2023 March Madness Betting Model Projections

First-Round Picks

by Aaron Ogdahl
2023 March Madness Betting Model Projections

Welcome to OG Analytics 2023 March Madness Betting Model Projections!

Need a jumpstart to some winners in the first round? You’ve come to the right place to not only get winners but to win some money too through smart bets. In this Manifesto of sorts, I’m going to provide advice when filling out an office pool and I’ll even provide some bonus betting picks as well with every first-round matchup.

The basics:

  1. First and foremost, consider your office pool size. If you’re in a very big pool (1000+), consider taking some early underdogs and progressively get chalkier as rounds go on. It’s fun to pick a 12 seed to the elite 8, the problem is that it doesn’t happen that often. Will a 12-seed win a first-round game? Almost certainly
  2. If your office pool is relatively small, limit upsets, but take a chance on a flyer. The key with smaller pools is picking the champions of every region. Have some fun, but don’t stray too far from what may happen. Balance your risk with your reward. Don’t be too conservative and only pick favorites, but don’t be reckless with upset after upset either.
  3. Have fun! If you have a hunch that a team with the coolest mascot will win, fire away! There’s a reason why your wife beats your picks year after year! The tournament is about fun, but hey bragging rights and some extra money never hurt anyone!

Check out Tomlin's March Madness Strategy Post for a more in-depth breakdown!

There is no time to waste! Let's hop into each region’s matchup. I’ll provide some background, I’ll give you my model result, a bracket pick to win, and a betting angle (if applicable).

2023 March Madness Betting Model Projections

South Region

#1 Alabama vs Texas A&M CC/SEMO

Don’t think too much about this one. The tournament’s overall #1 seed will be a double-digit favorite and their athleticism is going to completely dismantle either Texas A&M Corpus Christi or SE Missouri St. Both teams are uptempo and this is a perfect mismatch for Alabama. However, there’s +EV on tonight’s game with SEMO. I have them as a slight 1.11-point favorite. Take the +150 Moneyline

The Play:SEMO +150
Bracket Pick: Alabama

#8 Maryland vs #9 West Virginia

I’ve written how I liked West Virginia in previous write-ups and when it comes to tournament time, I love relying on coaches who have been there and done it before. Coach Bob Huggins and the Mountaineers have talent. They will need to bring their A game in a collision of two teams from the two best conferences this year if they’re going to bring down the Terps. West Virginia was 7-11 in Big 12 play, but don’t let that fool you. The Mountaineers have talent and they’ve knocked off serious contenders this year to get to those 7 wins, with 3 wins against Iowa St, Kansas St, and Texas Tech before losing to Kansas. My model has West Virginia as a 3.34-point favorite. Ride with Huggy.

The Play: West Virginia -2.5
Bracket Pick: West Virginia

#5 San Diego St vs #12 Charleston

The first of the ever-exciting 5 v 12 matchups. San Diego St still has their lockdown defense and they’ll have to be ready for the 31-3 College of Charleston Cougars. It’s not all cupcakes that have led to their 31 wins either. They’ve beaten Virginia Tech, Kent State, Davidson, Richmond, and Colorado St. San Diego St just might be a little too much for the Cougars however. To get upsets, teams need to shoot from beyond the arc. Charleston is #222 in the nation from 3-point land. They’re not going to be able to match up with the Aztec’s size and physicality. My model has San Diego St as a 4.23-point favorite and as much as I want to take Charleston, I just can’t in my bracket. However, 5.5 is too many for a 31-win team.

The Play: Col Charleston +5.5
Bracket Pick: San Diego St

#4 Virginia vs #13 Furman

This line smells funny. -5.5 to the Cavs seems short at first glance with Virginia being a powerhouse ACC school, but the Paladins of Furman can play. They’re very athletic and have scorers. They’ll need them against arguably the best defense in the nation. As I mentioned earlier, trust coaches who have been there and done it with defense. This pick is a combination of the earlier West Virginia and San Diego St theorems; we’re taking the Cavaliers and Tony Bennett. He’s too good of a coach to overlook the incredibly athletic Furman Paladins. My model has Virginia winning by 7.79. I think Furman will be a trendy dog and there is +EV on the Cavs.

The Play: Virginia -5.5
Bracket Pick: Virginia

#6 Creighton vs #11 NC State

The line for what may be the most highly anticipated matchup of the first round sits at Creighton -5.5. The Big East powerhouse will need to contain the exciting backcourt in Trequavion Smith and Jarkel Joiner. They’ve shown they have firepower at times this season, but Creighton can shoot it from everywhere and not only that, they can play defense. Ryan Kalkbrenner is the Big East Defensive player of the year and can contain NC State from inside 3-point land. NC State will have to not only score from the outside but also outshoot Creighton who shoots 36% from beyond the arc. My model has Creighton winning this one by 3.88, so I do think 5.5 is too many, but Creighton ultimately wins this one.

The Play: NC State
Bracket Pick: Creighton

#3 Baylor vs #14 UC Santa Barbara

CAREFUL on this one. UCSB is coming in RED HOT in this game. Now, how can they handle the 3 headed monster backcourt Scott Drew has at Baylor? That’s probably a different story. The line is 10.5 to Baylor, but I think it’s too many. My model has the Gauchos as only a 7.92-point underdog. The Gauchos could catch the Bears off guard in this one, but Scott Drew won a national championship two years ago in the tourney. He knows a formula to get it done and I don’t think they overlook UCSB, too much anyway. The Bears win, but don’t cover. Their defense has been much too suspect to cover double digits.

The Play: UCSB +10.5
Bracket Pick: Baylor

#7 Missouri vs #10 Utah State

This game has upset written all over it. Or does it? Vegas has the line at -1.5 to Utah State and I don’t think it’s enough, to be honest. My model has Utah State as a 4.01-point favorite and with good reason. This team can flat-out shoot and they play lightning-fast. They jumped off the page when I watched a few of their games this year and they keep impressing me. Utah St is older and quite frankly, an offensive juggernaut as they shoot almost 40% from 3 as a team. Get ready for the Aggies to make a run.

The Play: Utah St -1.5
Bracket Pick: Utah St
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#2 Arizona vs #15 Princeton

The Pac-12 Champion Wildcats scare me. At one point, I legitimately had Arizona #1 in my power rankings, but their inconsistencies are too much. They have the ceiling to win the national title, yet they also have the ability to get ousted in the first round against Princeton. However, I’m always very much an Ivy League bettor, especially in the tournament, but this Princeton team isn’t anything special. They shoot average from 3 and below average from the line. They also don’t have any marquee wins. The Wildcats cruise, but don’t cover thanks to the backdoor.

The Play: Princeton +14.5
Bracket Pick: Arizona

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Check out Tomlin's March Madness Strategy Post and view all the projected first-round winners on our NCAA Betting Model Projections page!

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