Home » Early best bets: 2023 March Madness bracket picks, sleepers from our experts

Early best bets: 2023 March Madness bracket picks, sleepers from our experts

Are you looking for betting insights on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament? Well, there’s no better way to dive into the madness of March than with early best wagers from our betting experts.

From Arkansas vs. Illinois to Grand Canyon and Gonzaga, we have you covered.

The lines are already on the move, so let’s dive in as our FOX Sports gambling experts Jason McIntyre, Sam Panayotovich (aka Sammy P) and Geoff Schwartz share their thoughts on the opening lines, with odds from FOX Bet.

Let the games begin!

RELATED: NCAA men’s bracket

First up, Jason McIntyre:

Kansas State to win the East Region (+900, bet $10 to win $100 total)

First-year coach Jerome Tang has zero March Madness experience, but what he does have is a tenacious defense (19th in efficiency), an elite point guard in 23-year-old Markquis Nowell, and eight wins this season against tournament teams. 

Depth is an issue after the starting five, but in terms of experience, they’re 16th in the tournament. This is a long shot, but I had to take it because I like the Nowell matchup against Marquette’s best player, Tyler Kolek

PICK: Kansas State (+900 at FOX Bet) to win East Region

Arkansas (-2) vs. Illinois

The Razorbacks are a tricky handicap because their best player, Nick Smith, missed much of the season with an injury, and his return to the lineup has been a bumpy one as Arkansas is just 1-4 in its past five games. But all five losses were to tourney teams. 

The 3-point shooting (304th in the country) concerns me, but the athleticism and length on defense might overwhelm Illinois. The Illini have one win over a tourney team in six weeks (Northwestern, at home), and even that win required a furious second-half comeback.

PICK: Arkansas (-2 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 2 points

Drake (+3) vs. Miami

The Bulldogs steamrolled the competition in the Missouri Valley Tournament, winning every game by 12 or more points. They’re a terrific shooting team, ranking 46th in the country in 3-pointers and 20th in free-throw percentage. 

Tucker DeVries, son of Drake coach Darian DeVries, was a Top 100 recruit with offers from Florida, Oregon and Iowa State, among others. 

Miami lost forward Norchad Omier to an ankle injury in the ACC Tournament, and if he can’t play, the Hurricanes are in trouble. Omier had 14 double-doubles this season.

PICK: Drake (+3 at FOX Bet at time of pick) to lose by fewer than 3 points (or win outright)

Furman (+5.5) vs. Virginia

I’ll be waiting for a first-half line in this game, which features an overrated UVA team that just lost a glue guy, forward Ben Vander Plas, for the season with a fractured hand.

Furman led the country in 2-point shooting and has one of the best young coaches in college hoops, Bob Richey, making his NCAA Tournament debut.

PICK: Furman (+5.5 at FOX Bet) to lose by fewer than 5.5 points (or win outright)

Alabama, Houston, Kansas, and Purdue selected as 1-seeds for NCAA Tournament

Jason McIntyre and Colin Cowherd react to Alabama, Houston, Kansas, and Purdue selected as 1-seeds ahead of the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

Now here’s Sam Panayotovich:

MizzouUtah State total still isn’t high enough

The total opened at 152.5 offshore, and it appears to have settled in the states around 154.5. To be honest, it’s still probably too low. These two squads have the ammunition to reach the 80s with ease, and I’m not counting out an 87-84 final for one second. Both teams are uber efficient from 2 and 3, and neither one is spectacular on the defensive side of the ball.

PICK: Over 154.5 points scored by both teams combined at FOX Bet

Everything Grand Canyon does, Gonzaga does better

March Madness legend Bryce Drew has done a whale of a job at Grand Canyon this year, but he’s basically facing Grand Canyon on steroids in the first round. Gonzaga’s offense is insanely effective when it’s rolling and this is truly a horrendous matchup for the defenseless Antelopes. I’m laying the two touchdowns in a game that has all the makings of a 20-point victory.

PICK: Gonzaga (-15.5 at FOX Bet at time of pick) to win by more than 15.5 points

Picks from Geoff Schwartz:

UCLA will win the West Region

The West region is by far the toughest out of the four regions in this tournament. According to the Pomeroy College Basketball Ratings, one of the best efficiency rating systems in college basketball, the West region’s top five seeds finished the regular season ranked second, fourth, eighth, ninth and 11th overall in the Ken Pom rankings. 

So predicting a winner out of this region will be difficult. But UCLA has all the ingredients needed to win against the best of this bracket.

