Home » 2023 March Madness predictions: NCAA bracket expert picks against the spread, odds in Thursday’s Round 1 games

2023 March Madness predictions: NCAA bracket expert picks against the spread, odds in Thursday’s Round 1 games


The 2023 NCAA Tournament officially began Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, with games in the First Four, but for most fans the real mayhem of March gets going Thursday and Friday as first-round action takes place across the country. Between the next  two days, the field will shrink in half from 64 to 32 teams as a (nearly) sun up to sun down schedule consumes the sport of college basketball.


It’s what makes March Madness, well, March Madness.


Getting some extra skin in the games may help put you in the tournament spirit, too. Below, our CBS Sports experts have provided their insight with picks straight up and against the spread for some of the top games on Thursday’s extended slate. Our expert brackets may offer some help on this front as well.


While surviving and advancing is clearly what matters for most, we care about whether these teams will cover their spreads, and we’ve tracked the season since November to be able to offer our own thoughts on every game.


Be sure to stick with CBS Sports throughout the rest of the month for NCAA Tournament coverage through the end of the Final Four. Let’s take a look at our expert picks as first round games get underway Thursday.


Odds via Caesars Sportsbook | All times Eastern


Featured NCAA Tournament picks


(8) Iowa vs. (9) Auburn


Thursday, 6:50 p.m. | TNT, March Madness LiveAs Jerry Palm wrote about Wednesday, the selection committee oddly awarded Auburn a spot in the Birmingham site to open the NCAA Tournament. So, effectively, this is a home game for the Tigers. That’s enough for me to lean their way in a close spread, so I’ll lay the point. Pick: Auburn -1








Spread


IOWA +1


IOWA +1


IOWA +1


AUB -1


IOWA +1


AUB -1


Straight up


IOWA


IOWA


IOWA


AUB


IOWA


AUB


Get every pick, every play, every upset and fill out your bracket with our help! Visit SportsLine now to see which teams will make and break your bracket and who will cut down the nets, all from the model that beat over 92% of all CBS Sports brackets in two of the last four tournaments.


(5) Duke vs. (12) Oral Roberts


Thursday, 7:10 p.m. | CBS, March Madness LiveI took Oral Roberts when this line was at +6.5 and I’ll stick with it at +6 (though I’m glad I got the hook on the opening line). The Golden Eagles are one of only four teams this season to win at least 30 games, and they enter the tourney having won 27 of their last 28. With sharpshooting Max Abmas, they have the goods to keep Duke sweating down to the wire. Pick: Oral Roberts +6.5








Spread


DUKE -6.5


ORU +6.5


ORU +6.5


ORU +6.5


ORU +6.5


DUKE -6.5


Straight up


ORU


ORU


ORU


DUKE


DUKE


DUKE





(7) Missouri vs. (10) Utah State


Thursday, 1:40 p.m. | TNT, March Madness LiveThis line opened at Utah State -2 and has ticked down to -1 in the last day or so as Missouri gains steam among public bettors. I’m going to hold steady on the Utah State train here. Coach Ryan Odom led the Aggies to seven wins in its last eight games leading into the NCAA Tournament with the lone loss coming to a fifth-seeded San Diego State team that has the goods to make a deep run. Pick: Utah State -1








Spread


MIZZOU +1


UTAHST -1


MIZZOU +1


UTAHST -1


MIZZOU +1


MIZZOU +1


Straight up


MIZZOU


UTAHST


MIZZOU


UTAHST


MIZZOU


MIZZOU


(1) Kansas vs. (16) Howard


Thursday, 2 p.m. | TBS, March Madness LiveEvery year it feels like the lines for 1-16 games feel too high, and yet almost every year, the No. 1 seed proves why it is deserving of such respect. Last year, KU romped Texas Southern in Round 1 by 27 points as a 21.5-point favorite, and it could do the same here against Howard despite the big number. Pick: Kansas -21








Spread


KU -21


HOW +21


KU -21


KU -21


KU -21


HOW +21


Straight up


KU


KU


KU


KU


KU


KU


(1) Alabama vs. (16) Texas A&M-CC


Thursday, 3:17 p.m. | CBS, March Madness LiveNo team this season has been more thoroughly capable of kicking opponents’ tails even against good competition than Alabama. The Crimson Tide have the No. 3 scoring margin in college hoops and enter Thursday a 24-point favorite over Texas A&M-CC. It still feels low. If Alabama can beat Mississippi State by 23 or No. 7 seed Texas A&M by 19, it could easily cover the 24 points against the Islanders if they’re up for it. Pick: Alabama -24








Spread


TAMCC +24


TAMCC +24


BAMA -24


BAMA -24


TAMCC +24


BAMA -24


Straight up


BAMA


BAMA


BAMA


BAMA


BAMA


BAMA


(8) Arkansas vs. (9) Illinois


Thursday, 4:30 p.m. | TBS, March Madness LiveI feel like I’m on the right side of this one after taking Illinois when it was +3 to open. Arkansas has the talent that’s plenty appealing — Anthony Black and Nick Smith Jr. are potential top-10 picks — but they’ve not clicked for most of the season and enter the NCAA Tournament with virtually no momentum. Illinois has at least flashed at times this season and won in big games, and it should be up for the task with win-or-go-home stakes. Pick: Illinois +2.5








Spread


ARK -2.5


ARK -2.5


ARK -2.5


ILL +2.5


ILL +2.5


ARK -2.5


Straight up


ARK


ARK


ARK


ILL


ARK


ARK