of the Florida Gators celebrates in the game against the LSU Tigers during the Quarterfinals of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 15, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by An
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Florida may be 19-15, but it also played a difficult schedule in a tough conference in the SEC. The Gators beat LSU, the SEC regular-season champion, twice and played some close games against other NCAA tournament teams.

Meanwhile, Nevada is 29-4, but it only played one ranked team this season—a win over Arizona State on Dec. 7. The Wolf Pack lost to San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference tournament semifinals.

Because Florida played a tougher schedule, it's in a good position to pull off a first-round upset. This could be a close game, but with the Gators as a two-point underdog, they're a strong pick for this matchup.

"Everybody is playing to win. We have to bring our A-game because that's exactly what the other team is going to do," Florida center Kevarrius Hayes said, according to the Orlando Sentinel. "We have to lock in and be more focused than ever going into those games."