March Madness Betting Guide: First Round, Friday

numberFire has built comprehensive algorithms to pinpoint the bets with the highest probability of returning money, whether you are betting on the total, the spread, or the moneyline. For those new to numberFire, we use a five-star system to show which bets you should be targeting for any given game. Stars represent how much you should risk on a wager relative to what you would normally bet.

For example, if you would normally bet $110 to win $100 on a -110 spread wager, if we give a three-star ranking, we suggest risking three times that amount: $330 to win $300. Here are the best bets for this weekend with guidance from our model.

Please note that lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. Please check here to make sure you're seeing the most updated information. You can also look at our oddsFire tool to get a feel for what the betting public is doing.

Colgate vs. Arkansas

Colgate +9.5: 4 Stars out of 5

Colgate is an interesting case this season, as they did not play any non-conference games and played just 15 games total. However, they did dominate the Patriot League, finishing 14-1 on the season. Our nERD rankings respect their skill level, ranking them 24th in the nation.

They will face a strong Arkansas team that we rank 17th, but our model has this being a fairly evenly matched game for a 3/14 matchup. Our algorithm projects the Razorbacks to win 75.76-72.87, which is about 6.5 points fewer than the 9.5-point spread.

We give Colgate a 68.57% chance to cover 9.5 points, and that makes it a four-star betting opportunity for Friday.

Drexel vs. Illinois

Drexel +22.5: 5 Stars out of 5

Drexel started the year 8-7 and then had almost a three-week break due to COVID. Since they resumed play in late February, the Dragons have rolled off three straight wins en route to the CAA Conference title.

They will face Illinois, who we have ranked second in the country. It's obviously a daunting task. But the 22.5-point spread is a bit much, per our numbers. We rank Drexel 157th, so they are formidable for a 16 seed, and we expect them to make a game of this.

Our model projects Illinois to win by a final score of 78.09-67.02, so while we do have the Illini winning comfortably, we don’t have them getting anywhere close to covering the 22.5-point spread.

We give Drexel a 79.46% chance to cover, making this a five-star bet.

Oregon State vs. Tennessee

Over 130.0: 5 Stars out of 5

Oregon State was just 14-12 heading into the Pac-12 Tournament, but they caught fire and ripped off three straight wins to win the conference tourney title and advance to the NCAA Tournament.

All three of the Beavers' conference tournament games had more than 130 total points scored, and there was an average of 146.3 points scored over those games. Oregon State has scored 70 or more points in five of their last six games, and all six of these games have gone over 130 total points.

Our model projects Tennessee winning by a final score of 73.66-69.06, which would be a total of 142.72 points. We give the over a 73.37% likelihood of hitting, so this is one of the strongest possible betting opportunities for Friday.