These Are the Underdogs the Public Is Betting on in the First Round of March Madness

Nike Sibande celebrates with teammates
Nike Sibande #22 of the Pittsburgh Panthers celebrates after defeating the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the First Four game of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at University of Dayton Arena on March 14, 2023 in Dayton, Ohio. Dylan Buell/Getty Images

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The first round of the 2023 NCAA Tournament is now mere hours away. Known for its wild upsets, this year's edition of March Madness promises more chaos. Below, find the three moneyline underdogs that the public is backing to advance to the second round.

The percentages discussed below come from DraftKings Sportsbook as of 9:30 a.m. EST on Thursday, March 16.

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Missouri (+105) vs. Utah State

In the matchup between No. 7 Missouri and No. 10 Utah State, the public is loving Missouri's moneyline at +105. As of Thursday morning, 57-percent of moneyline handle was on the Tigers to advance.

To some extent, this is exactly the type of publicly-favored wager one would expect. Not only is Missouri a better seed, they also play in a "Power Conference" (the SEC) and have a much higher profile.

That said, oddsmakers weren't asleep at the wheel when they listed Utah State as the betting favorite. At college basketball analytics sites like KenPom, Torvik, Sagarin, and Haslametrics, the Aggies rate considerably higher than the Tigers. And when it comes to the ATS betting handle, the Aggies are actually getting 53-percent of the money as 1.5-point favorites.

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VCU (+160) vs. Saint Mary's

The betting handle in No. 12 VCU vs. No. 5 Saint Mary's is even more lopsided. The Rams, who just won the A10 Tournament in impressive fashion, are getting a massive 80-percent of moneyline handle as +160 underdogs.

Unlike with the Utah State vs. Missouri matchup above, VCU is also getting a large share of the ATS betting split. So far, 69-percent of money bet against the spread is on the Rams to cover as four-point underdogs.

As a program, Saint Mary's does not have a strong March Madness history. In 10 previous appearances (since the field expanded to 64 in 1985), they made a first-round exit on six occasions. Their lackluster showing in the WCC Tournament final certainly has something to do with the splits against VCU. The Gaels were routed 77-51 by Gonzaga and never looked competitive, trailing by 18 at halftime.

Pittsburgh (+150) vs. Iowa State

Fresh off a thrilling First Four win over Mississippi State, the No. 11 Pitt Panthers are getting 57-percent of moneyline handle as +150 underdogs to No. 6 Iowa State.

The history of teams that advance out of the First Four is encouraging for Pitt backers. Since the NCAA started using the First Four in 2011, there has only been one year (2019) where one of the teams advancing to the round of 64 didn't make it to the round of 32.

Pitt was also the second-best team against the spread this year, going 23-10-1 against the number in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year.

Iowa State went just 19-13 straight-up in the difficult Big 12 and was 16-16 against the spread. They were also considerably better in the first half of the season than the latter half, going just 6-11 in their last 17 games, including the Big 12 Tournament.

As of Thursday morning, those were the only three moneyline underdogs getting more than 50-percent of the money in their respective games.







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