NCAA Tournament 2021: Tips for Odds, Over-Under Scores on Friday's Schedule
It's time for March Madness to really get underway. While the 2021 NCAA men's basketball tournament began with the First Four matchups Thursday, things kick into high gear Friday with 16 first-round contests.
Drake, UCLA (No. 11 seeds), Texas Southern and Norfolk State (No. 16 seeds) were the winners of this year's First Four games. All four teams are set to return to action Saturday.
Friday's slate will feature several of the top teams in the country, including No. 1 seeds Illinois and Baylor, as well as numerous matchups with upset potential.
With the opening round tipping off soon, Bleacher Report has all your last-minute bracket needs covered:
Here's a look at Friday's schedule, along with odds and predictions for the games.
Friday Schedule, Odds, Predictions
No. 7 Florida vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech (-1); Over/Under 135 points (12:15 p.m. ET, CBS)
No. 3 Arkansas (-8) vs. No. 14 Colgate; O/U 161 (12:45 p.m. ET, truTV)
No. 1 Illinois (-22.5) vs. No. 16 Drexel; O/U 143.5 (1:15 p.m. ET, TBS)
No. 6 Texas Tech (-4) vs. No. 11 Utah State; O/U 131.5 (1:45 p.m. ET, TNT)
No. 2 Ohio State (-16) vs. No. 15 Oral Roberts; O/U 156.5 (3 p.m. ET, CBS)
No. 1 Baylor (-25.5) vs. No. 16 Hartford; O/U 141 (3:30 p.m. ET, truTV)
No. 8 Loyola-Chicago (-5.5) vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech; O/U 124 (4 p.m. ET, TBS)
No. 5 Tennessee (-8.5) vs. No. 12 Oregon State; O/U 131 (4:30 p.m. ET, TNT)
No. 4 Oklahoma State (-7.5) vs. No. 13 Liberty; O/U 140 (6:25 p.m. ET, TBS)
No. 8 North Carolina (-1.5) vs. No. 9 Wisconsin; O/U 137 (7:10 p.m. ET, CBS)
No. 2 Houston (-20) vs. No. 15 Cleveland State; O/U 134.5 (7:15 p.m. ET, truTV)
No. 4 Purdue (-7) vs. No. 13 North Texas; O/U 126.5 (7:25 p.m. ET, TNT)
No. 7 Clemson vs. No. 10 Rutgers (no line) (9:20 p.m. ET, TBS)
No. 6 San Diego State (-3.5) vs. No. 11 Syracuse; O/U 138.5 (9:40 p.m. ET, CBS)
No. 3 West Virginia (-13) vs. No. 14 Morehead State; O/U 137.5 (9:50 p.m. ET, truTV)
No. 5 Villanova (-6) vs. No. 12 Winthrop; O/U 143 (9:57 p.m. ET, TNT)
Picks made against the spread. Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.
Illinois, Baylor Will Roll to Big Opening Wins
Everybody remembers when UMBC became the first (and so far, only) No. 16 seed to upset a No. 1 seed when it toppled Virginia in 2018. It was one of the biggest surprises in sports history, so don't expect an upset of that magnitude in this year's first round, particularly in either Friday matchup featuring a No. 1 seed.
Baylor is a 25.5-point favorite against No. 16-seeded Hartford, while Illinois is a 22.5-point favorite over No. 16-seeded Drexel. And while those are large spreads (the two biggest of Friday's action), it shouldn't be difficult for the Bears and Fighting Illini to cover and win by more against much lesser opponents.
Entering the men's NCAA tournament with a 22-2 record, Baylor won the Big 12 regular-season championship for the first time in program history. Along the way, the Bears faced some tough conference competition, and they own wins over West Virginia, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech alone.
Illinois won the Big Ten tournament by taking down Rutgers, Iowa and Ohio State. The Fighting Illini enter March Madness with a 23-6 record, having won 14 of their past 15 games.
Hartford and Drexel won't be a match for these teams. Expect both games to result in blowouts.
Utah State Capable of Pulling off 1st-Round Upset
Utah State hasn't had much March Madness success in its program's history. The Aggies have lost their past eight NCAA tournament games, with their most recent win coming in the first round in 2001. That's their only NCAA tourney victory in their past 18 games in the event, a stretch that dates back to 1970.
However, Utah State could be poised to end that drought Friday. The No. 11-seeded Aggies will be aiming to pull off an upset against No. 6-seeded Texas Tech, and they will be relying on their defense to do so. According to KenPom.com, Utah State has an adjusted defensive efficiency of 89.2, which ranks eighth-best in the country.
The Aggies were on a six-game winning streak heading into the Mountain West tournament championship game, but they came up short to a strong San Diego State team. However, they could bounce back against Texas Tech, especially if 7-foot junior center Neemias Queta (15.1 points and 10 rebounds per game) can dominate the paint against the Red Raiders, who typically have strong post defense.
As four-point underdogs, Utah State could be a wise team to bet on in the opening round. Being a bubble team that got into March Madness, the Aggies will be looking to prove they belong in the field, and that could start with a statement victory.
Pick Georgia Tech to Take Down Loyola-Chicago
Loyola-Chicago had one of the best Cinderella runs in March Madness history in 2018, making it to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed. And with popular 101-year-old team chaplain Sister Jean set to be in attendance, the Ramblers will be looking to do it again this year.
However, Loyola-Chicago may not get past the first round. It faces a tough matchup against No. 9-seeded Georgia Tech, which is entering the tournament on an eight-game winning streak. The Yellow Jackets won the ACC tournament for the first time since 1993, and they will look to keep that momentum going.
Georgia Tech is going to be without its top player, as senior forward Moses Wright, the ACC Player of the Year, will miss the game, according to Jeff Goodman and Brett McMurphy of Stadium. Still, the Yellow Jackets have a talented trio of guards—senior Jose Alvarado (15.3 points per game), junior Michael Devoe (15.1) and senior Jordan Usher (11.5)—who are capable of powering them past Loyola-Chicago.
Motivated to play deep enough to get Wright back in the fold, Georgia Tech will open the tournament by pulling out a close victory over the Ramblers. It will be a competitive matchup, but the Yellow Jackets have enough talent to overcome being 5.5-point underdogs.
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