Best ATS bets for all first-round games in the NCAA tournament

March Madness is upon us, and we’re here to help with your NCAA tournament bracket and point-spread picks. Consensus odds are as of March 14, 2018. Win probabilities are the same ones used to help create the Perfect Bracket and fuel DAViD, the Data-Assisted Victory Detector.

We’ll break down the four outright upsets, according to seeding, predicted for the round of 64. And you can find full projections against the spread for every first-round matchup below.

No. 7 Arkansas vs. No. 10 Butler (-1.5)
Winner: Butler, 57 percent
Pick: Butler -1.5

Butler is led by 6-foot-7 senior forward Kelan Martin, who averages 20.8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. He shoots 36 percent from behind the three-point line and can be very dangerous in isolation, where he scored more than a point per possession, placing him in the 87th percentile this season among collegiate athletes. He’s also their best player in transition, scoring 46 percent of the time.

Arkansas, meanwhile, is only average defensively against players in isolation and in the bottom 20 percent of college teams for their transition defense, which the opposition takes advantage of 49 percent of the time.

No. 7 Rhode Island (-2) vs. No. 10 Oklahoma
Winner: Oklahoma, 52 percent
Pick: Oklahoma +2

Oklahoma won just once in February, but with freshman Trae Young, the first player in NCAA history to lead the nation in scoring (27.4 per game) and assists (8.7), wearing a Sooners uniform anything is possible.

Used primarily as the team’s ballhandler during the pick and roll, Young creates 0.88 points per possession on his own on these sets and 1.06 points per possession when he passes the ball off, neither of which Rhode Island defends very well — the Rams rank below average (40th percentile) in defense of these plays this season.

No. 6 Miami Fla. (-2.5) vs. No. 11 Loyola Chicago
Winner: Loyola Chicago, 51 percent
Pick: Loyola Chicago +2.5

Loyola Chicago is the upset pick du jour due to the nation’s 25th best defense after adjusting for strength of schedule (96.2 points allowed per 100 possessions).

Their best defender, junior guard Marques Townes, averages 11.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while holding opposing shooters to an effective field goal rate of 43 percent and just 0.7 points per possession, putting him 58th out of 712 players defending at least 250 possessions leading up to the tournament.

No. 8 Missouri (-1) vs. No. 9 Florida State
Winner: Florida State, 53 percent
Pick: Florida State +1

Florida State is one of the taller teams in the tournament (average height of 6-foot-7 inches) with an effective height — the average of the center and power forward position — of plus-1.4 inches above average. That helps when grabbing offensive rebounds (33 percent, 46th in the nation), on putbacks (57 percent scoring rate, 53rd percentile) and converting shots around the basket (60 percent, fifth best in the nation).

It also helps on defense: the Seminoles hold opponents to 46 percent shooting around the basket, the fifth-best rim protection in the nation.

The rest of the games


No. 1 Villanova (-22) vs. No. 16 Radford
Winner: Villanova, 99 percent
Pick: Villanova +22

No. 2 Purdue (-20.5) vs. No. 15 Cal St. Fullerton
Winner: Purdue, 97 percent
Pick: Purdue -20.5

No. 3 Texas Tech (-11.5) vs. No. 14 Stephen F. Austin
Winner: Texas Tech, 89 percent
Pick: Texas Tech -11.5

No. 4 Wichita State (-12) vs. No. 13 Marshall
Winner: Wichita State, 87 percent
Pick: Wichita State -12

No. 5 West Virginia (-10.5) vs. No. 12 Murray State
Winner: West Virginia, 74 percent
Pick: Murray State +7

No. 6 Florida vs. No. 11 St. Bonaventure
Winner: Florida, 61 percent
Pick: No. 11 St. Bonaventure +5.5

No. 8 Virginia Tech (-2) vs. No. 9 Alabama
Winner: Virginia Tech, 56 percent
Pick: Virginia Tech -2


No. 1 Kansas (-14) vs. No. 16 Penn
Winner: Kansas, 93 percent
Pick: Kansas -14

No. 2 Duke (-20) vs. No. 15 Iona
Winner: Duke, 98 percent
Pick: Duke -20

No. 3 Michigan State (-14.5) vs. No. 14 Bucknell
Winner: Michigan State, 93 percent
Pick: Michigan State -14.5

No. 4 Auburn (-10.5) vs. No. 13 College of Charleston
Winner: Auburn, 88 percent
Pick: Auburn -10.5

No. 5 Clemson (-5) vs. No. 12 New Mexico St.
Winner: Clemson, 68 percent
Pick: Clemson -5

No. 8 Seton Hall (-2) vs. No. 9 North Carolina St.
Winner: Seton Hall, 55 percent
Pick: Seton Hall -2


No. 1 Virginia (-22.5) vs. No. 16 UMBC
Winner: Virginia, 99 percent
Pick: Virginia -22.5

No. 2 Cincinnati (-14.5) vs. No. 15 Georgia St.
Winner: Cincinnati, 93 percent
Pick: Cincinnati by -14.5

No. 3 Tennessee (-13) vs. No. 14 Wright St.
Winner: Tennessee, 93 percent
Pick: Tennessee -13

No. 4 Arizona (-9) vs. No. 13 Buffalo
Winner: Arizona, 74 percent
Pick: Buffalo +9

No. 5 Kentucky (-6) vs. No. 12 Davidson
Winner: Kentucky, 63 percent
Pick: Kentucky -6

No. 7 Nevada (Pick ’em) vs. No. 10 Texas
Winner: Nevada, 56 percent
Pick: Nevada

No. 8 Creighton (-1) vs. No. 9 Kansas St.
Winner: Creighton, 56 percent
Pick: Creighton -1


No. 2 North Carolina (-19.5) vs. No. 15 Lipscomb
Winner: North Carolina, 98 percent
Pick: North Carolina -19.5

No. 3 Michigan (-12) vs. No. 14 Montana
Winner: Michigan, 81 percent
Pick: Montana +12

No. 4 Gonzaga (-12.5) vs. No. 13 UNC Greensboro
Winner: Gonzaga, 87 percent
Pick: Gonzaga -12.5

No. 5 Ohio State (-8) vs. No. 12 South Dakota State
Winner: Ohio State, 78 percent
Pick: Ohio State -8

No. 6 Houston (-4) vs. No. 11 San Diego St.
Winner: Houston, 67 percent
Pick: Houston -4

No. 7 Texas A&M (-3.5) vs. No. 10 Providence
Winner: Texas A&M, 63 percent
Pick: Texas A&M -3.5

To be determined (No spread with matchups pending)

No. 6 TCU vs. No. 11 Arizona State/Syracuse

No. 1 Xavier vs. No. 16 Texas Southern/North Carolina Central

Read more on the tournament:

NCAA tournament cheat sheet: Everything you need to dominate your pool

Forget Kentucky and Arizona, Virginia has easiest road to the Final Four

Five Cinderellas who can reach the Sweet 16, including a No. 16 seed

The most vulnerable top seeds in the NCAA tournament

The three best bets to win the 2018 NCAA tournament

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