March Madness 2019 Bracket: Latest Picks, Odds Advice Before Thursday's Round 1

Jake RillCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2019

Belmont's Nick Muszynski (33) drives around Temple's Justyn Hamilton, center left, during the first half of a First Four game of the NCAA college basketball tournament, Tuesday, March 19, 2019, in Dayton, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/Associated Press

The First Four round of this year's NCAA tournament has concluded, which means the field is down to 64 teams and March Madness will truly begin to pick up on Thursday. There will be 16 first-round matchups on both Thursday and Friday, followed by second-round games on Saturday and Sunday.

Brackets must be filled in and submitted prior to tipoff of the game between Louisville and Minnesota at 12:15 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Like past years, there are sure to be some upsets during the first round of the NCAA tournament. Below the bracket are three potential upsets to pick, or bet on, on Thursday.




Betting Picks (Odds Via OddsShark)

No. 11 Belmont (+3) over No. 6 Maryland

The line on this matchup is the closest of any game between a No. 11 seed and a No. 6 seed this year, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Belmont take down Maryland.

Although the Bruins were the first Ohio Valley Conference team to receive an at-large bid since 1987, they had to play Temple in the First Four round on Tuesday to reach this point. They pulled away late to beat the Owls, notching the first NCAA tournament win in program history.

Belmont had lost all seven of its previous NCAA tourney games. Now, it'll look to advance past the first round for the first time.

"We showed that we can play in this atmosphere," Bruins coach Rick Byrd said, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com). "It's never going to be perfect, but we found a way to win [Tuesday]. We showed our toughness."

Seven of Maryland's top nine players have no previous NCAA tournament experience. So, expect Belmont to keep building momentum and feel safe picking it as a first-round upset.


No. 12 Murray State (+3.5) over No. 5 Marquette

Daniel R. Patmore/Associated Press

This is another first-round game that has a close line. Marquette may be the higher seed, but it doesn't have the momentum that Murray State has entering March Madness.

Murray State beat Belmont in the Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship game for its 11th consecutive win. Marquette has lost five of its last six games, which included falling to Seton Hall in the Big East tournament semifinals.

Each team has a prolific scorer—Marquette's Markus Howard (25.0 points per game) and Murray State's Ja Morant (24.6). But Morant is a potential top-five NBA draft pick, and his all-around game could be enough to power the Racers to an upset win.

"I really don't think it's Ja Morant vs. Markus Howard," Morant said, according to Yahoo Sports. "I think it's Murray State vs. Marquette. That's how we're going to take it."

And Murray State may be the better team, so bet on the Racers with 3.5 points.

Another good bet to potentially make on this game could be the over, as the over/under line is at 149.5. Morant or Howard, or both, could go off, turning this matchup into a high-scoring affair.


No. 14 Old Dominion (+12.5) over No. 3 Purdue

Jeffrey McWhorter/Associated Press

Of these three matchups, this might be the upset that is least likely to happen. But from a betting standpoint, it could be wise to choose Old Dominion with 12.5 points.

The Monarchs won the Conference USA regular-season and tournament championships, and they're led by the experienced backcourt duo of senior guards B.J. Stith and Ahmad Caver. They also notched a win over Syracuse, another NCAA tournament team, on Dec. 15.

Old Dominion is making its first March Madness appearance since 2011, and it seeks its first NCAA tourney win since 2010.

"It's something that you dream about all your life watching college basketball," Caver said, according to WAVY-TV 10. "It's a dream come true and to know that you are finally here, it takes a whole book bag off your back."

The Monarchs' NCAA tournament experience could become even better with an upset win. They should at least keep this game close, making this a solid bet to take.