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March Madness: FrontPageBets' best bets for Thursday's NCAA Tournament games

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Final Four favorites, sleepers and who to stay away from on this week's FPBcast

Are you feeling lucky on St. Patrick's Day?

FrontPageBets gets you ready for a foursome of compelling first-round NCAA Tournament matchups Thursday.

Who do our editors like most to survive and advance?

Check out our picks here and follow along daily for the best intelligence from FPB and our partners around the Lee Enterprises sports network. 

No. 12 Richmond vs. No. 5 Iowa

Tipoff: 3:10 p.m.

TV: truTV

First-round location/Region: Buffalo, N.Y./Midwest

Spread: Iowa -10.5 (-110); Richmond +10.5 (-110)

Money Line: Iowa -575; Richmond +410

Over/Under: 151 (-110)

Road to NCAA Tournament: Both Iowa (26-9) and Richmond (23-12) won their conference tournaments by winning four games in four days. The Hawkeyes were going to make the NCAA Tournament regardless, however the Spiders had to win to get in. Richmond is a veteran team with their first seven players 22 years old or older, including sixth-year seniors Nick Sherod (a Richmond native) and Grant Golden, who are both 24 and have played in 139 and 159 career games, respectively. With age comes experience, especially in big games. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s John O’Connor, the Spiders have rallied to win six times from deficits of 14 or more points. Golden averages 14.1 points per game, while guard Jacob Gilyard (who has played in 152 college games) averages 13.3. The Spiders are led by Tyler Burton’s 16.3 points per game, which was fourth in the A-10. Iowa is led by sophomore Keegan Murray, who, according to Steve Batterson from the Quad City Times, set a Big Ten tournament record for scoring with 103 points in Iowa's four victories. Murray leads the team, averaging 23.6 points per game, which lead the Big Ten and is fourth in the nation. Iowa led the Big Ten in scoring 83.3 points per game, while Richmond was fourth in the A-10 at 71.7 points per outing.

The pick: Iowa, 84-74

--Mike Szvetitz


No. 9 Marquette vs. No. 8 North Carolina

Tipoff: 4:30 p.m.

TV: TBS

First-round location/Region: Fort Worth, Texas/East

Spread: North Carolina -3 (-110); Marquette +3 (-110)

Money Line: North Carolina -170; Marquette +150

Over/Under: 151.5 (-110)

Road to the NCAA Tournament: Both UNC (24-9) and Marquette (19-12) are led by coaches in their first year. Of course, neither UNC’s Hubert Davis (a longtime North Carolina assistant) nor Marquette’s Shaka Smart, who led VCU to the Final Four as an 11-seed in 2011, are strangers to the Big Dance. On Thursday, both coaches are looking for footing and momentum heading into next season. If the Tar Heels can play like they did in the regular-season finale when they beat Duke in Cameron Indoor, they can hang with any team in the country. Led by junior center Armando Bacot’s 16.5 points and 12.5 rebounds per game and sophomore guard Caleb Love’s 15.4 ppg average, UNC has the talent and pedigree. Marquette has scorers in forward Justin Lewis (17.1 ppg) and Darryl Morsell (13.5 ppg), but struggled down the stretch, losing three out of its last five.

The pick: North Carolina, 80-74

--Mike Szvetitz


No. 12 Indiana vs. No. 5 Saint Mary's

Tipoff: 7:20 p.m.

TV: TBS

First round location/region: Portland, Ore./East

Spread: Saint Mary's -3 (-110); Indiana +3 (-110)

Money Line: Saint Mary's -150; Indiana +130

Over/Under: 126.5 (-110)

Road to the NCAA Tournament: Indiana (21-13) made an impressive run to the Big Ten tournament semifinals to earn an NCAA First Four bid in an otherwise spotty season. The Hoosiers took care of Wyoming, 66-58, on Tuesday night in Dayton to keep dancing. Trayce Jackson-Davis continues to do it all for IU. The sophomore forward struck for 29 points and nine rebounds in vanquishing the Cowboys. He had 76 points and 25 boards in the Big Ten tourney. The Hoosiers could be a bit weary, traveling to Oregon in the wee hours Wednesday morning. Saint Mary's (25-7) was the second-best team in the West Coat Conference to overall No. 1 NCAA seed Gonzaga. The Gaels beat the Zags once, by 10 points in the regular season. They fell to the conference champs in the other regular-season meeting and the league tournament. Defensive-minded Saint Mary's likes to play in the 60s. Senior forward Matthias Tass (12.6 points, six rebounds) and senior guard Tommy Kuhse (12 points) pace the offense. IU is 19-15 against the spread. The Gaels are 18-11-2. 

The pick: Indiana, 68-65

-- Gerry Ahern


No. 9 Creighton vs. No. 8 San Diego State

Tipoff: 7:27 p.m.

TV: truTV

First round location/region: Fort Worth, Texas/Midwest

Spread: San Diego State -2 (-110); Creighton +2 (-110)

Money Line: San Diego State -135; Creighton +115

Over/Under: 120 (-110)

Road to the NCAA Tournament: San Diego State (23-8) was the third-place team in the Mountain West. The Aztecs advanced to the MWC tournament title game, bowing to Boise State 53-52 in a defensive standoff. Senior guard Matt Bradley is the lone double-figure scorer at 17 points per game. Creighton (22-11) is also a defensive-oriented squad. The Bluejays showed good flow in moving to the Big East tournament finals before being KO'd by Villanova. Creighton has a pair of dangerous players in sophomore center Ryan Kalkbrenner (13 points, 7.5 rebounds) and senior forward Ryan Hawkins. Hawkins, a transfer from Division II Northwest Missouri State, averages 13.9 points and 7.8 rebounds. The Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel notes the impact Hawkins has had. San Diego State is 17-14 against the spread. Creighton is 17-14-2.

The pick: Creighton, 62-60

-- Gerry Ahern 


Gambling problem? There is help. Call 1-800-522-4700 or visit the National Council on Problem Gambling for help.

Mike Szvetitz is the General Manager and Content Director for FrontPageBets.com. Szvetitz is a 22-year veteran reporter and editor, including serving 17 years as a sports editor in Florida, Alabama and Virginia, covering everything from preps to pros. His "View From The Lazy Boy" column won multiple state and national awards.

Gerry Ahern is senior content editor for FrontPageBets. A 35-year veteran sports editor and digital media executive, he has led coverage of the biggest events in sports, from Super Bowls, to Final Fours, to Olympics, to the Masters.

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