2023 NCAA Men’s Tournament Selection

The expanding legalization of sports betting has fueled gambling conversations but the NCAA tournament framework has remained a staple for decades. Even before the Supreme Court’s landmark 2018 ruling, the annual Big Dance generated action and excitement. Like Super Bowl props, the frame allows even casual fans to discuss a form of gambling.

Matches are often broken, as the league’s handicap is another matter, especially when you compare it to the most recent matches. Schools are about to hold conference tournaments, featuring familiar opponents and competing on consecutive days. However, the league creates foreign matches and environments, leading to more unpredictable outcomes.

In addition, the playing field is becoming more and more level, reflected in the betting odds. Since 2005, we’ve only seen a three-point difference of at least 30 points. In the previous decade, there were 15 such spreads, including 46 in 1999.

“College basketball is a lot more balanced now. There are more teams that can play nightly,” Ed Salmons from the Westgate SuperBook told ESPN, talking about the increasing use of 3-pointers. “A lot of teams that aren’t in the league are more likely to win a few games.”

Another sign is the progress of the lower seed. A 15th seed has made it to the Round of 16 Sweet in each of the past two tournaments, including last year’s Saint Peter’s reaching the Elite Eight. The Big Dance calls itself Cinderella and its pay-as-you-go days mean unusual betting behavior.

“The public will definitely support some of the weak teams in the league. Occasionally, the public will support the ‘dog in other sports but not like this. If you switch channels during the regular season,’ you will come across Drake or Oral Roberts, to make the public more familiar with these lower profile schools,” said Salmons.

Watching the weekend’s opening day at a Vegas sportsbook is a rite of passage that every fan must go through at least once. I’m going to do it this weekend about the tenth time. And here are my best hands, based on information from bettors and keen bettors, on which I bet:

Odds from Caesars Sportsbook unless otherwise noted.

(twelfth) VCU compared to (5) Saint Mary (-4, 123)
Friday, 2 p.m. ET, MVP Arena, Albany, New York

The Gaels showed their true nature in their final match, when they were defeated by Gonzaga. I recognize the same metrics as them but I don’t. Atlantic-10 is an out-and-out conference on the West Coast so I had to roll with the Rams.

Kezirian’s pick: VCU (+4)

(15) Vermont state compared to (2) Marquette (-11, 144.5)
Friday, 2:45 p.m. ET Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

The Catamounts aren’t as talented as recent teams but they have enough shooting ability to sustain this number. Metrics love the Golden Eagles but sometimes you have to roll with a double-digit underdog that can get hot from the deep. Remember that Shaka Smart lost five games in a row at the big ball, including a big loss in Texas to Abilene Christian.

Kezirian’s pick: Vermont (+11)

(14) Montana State compared to (3) Kansas State (-8, 139.5)
Friday 9:40 p.m. ET, Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, North Carolina

The Wildcats were challenged in battle by finishing third in the fat Big 12, and the Bobcats could be preparing for a knockdown. They were surpassed by Oregon and Arizona and also lost to below-average teams.

Kezirian’s pick: Kansas State (-8)

(9) Florida Atlantic Ocean compared to (8) Memphis (-2, 153)
Friday, 9:20 p.m. ET Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

The Owls are a united team, but the Tigers have excellent sportsmanship and are playing as a top 10 team long term. Kendric Davis is amazing and should be the one making the difference.

Kezirian’s pick: Memphis (-2)

The 14th seed won’t win the first game (-120): This is an interesting bet that delivers action in four games on Friday, as I think the 3rd seed will survive pretty easily. Kansas and Gonzaga should cruise, and I don’t think UC Santa Barbara has the goods to beat Baylor. Kenesaw State has a path to discomfort but in the end Xavier will win.


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