There will be no shortage of big favorites on the board when the NCAA Tournament gets underway on Thursday, starting in the West Region where the top-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs take on No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson as heavy 27.5-point favorites on the March Madness odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Gonzaga will likely be an ill-tempered squad after suffering a 60-47 loss to Saint Mary’s as 15-point chalk in the West Coast Conference Tournament final, which also marked the team’s only straight-up loss in 22 outings ahead of Thursday night’s first-round matchup at Vivint Smart Home Arena.
The loss to the Gaels has also not dampened the Bulldogs’ position on the overall NCAA Tournament odds, where they remain neck-and-neck with Virginia as a +600 wager to claim their first-ever title.
The Knights punched their ticket to the Round of 64 with an 82-76 win over Prairie View A&M as 2-point favorites in First Four action, but had failed to post a win in four previous NCAA Tournament appearances.
Over in the South Region, the top-seeded Cavaliers look to avoid a repeat of last year’s stunning opening-round loss to UMBC as they take on No. 16 Gardner-Webb as 22-point favorites, while the defending champion Villanova Wildcats look to build off their third straight Big East Tournament win as they take on the No. 11 Gaels as 4.5-point favorites.
No. 6 Villanova has picked up SU wins in first-round action in each of the past five years, and is pegged as a +800 wager to come out of a highly competitive South Region bracket, but lags as a +5000 bet to claim a third national title in four years.
The South Region features three schools that have all claimed national championships since 2008, led by the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels, who open their tournament against the No. 16 Iona Gaels as heavy 23-point favorites on the March Madness betting lines.
UNC returns to action following a loss to rival Duke in the ACC Tournament semifinals, but remains among the favorites to win their second national championship in three years.
No. 4 Kansas hopes to rebound from a 78-66 loss to upstart Iowa State in the Big 12 Tournament final as they collide with No. 12 Northeastern as 6.5-point favorites, while second-seeded Kentucky looks to advance beyond the first round at the Big Dance for an eighth straight time as they battle Abilene Christian as 22-point chalk.
And in the East Region, all eyes will be on Jacksonville on Thursday when No. 14 Yale hits the court against the beleaguered LSU Tigers as improved 7.5-point underdogs.
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