NCAA Tournament 2019: Latest Predictions and Odds for Bracket Busters

Jake RillCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2019

Old Dominion's Ahmad Caver, center, Justice Kithcart (2) and Elbert Robinson III, left, celebrate after Old Dominion defeated Western Kentucky 62-56 in an NCAA college basketball game for the Conference USA men's tournament championship Saturday, March 16, 2019, in Frisco, Texas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)
Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

It only takes a few upset victories for somebody's bracket to be busted on the first day of March Madness.

That's why it's important to get off to a strong start with predictions for the NCAA tournament. There are sure to be some surprise wins for higher seeds, and if you can correctly pick them, you might be in good shape for the rest of the tournament.

The first round of the NCAA tournament begins with 16 matchups on Thursday, followed by 16 more on Friday. Before brackets are due at 12:15 p.m. ET on Thursday, here are a few potential first-round upsets to consider so that yours doesn't get completely busted quickly.




Potential Bracket Busters (Odds Via OddsShark)

No. 14 Old Dominion (+13.5) over No. 3 Purdue

Old Dominion is in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011. And after winning the Conference USA regular-season and tournament championships, the Monarchs are a candidate to be this year's Cinderella team.

Although they haven't played in March Madness in eight years, the Monarchs possess an experienced backcourt in senior guards B.J. Stith and Ahmad Caver, who are averaging 16.9 and 16.5 points per game, respectively.

Purdue won a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship, but it lost its first game of the conference tournament, falling to Minnesota in the quarterfinals.

The Boilermakers may have had the tougher regular-season schedule, but it's quite possible they peaked too early in the season. That's why it's worth considering Old Dominion for an upset bid.

"This group worked hard," Monarchs coach Jeff Jones said, according to ESPN.com. "But what they really did was become a team early on. That's a tribute to the leadership of B.J. and Ahmad. We're going to enjoy this. It's going to be pretty special. We're absolutely thrilled to have this opportunity."


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

RICHMOND, KY - FEBRUARY 16: Ja Morant #12 of the Murray State Racers shoots the ball during the game against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels at CFSB Center on February 16, 2019 in Murray, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The odds on this matchup are much closer than some past NCAA tournament games between No. 5 and No. 12 seeds, so an upset here might be more expected. If you're mostly making chalk picks, this is one that should probably swing the other way.

Murray State is poised to be a Cinderella team after it won the Ohio Valley Conference tournament by beating top-seeded Belmont in the championship game. The Racers are led by Ja Morant, a dynamic guard who could be selected within the first five picks of the upcoming 2019 NBA draft.

On the other side, Marquette had a disappointing finish to its season by losing five of its last six games, including a defeat to Seton Hall in the semifinals of the Big East tournament.

Murray State will need to limit Golden Eagles guard Markus Howard, an elite scoring threat. If the Racers do that, Morant could will them to victory.

"It's really what we worked all year for," Morant said of playing in the NCAA tourney, according to ESPN.com. "Just to see it all pay off feels good."


No. 14 Yale (+9.5) over No. 3 LSU

PRINCETON, NJ - MARCH 09: Azar Swain #5 of the Yale Bulldogs shoots the ball against the Princeton Tigers during the second half at L. Stockwell Jadwin Gymnasium on March 9, 2019 in Princeton, New Jersey. Yale won 81-59. (Photo by Corey Perrine/Getty Imag
Corey Perrine/Getty Images

This may be the least likely of these three potential upsets to happen, but it's something to be cautious of before betting on LSU to win this game.

The Tigers are without head coach Will Wade, who has been suspended indefinitely following a wiretap scandal in which a phone call was released featuring Wade discussing paying a recruit.

LSU was the SEC regular-season champion after going 16-2 in conference play. However, the Tigers lost their first game in the SEC tournament without Wade, losing to Florida in the quarterfinals.

Yale had some quality wins early in the season against Cal and Miami, and it's coming off a win over Princeton in the Ivy League tournament championship game this past Sunday.

If Yale pulls off the upset, that could definitely bust a lot of peoples' brackets. Especially considering the Bulldogs may have the potential to then beat either Maryland or Belmont in the next round and make it to the Sweet 16.