March Madness 2023: 5 best first round bets for Thursday March 16th

March madness
Alabama forward Brandon Miller (24) reacts as Texas A&M guard Dexter Dennis (0) looks on in the final minutes of an NCAA college basketball game in the finals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, Sunday, March 12, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)

March Madness is upon us. The first round tips off on Friday afternoon with games spanning the rest of the day. There is SO much action to look forward to that it’s hard to know where to turn and what to bet. Don’t worry, we’ve scoured the slate to find some of the best value plays for Thursday.

West Virginia vs Maryland

Draftkings Sportsbook
States: NY, LA, AZ, CO, Il, IN, IA, MI, NH, NJ, PA, TN, VA, WV
New Player Bonus
Bet $5 on March Madness
get $200 in bonus bets

Maryland might be the value play, but they have been awful on the road as the season has come to a close. West Virginia went 12-7 as a favorite this season, while Maryland was 4-6 as an underdog. Jahmir Young might be the star of the show, but West Virginia has more than enough defensive prowess to keep him tamed.

Pick: West Virginia -2.5

Texas A&M CC vs Alabama

Alabama might be the most frightening team in the tournament and A&M are yet to face a team of this stature. A&M barely scraped by in their win over Southeast Missouri State and while it’s great that there is always the chance of an upset, staying within 23 points would basically be a fairytale ending here.

Pick: Alabama -23

Illinois vs Arkansas

Arkansas might have had a sloppy run-in to the tournament, but they have Nick Smith, a bonafide future NBA starter, and a coach who has had plenty of success in the NCAA Tournament. Illinois is 3-7 against teams allowing between 67-72 points per game. I’d expect Arkansas to escape to an early lead and keep Illinois at a distance.

Pick: Arkansas -3

March madness

Don’t forget to enter our FREE March Madness bracket challenge for a chance of winning a Jalen Hurts jersey. Enter the code PSNSZN on signup!

Boise State vs Northwestern

For some reason I have an affinity for Boise State. Maybe it’s their blue football field. Anyway, they’ve been terrible in NCAA Tournament play but have a flurry of players who can put up points in a hurry, whereas Northwestern rely on Boo Buie and Chase Audige. This will be a defensive showdown so I wouldn’t mind backing the under either, but I think Boise State has an offensive edge in this March Madness matchup.

Pick: Boise State +1.5 / Under 129

Northern Kentucky vs Houston

Houston has a ridiculously dominant defense and this is a clear mismatch. If they can lean on Marcus Sasser and Jarace Walker to establish an early lead, this will very much be a game of pace-control and it’s not a battle NKY will likely win. Houston should sail through to the next round of March Madness.

Pick: Under 122.5

March Madness first round betting offers

AP Photo/John Amis