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NCAA Tournament - First Four Best Bets

After surviving the calm before the storm yesterday with very little college basketball action on the board, tonight we get the start of the NCAA Tournament, along with multiple NIT games for those that are interested.

The NIT can be tough because it can be all about motivation and which teams actually want to be there (compared to just missing out on the NCAA's and not wanting to be in the “consolation” tournament), so keep that in mind if you are looking to invest in the NIT, CIT, or CBI over the coming weeks.

But tonight it's all about those First Four games in the big dance as Radford and LIU Brooklyn play for the right to get smoked by Villanova, and St Bonaventure and UCLA look to do the most with their “second life” as one of the final few teams invited to the dance. So let's get right to my thoughts on who should end up advancing.

LIU Brooklyn vs. Radford (truTV, 6:40 p.m. ET)

These two 16 seeds will be in a battle to control tempo and pace all night long as LIU prefers to go fast and play games in the high 70's, while Radford doesn't want to see anyone but themselves hit 70+ points. With the Radford Highlanders now listed as -5 favorites, you've got to like their chances of success in terms of dictating the pace more often, and with nerves and the bright lights on both teams tonight, points may be hard to come by for both sides.

We've seen it many times before in these 16 vs 16 games (even in all 1st round games) that nerves and new sight lines on the big stage can lead to poor shot making. Radford only averages 66.9 points per game and gives up just 64.9/game, so getting into a sloppy, defensive-minded game suits them just fine. In all three of their wins during their conference tournament, Radford never allowed more than 53 points against. That's quite a number to give up and while LIU should surpass that mark tonight – the Blackbirds do average 76.7/game – I'm not so sure LIU can top 65 points scored this evening.

LIU tightened up their own defensive play down the stretch as two of their last three games saw opponents be held to 61 or fewer points and that's already around the number Radford scores on a normal day. This game could truly end up being a race to 65 points with the first getting there being the only one to do so in a victory. I do like Radford's on the ML – skeptical about laying -5 – and with that being the line of thought, I believe there is more margin for error on this total staying low instead.

Odds per -

Best Bet #1: Under 138

St. Bonaventure vs. UCLA (truTV, 9:10 p.m. ET)

This is another game that sings a similar tune to me as I do believe UCLA finds a way to win and move on, but even at just -3.5 points I'm not totally committed to laying the chalk. Instead, this total looks a little too lofty for the stakes and scenario involved. I'm not sure we see these two teams combine for more than 150 points tonight, as both will look to slow the game down late -especially if it's close – and causing the total to come up a little short.

With this being the game that many more bettors know at least something about the teams, it's not surprising to see the 'over' get all the love early here. has this 'over' being bet at better than a 85% clip, yet the line has hovered back and forth between 154 and 155 points since open.

That's not a particularly great sign for those bettors already with an 'over' ticket in their pocket, and while both teams do average 77 or more points per game, that comes in familiar territory at home or in frequently visited hostile territory.

Based on the two teams neutral floor numbers this year, the averages suggest we get a 77.3 to 75.95 win for UCLA tonight – again another reason I'm hesitant to lay the -3.5 with the Bruins – which still puts us under the number. Throw in the bright lights and nerves of the opening game of the NCAA Tournament and the margin of victory could easily stay the same, just the point total might drop to something like 75-73 for UCLA.

St Bonaventure is on a 1-5 O/U run in their last six non-conference tilts, and after failing to cover the point spread in their last outing, the Bonnies are on a 5-16 O/U run too. They are going to want to limit UCLA's fast break points and possessions in general to pull off the upset, so slowing the game down selectively may actually work in their favor. But with the masses all about the 'over' tonight in looking to get their March Madness started off on the plus side of things, I think we see these two 11 seeds show some nerves and defensive intensity to keep this one 'under' the total.

Odds per -

Best Bet #2: Under 154.5

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