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Thursday College Basketball Best Bets – Early

There really is nothing quite like the first Thursday of the NCAA tournament from a gambling perspective as it's just a barrage of games for 12+ hours the entire day to sink your teeth into. Staying disciplined with your bankroll can be a bit of a concern during these first two days with how much action there is, so keep that in mind when you are grinding through the day.

Another good way to approach the day is to split the games up by time slots so that they can be broken down into smaller parts and focused on that way. Whether you do it by afternoon and night like I am, or breaking it down to four-game time slot blocks is up to you, but having a plan of attack is never a bad thing. So with that out of the way, let's get right to the early plays for Thursday.

Odds per -

Best Bet #1: Oklahoma +2

For all the controversial selections the committee made on which schools got into the NCAA tournament, no one received more vitriol than Oklahoma. The Sooners struggles down the stretch were well documented and perceived to be the deciding factor in them missing out on the big dance, but the committee saw otherwise and put Oklahoma in the field of 64 based on what they claimed was their overall body of work.

Whatever the case may be, Oklahoma is in, and we seen before that these teams that everyone disputed being put in the field Selection Sunday go on to make a run to at least the Sweet 16. This Oklahoma could be set for the same path.

Conspiracy theorists would suggest the Sooners got into the field so that the NCAA can garner more ratings with Trae Young getting at least one more game of national television exposure, but be that as it may, the guy can fill up the basket. Oklahoma's poor play down the stretch were in large part because teams were seeing the Sooners for the second time around and blatantly taking Young out of the game and forcing someone else to beat them.

Oklahoma isn't the deepest team and that will eventually be their downfall in this tournament, but Young and the Sooners should be able to get by a Rhode Island team that people are putting too high on a pedestal for this game simply because they want to fade Oklahoma and get some sort of satisfaction that the committee was wrong with their pick.

Rhode Island is a solid team for sure, but they really didn't face the competition the Sooners did on a nightly basis in the Atlantic 10. The Rams also don't have the first hand experience of dealing with Young's scoring ability the same way the majority of Oklahoma's Big 12 rivals did the final month of the season, and even if film study tells Rhode Island that's the most likely path to victory, I'm not sure they've got the athletes across the board that those Big 12 schools have to accomplish that goal.

The Rams also enter the tournament on a 4-10 ATS run when off a loss and a 1-4 ATS mark in their last five against a winning team, so don't be going to back this team simply out of spite for the committee and/or Oklahoma.

I've seen this story all too often in March where the team nobody expected/wanted to get into the tournament gets overlooked and undervalued before going on a run to win a few games. Without question the Sooners know they've got a second life this year – just go back and watch Trae Young's reaction to Oklahoma being announced into the field at the 40 second mark of this video – and I don't think they waste it on being a one-and-done.

Odds per -

Best Bet #2: Ohio State/South Dakota St Over 147

After losing in their first game of the Big 10 tournament, the Ohio State Buckeyes may have a bit of rust to worry about as it will be nearly two full weeks in between games for them. The good news is they are a #5 seed so they shouldn't be tested right out of the gate in theory, but everyone knows about the history of #5 seeds going down to #12's.

South Dakota State is in that underdog role here and if the Jackrabbits are going to pull off the upset, they'll have to fill up the bucket and play their style of game to do so.

South Dakota State loves to get games in the 80's as they averaged 83.4 points per game scored and gave up 75.6/game as well. They've got three talented scorers in Mike Daum (23.8 ppg), David Jenkins Jr (16.1 ppg), and Reed Tellinghuisen (12 ppg), and none of those guys will be scared to put up quick shots against this Buckeyes team.

Even if you take the averages of South Dakota States points per game (83.4) and combine it with Ohio State's points allowed per game (66.7), you still come out with South Dakota State scoring 75 points in this contest win or lose. As +8 underdogs, if things go somewhat according to plan ATS-wise, then 75 points from the Jackrabbits easily puts this game over the number.

Ohio State won't shy away from an uptempo contest either as they know they are the better team here and will be fine with going out there and running with the Jackrabbits for awhile. The extra rest may actually help the Buckeyes in determining to push the pace and push advantages when they get them more often with fatigue being non-existent, and a 9-3 O/U run in their last 12 NCAA tournament games as a program suggests Ohio State prefers to run on this stage.

But what settles it for me on this play is the fact that South Dakota State is 41-19-1 O/U in their last 61 games against non-conference teams. That means that they are often quite successful at playing their quick style of play and filling up the bucket against opponents that don't know them well, and defensively, they'll never be anything special.

The Jackrabbits are often overmatched talent-wise in many of those non-conference games so their already suspect defense simply can't hold up. Just going back through some of South Dakota St's non-conference games this year shows that tournament teams like Kansas, Buffalo, and Wichita State scored 98, 80, and 95 points respectively against them.

Ohio State could easily follow suit in this first round game as anything below the 150 mark for this game is much too low in my opinion.

· Schwab: Friday - Session 1
· Rogers: Friday - Session 2
· Mejia: Friday - Session 3
· Friday's Early Best Bets
· Marshall: Dark Horses to Watch
· Wofford tops Seton Hall, 84-68
· Baylor downs Syracuse, 'over' hits
· Florida knocks out Nevada, 70-61
· Villanova slips by St. Mary's
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