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Best Bets for the First Round of the 2024 NCAA Men's Tournament

March Madness is arguably the most entertaining sporting event every year, and rightfully so. The 64-team tournament is full of surprises, storylines, brackets, and tons of money. Millions of people are going to research each matchup to build the “perfect” bracket, yet it hasn’t happened since the NCAA started tracking brackets.

The bracket for this season is definitely an interesting one. The top four seeds in the East Region all won their respective conference championships, the Mountain West is represented by six teams, and the “blue bloods” are spread out and represented in each region (yes, UConn is a blue blood).

With all of the madness about to begin, Jersey Sporting News decided to do some research and find some of the best options for people to consider when betting on the tournament this season. Let’s dive into some of the staff's favorite picks for the Round of 64 in the 2024 Men’s Tournament:

Duquesne +9.5 (-110) vs. BYU

The Dukes are currently one of the hottest teams entering the tournament. They are riding an eight-game win streak and have won 10 of their last 11 games. This led to them winning their first Atlantic 10 Championship since 1977 and clinching an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Dukes drew the BYU Cougars in the first round and people quickly realized what the main storyline of this matchup would be. The Cougars rank 20th in the country in points per game with 81.8 and tied for second in assists per game with 18.6. That is a difficult combination for a team to deal with, but Duquesne might be a team that can.

Led by a backcourt of Jimmy Clark III and Dae Dae Grant, the Dukes apply pressure on the defensive end and love to jump the passing lanes of their opponents. In the final three games of the A-10 tournament, Duquesne held their opponents to under 60 points per game, which included the previously ranked Dayton Flyers.

A point spread of 9.5 seems too high for a team that has been on a roll as of late and has been known for its defensive prowess all season long. Even with BYU having multiple scoring threats and a top offense in the nation, look for the team on fire to cover in this one.

Kentucky -13.5 (-118) vs. Oakland

The Wildcats have been an offensive juggernaut all season long. Kentucky ranks second in the nation in total points per game with 89.4, and it’s spread throughout the lineup. The team has five different players who average 10 or more points per game, led by senior guard Antonio Reeves.

In case you were wondering where Kentucky ranks in the country in a certain offensive category, take a look at this:

PPG: 2nd
Assists per game: 10th
Field Goal %: 5th
Three Point %: 1st
Free Throw %: 20th

The Oakland Golden Grizzlies have had themselves quite the season, finishing with a record of 23-11 and winning the Horizon League Championship. However, they haven’t faced much top-tier competition, and when they did, they struggled. In games against other teams that made the tournament this season, they went 0-4 and lost by an average of 15 points per game.

The Golden Grizzlies haven’t played many teams with elite scoring like the current Wildcats. Even after losing in their first game of the SEC tournament, expect this Kentucky team to come out hot and the veteran coaching of John Calipari to lead the Wildcats to a big win.

Charleston vs. Alabama 1H U 82.5 (-112)

The over/under for this game is currently set at 173.5, which is 10 points more than the next-highest game total. To be fair, it is for good reason.

The Alabama Crimson Tide lead the nation in points per game and are the only team to cross the 90-point mark. Defensively, they rank seventh-worst in the nation in points allowed at 81.1 per game. These stats obviously make people want to bet the over, but this line is set way too high.

In four games during the month of March, this line has gone under in all of the Crimson Tide’s games. The lines have been close, but the second half of each game has been where the majority of the points have come from. For Charleston, all four games they have played in March have also come below this line of 82.5, with their semifinal matchup against Towson scoring a total of 61 points in the first half.

By the time this game tips off, it’ll have been seven days since Alabama has played a game and 10 days since Charleston has stepped onto the court in-game action. Expect both teams to start off slow, considering their layoffs and the history of tournament games having a gritty, competitive start.

Utah State +4.5 (-120) vs. TCU

The Utah State Aggies have been one of the most consistent teams this season. In a loaded Mountain West conference that has six teams in the tournament, the Aggies managed to finish with a conference-best record of 14-4 and an overall record of 27-6.

Before losing in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament, the Aggies had a six-game winning streak with an average margin of victory of 9.1 points. Utah State has four players who average over 10 points a game and are led by big man Great Osobor. Osobor averages 18 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. Those 9.2 rebounds have him ranked 42nd in the nation.

The Horned Frogs of TCU enter this year's tournament on a bit of a downward slope. After starting the season 7-0, the Horned Frogs have lost four of their last six games, most recently losing to Houston in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament. TCU’s leading scorer, Emanuel Miller (15.9 PPG), also happened to suffer an ankle injury during the tournament that has kept him sidelined for a few practices.

Although Miller is expected to play in the opening round, he could be in for a long day down low if he isn’t fully healthy. Osobor already has 15 double-doubles on the season and will definitely be looking to add to that in this game.

Out of all the 8-9 matchups in this year's tournament, this is the only game where the spread is higher than 2.5 points, and it feels too high for me. Considering the consistency of Utah State this season in a loaded conference and the potential mismatch down low if Miller isn’t fully healthy, the Aggies should cover this spread and win outright.

More Upset Picks to Like:

McNeese (+210) over Gonzaga
Samford (+240) over Kansas
Morehead State (+570) over Illinois
Grand Canyon (+200) over Saint Mary's
Colgate (+760) over Baylor