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Best bets for 2023 NCAA Tournament First Round on Thursday, March 16

We go over our top betting picks to consider for the First Round of 2023 NCAA Tournament on Thursday, March 16.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 10 ACC Tournament - Miami (Fl) vs Duke Photo by David Jensen/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

March Madness is finally here. As you place your bets for the Round of 64, check out some of our favorite picks for Thursday’s games.

2023 March Madness picks: Thursday, March 16

Duke -5.5 (-110)

I love Oral Roberts. Everybody loves Oral Roberts. Just two years removed from being March’s sweethearts, the Golden Eagles are back in the tournament against a Duke team that is very, very hot right now. ORU is not to be underestimated this time around, and with Duke being very comfortable in the villain role and having just swept away the competition in the ACC Tournament, I’m afraid we won’t be getting to see much of ORU this year. I’m taking Duke to cover here.

Duke brings a huge rebounding advantage to the table over ORU, and their defense should be well-suited to limit the Eagles’ pick-and-roll-heavy offensive strategy. Duke will be able to beat them on the boards and on the ground.

Texas A&M -3 (-110)

A&M feels very underseeded at No. 7, and Penn State may have used up all their juice as the local Cinderella in the Big Ten Tournament. To get to the championship game as a 10-seed and lose on a missed buzzer beater has to take some air out of your lungs, though they were able to get off the bubble and secure a spot in the tournament.

Texas A&M finished second to Alabama in the SEC this year, grabbing 15 conference wins. This Aggies team is ranked 26th at KenPom and has put up a staunch defense in conference play. Penn State ranks 39th, but bring the best player to the court in Jalen Pickett. Still, I think the A&M defense shuts down the Nittany Lions’ shooters.

Furman +6 (-110)

The No. 13 Paladins qualified for the tournament with a Southern Conference championship win, and while their strength of schedule doesn’t exactly stand out, their offense is one of the highest-scoring in the nation, putting up 82.1 points per game. They will be going up against a Virginia team whose strength all season has been their defense. But UVA has been shocked by some seemingly lesser teams before when they can’t respond with anything on the offensive side of the ball — Boston College and Louisville, for two, though they pulled out a close win over the latter.

This seems primed for a good close game, as the two are well-matched on both sides of the court. It will come down to whether Virginia can get some shots to fall, but I like Furman to cover this 6-point spread.