NCAA Tournament betting recap: Ja Morant, underdog Murray St. dominate Marquette to end early Thursday slate
NCAA Tournament betting recap: Ja Morant, underdog Murray St. dominate Marquette to end early Thursday slate
The NCAA Tournament kicked off March Madness with its first round Thursday -- and we have you covered with a recap of the early game betting action.
The NCAA Tournament kicked off March Madness with its first round Thursday -- and we have you covered with a recap of the early game betting action. Here's a rundown of every afternoon game, from Louisville-Minnesota to Marquette-Murray State: ## Minnesota, Pitino blitz Louisville for tourney's first upset It didn't take long for the Madness to begin. This wasn't a wild upset -- a No. 10 seed beating a No. 7 seed rarely is -- but Minnesota (+5) did its best Cinderella impression with 11 made threes to upend Louisville, 86-76, in the first game of Thursday's first round. The Golden Gophers (22-13 straight up, 18-17 against the spread) mounted a 38-33 halftime lead behind 13 points from leading scorer Amir Coffey, including a three just before the break. It was one of seven first-half triples for a team that averaged just over five made threes per GAME before Thursday. But Minnesota wasn't done. After the Cardinals (20-14 SU, 17-15-2 ATS) came within 10 midway through the second half, the Gophers buried two more triples against Louisville's ill-run press defense to seize momentum. A 7-0 Cardinal run threatened to make it a game before Gabe Kalscheur -- who finished with a game-high 24 points -- finished a layup through contact to dispel the comeback bid. Another Louisville run in the final minutes came too little, too late. The game looked like a likely UNDER (137) in the early minutes, when these two combined for nine points in the first five minutes. A late scoring flurry, though, helped push the total OVER with just over four minutes left. With the win over his father's former team, Richard Pitino notched his first NCAA Tournament win in six years with the Gophers, who take on the winner of Michigan State-Bradley on Saturday. ## LSU survives Yale without head coach Despite an SEC title and loaded roster to its credit, No. 3 seed LSU saw the public and sharp bettors flooding toward No. 14 Yale ahead of Thursday's first-round matchup. It wasn't always pretty, but the Tigers (-7) were simply too much for the Ivy League champion, scoring the first nine points and holding on late for a 79-74 win. It was enough for Yale spread bettors, though, who benefited from a flurry of late threes to cover. Without head coach Will Wade, suspended amid an FBI probe into recruiting violations, LSU (27-6 SU, 19-13-1 ATS) looked just fine as it mounted a 16-point halftime lead. The Tigers were -4000 on the moneyline at offshore Bovada, and the Bulldogs (22-8 SU, 17-12 ATS) simply looked listless in their second tournament appearance since 1962. Yale slowly charged back in the second half, trailing 68-62 with a minute left and a wide-open look for Miye Oni. But the Bulldog star launched one of his nine misses from deep -- Yale finished 8-of-36 from three -- and the Tigers survived four threes allowed in the final minute to stave off the massive upset. It wasn't enough for OVER (157.5) bettors, though, who needed just two more threes to fall in a near-miss. LSU advances to the second round, where it'll face either No. 6 seed Maryland or No. 11 seed Belmont. ## Auburn nearly collapses vs. New Mexico State Ahead of Thursday's meeting between No. 5 seed Auburn and No. 12 seed New Mexico State, many figured the team to get hot from three would walk away with the win. Ironically, it was an errant foul on a late three that nearly doomed the Tigers. Instead, a devastating missed free throw with one second left doomed the upstart Aggies (+6) in Auburn's 78-77 win -- reaching the second round in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2000. It didn't take long for the Tigers (27-9 SU, 20-14-1 ATS) to heat up from deep, hitting two triples in the first three minutes. They never let up, sinking 12 threes on 38.7 percent shooting to overwhelm New Mexico State. The Aggies (30-5 SU, 18-15 ATS) weren't as fortunate, finishing 7-of-25 on just 28 percent alongside 16 turnovers. Yet a deep three with 29 seconds remaining -- and another with 6.8 seconds left -- cut Auburn's lead to one, all but securing the win for New Mexico State spread bettors. After Auburn missed the front end of two free throws with six seconds left, the Aggies had a chance. And with a wide-open layup in tow, New Mexico State instead fired a deep three, drawing a bonehead foul on Auburn's Bryce Brown. Aggie guard Terrell Brown missed two free throws, killing hopeful moneyline bettors. And one final three, a wide-open look from the corner, had no shot, as Auburn survived a wild ending. It was a bit of a bad beat for UNDER bettors, too, as the two teams combined for 16 points in the final minute to easily clear the 145.5-point bar. Auburn will face the winner of Kansas-Northeastern in Saturday's action. ## Vermont can't close deal against Florida State Four games, four underdog covers thanks to a meaningless layup for Vermont. For Catamount fans, though, it could have been so much more. No. 13 seed Vermont (+8.5) kept pace with No. 4 seed Florida State nearly the entire game, leading the first 10 minutes and again with 11:34 left. But the Seminoles' length and physicality proved too much, as FSU rode a strong performance at the line to a 76-69 win. The Seminoles (28-7 SU, 17-18-1 ATS) muscled their way to the line, finishing an astounding 31-of-37 from the stripe. Late desperation fouls surely helped. But pesky Vermont (27-7 SU, 21-10-2 ATS), behind 16 made triples (50 percent), kept