The Bruins have a veteran team, and their best players have Final Four experience. They are tough, physical and athletic, and it showed in their final game of the Pac-12 tournament. However, UCLA was without its best defensive player, Jaylen Clark, who’s out with a lower leg injury. In that final Pac-12 tourney game, Bruins center Adem Bona was out with a shoulder injury, and they lost both their backup big men after they fouled out. This forced them to move Jaime Jaquez Jr. to center and scramble to guard the rest of Arizona’s outstanding, offensively dynamic team. UCLA held Arizona — a team that averages 82.7 per game — to 61 points. The Bruins finished the season with the top-ranked defense, and that defense will carry them in every single tournament game. 

UCLA is fantastic in the final minutes of games because they do the little things well. They are +6.1 in second-half scoring margin as they keep turnovers down and are good in the set offense when the game slows down in the final few minutes. UCLA is a team that doesn’t require a 3-pointer to score. In fact, 58.9% of the Bruins’ offense comes from two-point baskets, which ranks 16th in the country. Not excellent if you’re trying to come back in a game, but UCLA is rarely in that spot. 

The Blue and Gold have experience and playmaking at point guard, and you’re just not making a deep tournament run without that kind of player. Tyger Campbell is that for the Bruins, and he is averaging 13.6 points and nearly five assists per game this season. His production picked up over the final seven games as UCLA was making a push for the Pac-12 regular-season title and tournament crown. He averaged 18 points a game over their final seven contests, with a combined seven turnovers. Whenever the Bruins are sputtering on offense or need to retake control of a game, Campbell is who they turn to make those plays for them. He’s the key to their success, and he’s playing the best ball of his career.

Winning the West region will not be easy, but UCLA has the grit, depth and experience to make it happen. I’ll take the Bruins.

PICK: UCLA (+340 at FOX Bet) to win West region

Arizona State (-2) vs. Nevada

The Mountain West does not win tournament games because that conference is routinely overrated, and that absolutely played a factor in my decision to back Arizona State here. 

The Mountain West has only won a single tournament game in the opening round in the last 12 tries dating back to 2016. The conference has only put four teams total into the Sweet 16, and yet each postseason, they continue to get prime placement in the Big Dance. 

Arizona State is a hectic offensive squad, and the Sun Devils take some wild shots. Some games, they can’t miss a shot; other games, it can be a struggle. But no matter what, they continue to shoot. 

Nevada, on the other hand, is not a particularly good defensive team. The Wolf Pack struggles to defend the rim, but Arizona State excels at finishing. Where Arizona State does dominate is on defense. The Devils rank 40th in defensive efficiency and sixth in the country at defending the 2-point shot attempt. This bodes well for defending Nevada, which generates a majority of points from the 2-point basket or the foul shot (23.7% of points). Arizona State is the better team with better players. 

I’ll take the Sun Devils.

PICK: Arizona State (-2 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 2 points

Arizona (-14.5) vs. Princeton

When this game is close at halftime, please do not panic. Arizona will pull away in the second half and cover the spread. Princeton will come out firing as the Tigers always do. They average 75 points per game and shoot 34% on 3-pointers. Arizona’s defense is suspect, and we’ve seen recently that this is a team that is prone to slow starts. However, once the Wildcats offense starts taking over and the opponent begins to press with bad shots and attempts to slow down the pace, Arizona will take over. 

Princeton does not have the athletes to slow down Arizona’s potent offensive attack. The Cats average the third-most points per game at 82.7 and rank fourth in the country in offensive efficiency. Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo will be able to control the paint, and Courtney Ramey will have open looks on 3-pointers. I don’t see this game staying close past the first half. Arizona covers.

PICK: Arizona (-14.5 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 14.5 points

Other games I like this weekend. Fade or follow. Good luck!

West Virginia (-2) vs Maryland
Boise State vs Northwestern (+1.5)
Illinois vs Arkansas (-2)
Auburn vs Iowa (-1)
Penn State vs Texas A&M (-2.5 at time of pick)
North Carolina State vs Creighton (-5)
Kennesaw State (+12) vs Xavier
VCU (+5) vs Saint Mary’s
Kent State vs Indiana (-5)
Drake (+3) vs Miami
Santa Barbara (+11) vs Baylor
Oral Roberts (+7) vs Duke
Providence (+3.5) vs Kentucky
USC vs Michigan State (-2)
Florida Atlantic (+2) vs Memphis
Northern Kentucky (+19.5 at time of pick) vs Houston
Iowa State (-4) vs Pittsburgh 

Looking for title futures? Here’s who the fellas have winning it all:

Jason McIntyre: Duke +3000 at FOX Bet

Sam Panayotovich: Texas +1600 at FOX Bet

Geoff Schwartz: UCLA +1400 at FOX Bet

Chris “The Bear” Fallica: Houston +500 at FOX Bet

Patrick Everson: Gonzaga +1400 (long-shot pick: Marquette +2000 at FOX Bet)

Top March Madness betting stories:

Play FOX Super 6 every week for your chance to win thousands of dollars every week. Just download the Super 6 app and make your picks today!

Get more from College Basketball Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more