2023 March Madness First Round Best Bets for Friday: Fading Gaels & Following Zags

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Jalen DeLoach #4 of the Virginia Commonwealth Rams reacts against the Dayton Flyers on March 12, 2023. Mike Stobe/Getty Images/AFP.

NCAAB Pick: VCU +4 (-107) at Bookmaker (visit our Bookmaker Review)

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VCU +4 (-107)
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Picks Summary:

  • VCU vs. Saint Mary’s – VCU +4 (-107)
  • Iona vs. UConn – UConn -9 (-110)
  • Grand Canyon vs. Gonzaga – Gonzaga -15.5 (-108)

We’re all looking for a little extra green to add to our wardrobe on St. Patrick’s Day, and we’re always looking for extra green to put in our pockets with winning college basketball picks in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

VCU Rams vs. Saint Mary’s Gaels

Friday, March 17, 2023 – 02:00 PM EDT at MVP Arena

Randy Bennett and Saint Mary’s are going dancing once again, which isn’t news by itself considering the Gaels are in their 12th NCAA Tournament and participating in March Madness for the fourth time in the last six seasons.

  • Virginia Commonwealth – 27-7 SU, 17-15-2 ATS, 14-20 O/U
    West 12 Seed, AQ, Atlantic 10
  • Saint Mary’s – 26-7, 17-13-2 ATS, 16-16 O/U
    West 5 Seed, At-Large, West Coast

Gaels Make Long Trek to Albany

It’s not even surprising how the Gaels made it as an at-large selection after a season that saw them once again finish as the runner-up to Gonzaga in the West Coast Conference.

What is news is Saint Mary’s has to travel all the way across the country to play a 1st-round game in the West Region, and VCU is the team waiting for the Gaels in one of those tricky 5-12 seed matchups.

Same Spread as 2017 NCAA Contest

Maybe we’ve all become programmed to favor 12-seeds considering how much damage they’ve done to brackets in the past, but this one really jumped off the page while watching Sunday’s NCAA Tournament selection show.

The two teams met at the NCAA Tournament just six years ago, and Saint Mary’s prevailed with an 85-77 win and cover as 4-point chalk at the best sportsbooks. That was a 7-10 matchup, and the spread is the same this time despite it being a 5-12.

This was the lone 12-seed pick on my bracket, but take the points just to add some cushion.

NCAAB Pick: VCU +4 (-107) at Bookmaker

Iona Gaels vs. UConn Huskies

Friday, March 17, 2023 – 04:30 PM EDT at MVP Arena

Right after the Gaels of Saint Mary’s meet VCU, the fans in Albany get treated to a second group of Gaels when Iona collides with UConn in what amounts to a bit of a geographic rivalry with the two campuses about 100 miles apart.

  • Iona – 27-7 SU, 20-14 ATS, 15-19 O/U
    West 13 Seed, AQ, Metro Atlantic
  • Connecticut – 25-8 SU, 21-11-1 ATS, 18-15 O/U
    West 4 Seed, At-Large, Big East

Is UConn Poised for Deep Run?

Being seeded No. 4 in the NCAA Tournament is an honor, but it has been a disappointing season in some ways for the Huskies who rose to No. 2 in the polls at one point after being pegged as a Big East favorite on preseason college basketball futures.

Iona has become a regular at the Big Dance with Friday marking the Gaels’ sixth appearance in the last seven NCAA tournaments. They also enter with a 14-game win streak, the second-longest among the Field of 68 for this year’s event.

Sanogo Leads Huskies to Round 2

The schools have met five times previously with the Huskies winning the last four. One of those clashes took place at the 1997 NIT where Connecticut took the 1st-round matchup.

Bookmaker is selling the Huskies as 9-point chalk, and in what could be a low-scoring defensive affair, taking Iona and the points sounds smart. I just happen to think Adama Sanogo is going to be a force the Gaels can’t reckon with, and will play UConn.

NCAAB Pick: UConn -9 (-110) at Bookmaker

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Grand Canyon Lopes vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Friday, March 17, 2023 – 07:35 PM EDT at Ball Arena

Sticking with the West Region but moving out west to Denver, the Gonzaga Bulldogs begin another quest for the program’s first National Championship when they take on a Grand Canyon team that is in just their second NCAA Tournament and seeking their first March Madness win.

  • Grand Canyon – 25-11 SU, 14-18 ATS, 24-8 O/U
    West 14 Seed, AQ, Western Athletic Conference
  • Gonzaga – 28-5 SU, 13-18-1 ATS, 19-13 O/U
    West 3 Seed, AQ, West Coast

Honey, What Channel is TruTV?

Despite being a consistent winner on the collegiate hardwood, Mark Few and the Bulldogs aren’t getting much respect with this matchup. No, the 3-seed is fine, but being relegated to TruTV on a Friday night while lower seeds Kentucky and Miami get the bigger networks? Shameful!

While some of us old-timers are scrambling to remember where TruTV is on our televisions, can someone explain the logic to Grand Canyon changing its nickname from the Antelopes to just Lopes? Was antelope too hard to spell or pronounce?

Zags Beat Inflated Spread

A quick glance at the NCAAB odds finds the Bulldogs favored by 15.5-16.5 with a scoreboard target of 156 at most shops.

We all know this spread is set a couple of points higher than it should be, and a backdoor cover for Los Lopes is very possible if Few comes off the gas with a huge lead late in the game. And yet I keep seeing a 20-point win for Gonzaga in my crystal ball.

For Gonzaga fans looking to bet on this game, you can do it at our top Washington betting sites.

NCAAB Pick: Gonzaga -15.5 (-108) at Heritage Sports (visit our Heritage Sports Review)

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Gonzaga -15.5 (-108)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.