March Madness 2017 First Round Betting Favorites

Posted by Michael Hunt on Tuesday,March 14, 2017 9:49, EDT in

The NCAA Tournament has become incredibly popular because people like upsets. That said, history shows that a Top-4 seed is only going to win a national championship. Since the tournament first expanded in 1985, only three teams ranked lower than a 4 won it all. So while upsets are fun, here are three March Madness betting favorites that will cover in the first round.

March Madness 2017 First Round Betting Favorites

No. 5 Princeton vs. No. 12 Notre Dame (-6)

Yes, a No. 12 seed goes down to a No. 5 every year just about, but not here. The Irish are too well-coached and Princeton, the Ivy League champion, is too young: it was the least-experienced team in the Ivy. The Tigers come into the tournament riding the second-longest winning streak in the nation, having gone three months and 19 games without tasting defeat. They have done so with one of the nation’s toughest defenses, allowing just 61.6 points per game (10th best), while owning the 17th-best defensive rating. The Fighting Irish’s offense ranks in the top 15 in offensive efficiency thanks to ball security. They lead the nation with a 15.1% turnover rate and are third with only 9.8 turnovers per game. Notre Dame is 2-1 all-time against Princeton. Thursday is the first meeting since a 1977 Irish loss at Jadwin Gym. The only team to appear in each of the last two Elite Eights, Notre Dame has never had multiple victories in at least three straight tournaments. Notre Dame is a 5 for the first time since 2008 and fourth time in school history. The Irish are 3-0 as a 5 seed in NCAA openers. They went to the Sweet 16 as a 5 in 2003.

No. 13 East Tennessee State vs. No. 4 Florida (-9)

The Buccaneers came out on top in the Southern Conference behind a harassing defense. They rank in the top 10 in total steals and turnovers forced per game and own a top 40 defense in terms of efficiency. However, ETSU also turns it over on 21 percent of its possessions. As for Florida, an injury to top shot-blocker John Egbunu and back-to- back March losses to Vanderbilt have taken some of the shine off what once was one of the nation’s hottest teams. Florida back in the tournament for the first time in three years behind the strength of a defense which ranks in the top 15 in efficiency. UF has taken on ETSU four times in program history and have gone 4-0 vs. the Bucs. The last matchup between the two teams was in 1980, when Florida took down East Tennessee State University, 72-54. The Gators have an average margin of victory of 13.3 points against the Buccaneers. That’s about what I expect here.

No. 11 Xavier vs. No. 6 Maryland (-2)

The Big Ten was lousy this season and I don’t have any Big Ten team going to the Elite Eight, but the Terps should be more than 2-point favorites over Xavier. After losing star guard Edmond Summer for the season due to a knee injury, the Musketeers struggled down the stretch by losing seven of their last 10 games, including six in a row at one point. Many believe the Musketeers wouldn’t have even received an invitation had they not reached the Big East’s semifinals. The Musketeers beat No. 18 Butler in the Big East tournament quarterfinals before losing to Creighton in the semifinals. It was Xavier’s only win over a Top 25 team in seven games this season. While the Terrapins are one of the least experienced teams in the tournament — with three of their top four scorers being freshmen — junior guard Melo Trimble leads the way with a career-high 17.0 points per game and 28.6% usage rate.