it within a possession deep into the second half. A 9-3 run by Florida State gave it a 59-51 lead and a 91 percent chance to win with 4:27 left, per ESPN, and 15 (as of :14 first) free throws in the final 3:35 left Vermont with little breathing room to mount a comeback. The Catamounts tried nonetheless, hitting a trio of late threes to reward OVER 132.5 bettors. Ben Shungu waltzed to a meaningless layup with 14 seconds to swing the margin for Vermont +8.5. The Seminoles had a shot to match, but they dribbled the ball out to let the clock bleed -- though a Catamount cover felt like the right side all along. Despite the scare, FSU advances to face the winner of No. 5 seed Marquette vs. No. 12 seed Murray State on Saturday. ## Michigan State outlasts Bradley as massive favorite Spartan bettors still cringe thinking of 2016, when No. 2 seed Michigan State lost to a No. 15 seed in the first round. On Thursday, it nearly happened again. Bradley (+17.5) gave the Spartans a fight in the first half and led by five early in the second half. Michigan State answered with a 14-2 run and held off the Braves in an eventual 76-65 win, though Bradley spread bettors were rewarded for laying money against the massive number. The Spartans (29-6 SU, 24-11 ATS) were -10,000 on Bovada's live moneyline and had a 93 percent chance to win after taking a 44-39 lead. But the Braves (20-15 SU, 18-17 ATS) wouldn't go down easy, taking the lead three times under the 12-minute mark. Yet Bradley had no answers for Cassius Winston, who scored a game-high 26 points and was responsible for 11 straight points down the stretch. A pivotal three from Matt McQuaid -- the hero in the Big Ten title game -- pushed his team's lead to six with 3:34 left, and Aaron Henry's subsequent jumper capped off a 9-0 run to essentially finish off the Braves. UNDER bettors were holding their breath late, but a Bradley free throw pushed the game OVER the 134.5-point total with 41 seconds to go. It marked the fourth time in five early games that the OVER hit, with five straight underdog wins. With the win, Michigan State meets Big Ten foe Minnesota in Saturday's second round. The Spartans won, 79-55, when the two met on Feb. 9 in East Lansing. ## Belmont covers back-and-forth affair with Maryland The underdogs just can't stop cashing in. Count No. 11 seed Belmont (+3.5) among the winners, even with a late-game lapse in Thursday's 79-77 loss to No. 6 seed Maryland in a thrilling game for neutral observers. After earning its way into the 64-team field with a win Tuesday, the Bruins (27-6 SU, 21-10-1 ATS) saw the lion's share of money ahead of Thursday's test against the Terrapins (23-10 SU, 16-16-1 ATS), with the line dropping from Maryland -5 to -3 at some books. Early on, Belmont backers were onto something. The Bruins charged ahead to a 12-point lead and held a 40-34 edge at halftime. Maryland roared back, opening the second half with a 14-0 run before Belmont answered with its own volley. Both teams enjoyed sizable leads in the final minutes but couldn't hold, and the Bruins had a chance to win it at the buzzer, OVER 151.5 in tow. But a brutal pass inside led to a turnover and two Maryland free throws, and Belmont's final shot was off in a heartbreaking loss. Maryland advances to Saturday's second round to face LSU, which staved off Yale earlier on Thursday. ## Kansas bullies Northeastern, extends secound-round streak Not every underdog could cash out Thursday. Sorry, Northeastern. The No. 4 seed Jayhawks (-6.5) were hardly threatened in Thursday's 87-53 win over Northeastern, even as sharps pounded the underdog Huskies ahead of tip-off. Kansas' cover snapped a run of six straight underdog wins ATS in the first six games of the first round. No. 13 seed Northeastern (23-11 SU, 18-13-3) started hot with three triples in its first five attempts. But the Huskies missed 20 of their next 23 tries from deep the rest of the game, falling behind by 12 at halftime as the Jayhawks (26-9 SU, 16-18-1 ATS) imposed their will inside. In the end, Kansas' makeshift roster was plenty enough, led by 25 points and 11 rebounds from Dedric Lawson in a result that was hardly in doubt. The total fell just UNDER 143 thanks in large part to Northeastern's inability to make layups. With the win, the Jayhawks reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the 13th straight year under Bill Self. They'll face No. 5 seed Auburn, which survived a furious rally from No. 12 seed New Mexico State. ## Morant, Murray St. dominate Marquette as underdogs Ja Morant was [as good as advertised](https://www.betchicago.com/ncaa-tournament-2019-players-bulls-nba-draft). Morant had 17 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists in the No. 12 Racers' 83-64 win over No. 5 Marquette in Hartford as 3-point underdogs. The game went UNDER its 154.5-point total. The sophomore guard's triple-double was the first in the NCAA Tournament since 2012, when another future NBA star, Draymond Green, did it for Michigan State. Billed as a matchup between Morant and Marquette junior Markus Howard, two of the top scorers in college basketball, the game turned into a one-sided affair in the second half. Murray State had a two-point lead with 2:00 left in the first half and outscored Marquette by 17 the rest of the way. Morant did all his damage on only nine shots. Howard scored a game-high 26 points but shot only 9-for-27 from the field. Underdogs went 7-1 in the early slate (Kansas being the only favorite to cover) and the OVER 5-3. Onto the evening slate. __NCAA Tournament 2019 betting:__ [Wofford can be trusted in Thursday nightcaps](https://www.betchicago.com/ncaa-tournament-2019-betting-wofford-seton-hall-thursday-night)2019-03-21T18:33:07.855Z2019-03-21T18:55-04:00