Forget the brackets, bet these first round games instead

I used St. Patty’s Day to make a day trip to Reno to see if I can make a little green betting the first round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, a trip I’ve made for several years with two boyhood friends.

We would normally show-up the day before play started, staying at the Peppermill or Atlantis for the first round of action. Of course, the pandemic has changed all of that.

The tournament was canceled last year along with everything else that was shut-down in March, and neither of the boys was interested spending a couple of nights in Reno this year, so I went by myself.

Even though I’ve had both of the Pfizer shots and I’m supposedly protected, I proceeded with caution. I plotted all of my potential bets ahead of time and took the safest routes to the sports books in the CalNeva, Peppermill and Atlantis. I spent just enough time in each to compare their point spreads and put my money down.

As I wrote two years ago, the best betting opportunities are in the first round of play, when the betting lines aren’t as tight as they become deeper into the tournament. I’m more interested in winning than getting action, and you might as well throw darts if you’re going to try to pick all of the winners. Better yet, invest your money in the stock of Penn National or one of the other companies that figure to do well as sports betting becomes legal in the states.

My approach has generated a 65% win rate, better than I do in the regular season. There are no guarantees, but here are the games I’m betting in the first round. (I also bet three NBA games when I was in Reno Wednesday and won all of them, so I have a cushion before the college boys start playing.) I’ll discuss the results when the smoke clears.

Friday, March 19

–Wisconsin (+1.5) over North Carolina

–Winthrop (+6.5) over Villanova

–Utah State (+5) over Texas Tech

–Florida (+1) over Virginia Tech

–Georgia Tech (+6) over Loyola Chicago

–Oregon State (+8.5) over Tennessee

–Syracuse (+3) over San Diego State

–Rutgers (-1.5) over Clemson

–Cleveland State (+20.5) over Houston

Saturday, March 20

–Missouri (+1) over Oklahoma

–UC Santa Barbara (+7) over Creighton

–Oregon (-5) over Virginia Commonwealth

–St. Bonaventure (+2) over LSU

–Georgetown (+6.5) over Colorado

–Connecticut (-2) over Maryland

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