Gary Parrish tells you who he is picking and why for every first round game Thursday.and more »
Download the CBS Sports App today and get instant tournament news and alerts, plus play Brackets! After two days of First Four games, the 2017 NCAA Tournament’s first round begins Thursday. For a complete list of our expert picks, click here. And, to see all the upsets SportsLine is picking, go here. You’ll want to check those out. Their model was right on eight of nine upset picks last year, including six double-digit seeds.Here are my picks straight-up and against the spread for Thursday’s first round games. Notre Dame -6.5 vs. Princeton, 12:15 p.m, CBSWinner: Notre Dame ATS pick: Notre Dame The Irish have only lost once to an unranked team all season. So they should be able to handle Princeton and cover the number. Virginia -7.5 vs. UNC-Wilmington, 12:40 p.m, truTVWinner: Virginia
ATS pick: Virginia UNC Wilmington is lots of people’s favorite 12-5 upset. But remember that Tony Bennett has advanced in the NCAA Tournament each of the past three years. Butler -11 vs. Winthrop, 1:30 p.m, TNTWinner: Butler ATS pick: Winthrop Chris Holtmann’s Bulldogs will win. But 11 points is too many to give a sold Winthrop team that’s on an eight-game winning streak. Gonzaga -22.5 vs. South Dakota State, 2 p.m, TBSWinner: Gonzaga ATS pick: South Dakota State The Zags will not become the first No. 1 seed to lose in the Round of 64. But Mike Daum is good enough to keep South Dakota State within the number.
West Virginia -14 vs. Bucknell, 2:45 p.m, CBSWinner: West Virginia ATS pick: West Virginia The Mountaineers rank first in defensive turnover percentage while the Bison rank 200th in offensive turnover percentage. That’s a bad combo for Bucknell. Florida could be ripe for an upset vs. East Tennessee State on Thursday.
Florida -10.5 vs. East Tennessee State, 3:10 p.m., truTVWinner: ETSU ATS pick: ETSU The Gators are 1-3 in their past four games and just 3-3 since John Egbuno suffered a season-ending injury. So they’re susceptible to the upset — and ETSU is good enough to upset them. Minnesota -1 vs. Middle Tennessee, 4 p.m, TNTWinner: Minnesota ATS pick: Minnesota
Seems like everybody is picking Middle Tennessee. That’s enough for me to pick Richard Pitino’s Golden Gophers. Vanderbilt -2 vs. Northwestern, 4:30 p.m, TBSWinner: Northwestern ATS pick: Northwestern This is the first time a 15-loss team has been a favorite in the NCAA Tournament. I’ll gladly take Northwestern and the points.Maryland -2 vs. Xavier, 6:50 p.m, TNTWinner: Maryland ATS pick: Maryland Xavier is 3-7 in its past 10 games and not the same without Edmond Sumner. Look for Melo Trimble to lead the Terrapins to another postseason win .
Villanova -26.5 vs. Mount St. Mary’s, 7:10 p.m, CBSWinner: Villanova ATS pick: Mount St. Mary’s This is a lot of points to give a team in a 40-minute game in which Jay Wright will presumably rest starters at some point. The guess here is that Villanova goes up big, sets it on cruise control and allows the Mountaineers to stay within the number. Saint Mary’s -4.5 vs. VCU, 7:20 p.m., TBSWinner: SMC ATS pick: SMC What if Saint Mary’s is a legit top-10 team but simply not good enough to beat Gonzaga? Are we sure that’s not the case? Purdue -10.5 vs. Vermont, 7:27 p.m, truTVWinner: Purdue ATS pick: Vermont There’s no way I’m giving 10.5 points to a team on a 21-game winning streak. Purdue wins but Vermont covers. Florida State -12 vs. FGCU, 9:20 p.m, TNTWinner: FSU ATS pick: FGCU I doubt Dunk City will be the story of the NCAA Tournament again like it was in 2013. But I do think Florida Gulf Coast can stay within 12 points of FSU. Wisconsin -5.5 vs. Virginia Tech, 9:40 p.m, CBSWinner: Virginia Tech ATS pick: Virginia Tech Something just hasn’t seemed right with this Wisconsin team all season. Don’t be surprised if Virginia Tech upsets the Badgers to setup a game with Villanova. Arizona -17 vs. North Dakota, 9:50 p.m, TVWinner: Arizona ATS pick: Arizona The Wildcats have to be disappointed they didn’t get a No. 1 seed. They’ll take that out on North Dakota -- and will be covering the 17 points by halftime. Iowa State -6.5 vs. Nevada, 9:57 p.m, TVWinner: Nevada ATS pick: Nevada The Wolf Pack enter on a nine-game winning streak. I like Iowa State but believe Nevada has the pieces to upset the Cyclones in this 12-5 matchup.
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