March Madness Odds: Betting Preview For 2018 NCAA Tournament

The top-seeded Virginia Cavaliers will look to continue their drive towards their first national championship in school history Friday when they take on No. 16 UMBC in a Round-of-64 clash as 22.5-point favorites on the March Madness odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Virginia extended its current straight-up win streak to eight games with Saturday’s 71-63 win over North Carolina as 3.5-point chalk in the ACC Tournament Championship Game and sit at +500 on the odds to win the NCAA Tournament going into Friday’s matchup at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte.

The Cavaliers’ 31-2 SU record keeps them atop the AP Top 25 rankings for a fifth straight week. However, Virginia has struggled with consistency at the sportsbooks in recent weeks, failing to cover in consecutive games during a 4-5 run against the spread. The Cavaliers also have been a historical betting disappointment in first-round matchups at the NCAA Tournament, covering just twice during an otherwise respectable 5-2 SU run.

The Retrievers clinched a tournament berth for just the second time in school history with a stunning 65-62 upset of Vermont as 10-point underdogs in Saturday’s America East Tournament Championship Game and now are unbeaten SU in five games. UMBC has performed well as a massive underdog, covering in three straight while pegged as an underdog by more than 20 points, according to the OddsShark College Basketball Database.

The remaining top seeds at this year’s NCAA Tournament mirror the top of the national rankings. Villanova enters the tournament pegged as the top seed in the East Regional bracket and as a +450 favorite on the national championship futures, while Xavier and Kansas sit atop the West and Midwest Regional brackets, respectively.

While the Wildcats and Musketeers await the results of First Four matchups in Dayton, Ohio to determine their Round-of-64 opponents, the Jayhawks prepare to battle No. 16 Pennsylvania as 14-point favorites Thursday afternoon.

Kansas is coming off its 14th straight Big 12 regular season championship win and has vaulted from No. 9 to No. 4 on the national rankings during a three-game SU surge, capped by last weekend’s 81-70 win over West Virginia as a 1.5-point underdog in the Big 12 Tournament Championship Game. The 24-8 Quakers are coming off their first winning campaign in six years and make their first March Madness appearance since 2007.

The ACC once again is well represented at the NCAA Tournament with eight conference rivals joining the Cavaliers, including a pair of No. 2 seeds. North Carolina battles Lipscomb as 19.5-point chalk in West Regional action Friday and Duke clashes with Iona as a 20-point favorite Thursday afternoon in a Midwest Regional matchup.

Thumbnail photo via Nicole Sweet/USA TODAY Sports

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