In what will likely go down as the most bizarre season in the history of the sport, the traditional and expected mayhem in college basketball is just about to get going. Following a year in which the postseason was wiped out entirely because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 NCAA Tournament first round gets underway Friday at 12:15 p.m. ET and runs through Saturday evening. Top overall seed Gonzaga (26-0), the No. 1 seed in the West Region, has set itself apart from the field by blazing through the competition all season. However, the pre-tournament favorite hasn't won it all since Louisville did so in 2013.
Michigan earned a No. 1 seed (East) for the first time since 1993, while fellow Big Ten member Illinois got the nod for a top spot (Midwest) for the first time since 2005. Baylor, the regular-season Big 12 champion, is a No. 1 seed (South) for the first time in program history after previously garnering no better than a No. 3 seed. William Hill Sportsbook has posted college basketball odds for every 2021 NCAA Tournament game. Before locking in any college basketball picks, be sure to see the 2021 NCAA Tournament predictions from SportsLine's proven computer model.
The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every Division I college basketball game 10,000 times. Over the past four-plus years, the proprietary computer model has generated an impressive profit of over $2,500 for $100 players on its top-rated college basketball picks against the spread. It has also returned almost $500 on all top-rated college basketball picks this season. Anyone who has followed it has seen massive returns.
Now, the model has locked in on the latest 2021 NCAA Tournament lines and released point-spread picks and over-under total selections for every first-round matchup. You can see those selections at SportsLine.
2021 NCAA Tournament first-round predictions
One of the model's selections includes No. 5-seeded Creighton (-7) rolling to a double-figure victory Saturday against No. 12-seeded UC Santa Barbara in a West Region matchup with tip-off scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET. The Bluejays cover in almost 70 percent of simulations, while the over (138) clears well over 70 percent of the time.
Another one of the 2021 NCAA Tournament picks from the model: No. 2-seeded Iowa (-14.5) covers the number against NCAA Tournament newcomer Grand Canyon in a Friday tip-off scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET. The model sees Iowa winning the West Region contest by nearly 20 points and beating the spread in 60 percent of simulations.
The Hawkeyes (21-8) lost to eventual champion Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament, but still head to the Big Dance with wins in eight of their past 10 and one of the more experienced rosters in the country. Center Luka Garza is the near-unanimous national Player of the Year and he has carried Iowa with averages of 23.7 points and 8.8 rebounds.
How to make 2021 NCAA Tournament picks
The model also has made the call on every other 2021 NCAA Tournament first-round game and its results include several outright upsets by clubs that could be headed toward memorable Cinderella runs. You can only get spread and total picks for every 2021 NCAA Tournament game at SportsLine.
So what 2021 NCAA Tournament first-round spread picks can you make with confidence? And which underdogs should you be all over? Check out the odds below, then visit SportsLine to see which teams win and cover the spread, all from a proven computer model that has returned over $2,500 in profit over the past four-plus seasons, and find out.
2021 NCAA Tournament odds, schedule
Friday, March 19
Virginia Tech vs. Florida (pick'em)
Colgate vs. Arkansas (-8.5)
Drexel vs. Illinois (-22.5)
Utah State vs. Texas Tech (-4.5)
Oral Roberts vs. Ohio State (-16.5)
Hartford vs. Baylor (-26)
Georgia Tech vs. Loyola-Chicago (-3)
Oregon State vs. Tennessee (-7.5)
Liberty vs. Oklahoma State (-7.5)
Wisconsin vs. North Carolina (-1.5)
Cleveland State vs. Houston (-20.5)
North Texas vs. Purdue (-7.5)
Syracuse vs. San Diego State (-3)
Morehead State vs. West Virginia (-12.5)
Winthrop vs. Villanova (-6.5)
Saturday, March 20
Georgetown vs. Colorado (-5)
UNC Greensboro vs. Florida State (-10.5)
Eastern Washington vs. Kansas (-10.5)
St. Bonaventure vs. LSU (-1.5)
UC Santa Barbara vs. Creighton (-7.5)
Iona vs. Alabama (-17)
Grand Canyon vs. Iowa (-14.5)
Maryland vs. Connecticut (-3)
Ohio vs. Virginia (-7.5)
Missouri vs. Oklahoma (-2)
Abilene Christian vs. Texas (-8.5)
VCU vs. Oregon (-5.5)