Chris “The Bear” Fallica’s March Madness first-round expert betting picks

“Bear Bets” are real bets that Chris “The Bear” Fallica is making.

The first round of the NCAA Men’s Tournament it is one of the most exciting moments of the tournament. Every team is eager to prove they’re supposed to be there, and every bettor is ready to cash in.

So I’ve done some work for my fellow bettors who are willing to throw some money at college ball.

While I have several favorites advancing from this round, I’m taking a look at a couple of underdogs. Let’s dive in, have fun and earn money!

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(1) Houston -19 against (16) northern kentucky

With or without Marcus Sasser, this should be an easy, ugly win for the Cougars. For comparison, Northern Kentucky lost by 15 to FAU and 21 to Washington State. The Norse own one of the worst 2-point FG percentages in the country, and that means a lot of rebounds and transition baskets for the Cougars. Oh, Northern Kentucky also allows a ton of offensive rebounds, as if Houston needed any help here.

After losing to Memphis Sunday, this should be a chance for the Cougars to hit it big.

COLLECT: Houston (-19 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 19 points

(4) Tennessee -11 against (13) Louisiana

I’m not optimistic about the Vols going a long way, but there’s a difference between that and being able to put the defensive clamps on a Sun Belt team. The problem is, even if the whistle is tight, the Ragin’ Cajuns don’t shoot free throws well and may be settling for one point when they get to the line. Even without Zakai Zeigler, the Vols should get away from Jordan Brown and crew late.

The best team ULL played this year was Texas and it was in a non-competitive game that the Longhorns won by 28 in Austin. Drake also beat the Cajuns by 12.

COLLECT: Tennessee (-11 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 11 points

(10) Boise State +1.5 against (7) Northwest

I’m well aware that Boise State hasn’t won a tournament game and that the Mountain West has been terrible in the Big Dance, but I like the Broncos matchup here.

Northwestern is one of the worst shooting teams in the country and Boise plays great defense.

Yes, Northwestern is a good defensive team in its own right, and Boo Buie might be the best player on the court, but I like Marcus Shaver’s lineup better in Boise and think the Broncos have more answers on offense.

COLLECT: Boise State (+1.5 at FOX Bet) to lose by less than 1.5 points (or win outright)

(5) Miami -2 against (12) Drake

I’m taking a leap of faith that the Canes will have Norchad Omier in the lineup. The game is set for 7:25 on Friday night, so that means he will have had as much rehab time as possible. Even if he can’t go there, the Canes’ guards should have success against Drake, a team that has had a better win against Mississippi State this year.

Maybe Miami’s defense will struggle, and I’m reading this wrong. But I’m going to go with the opposite of five seeds here.

COLLECT: Miami (-2 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 2 points

(14) State of Montana +8.5, +330 ML vs (3) Kansas State

Going out on a limb here with an annoying possibility that hasn’t been mentioned much. The Bobcats lost in the first round last year to a Big 12 opponent, but are a better defensive team this year and are getting to the free throw line often. K-State came off a losing season a year ago and is the weakest of the three seeds. Don’t be surprised if this is close.

COLLECT: Montana State (+8.5 at FOX Bet) to lose by less than 8.5 points (or win outright)

COLLECT: Montana State (+330 money line at FOX Bet) to win outright

(5) San Diego State -5 against (12) Charleston

I don’t like the match here for Charleston at all. San Diego State should slow that pace, and since Charleston shoots a lot of threes, and not a high percentage (33%), what happens when they have fewer possessions and fewer attempts? The Aztecs have a top-10 3-point defense, and I like them here against the trendier 12-seed pick.

COLLECT: San Diego State (-5 at FOX Bet) to win by more than 5 points

(12) Oral Roberts +6, +240 ML vs (5) duke

I planned to be in a position to bet against Oral Roberts in the first round as I expected them to be a hot pick. However, with the Golden Eagles set to face a red-hot Blue Devils team, a team many have tipped to advance to the Final Four, I’ve re-evaluated my thinking.

This is an experienced Oral Roberts team with plenty of contributors from the 2021 Sweet 16 team. Duke turns the ball over often, doesn’t shoot the three well, and will need to work on defense to keep Oral Roberts from getting good looks.

The Blue Devils should absolutely be on their toes here.

COLLECT: Oral Roberts (+6 at FOX Bet) to lose by less than 6 points (or win outright)

COLLECT: Oral Roberts (+240 money line at FOX Bet) to win outright

(9) Illinois +2 against (8) Arkansas

When you consider how Illinois picked up wins over UCLA and Texas, a pair of two seeds, you’re left wondering how the Illini are stuck at 8-9. But then look at how bad they shoot threes and free throws.

However, the Illini had five losses that were by five points or less.

Arkansas, predictably, has played like a young team with injuries all year. Sometimes the Razorbacks look great, other times they’re blowing leads and can’t buy a basket. Arkansas will be a problem next year in the SEC, but right now I think Illinois is a bit more of a known commodity with Terrence Shannon, Matthew Mayer and the appeal of what we know the Illini can look like against competition from elite

COLLECT: Illinois (+2 on FOX Bet) to lose by less than 2 points (or win outright)

(13) Kent State +4, +160 ML vs (4) Indiana

I know that’s not the best number, but I think Kent State is the right side anyway. The Golden Flashes have hit above their level in the noconference, throwing big scares at Houston and Gonzaga earlier in the year. The senior duo of Sincere Carry and Malique Jacobs will certainly have no fear here. Former Indiana assistant Rob Senderhoff would obviously like to knock off the Hoosiers, so there’s got to be plenty of extra juice.

Maybe Trayce Jackson-Davis just takes over and carries IU to victory, but I’m not so sure.

COLLECT: Kent State (+4 at FOX Bet) to lose by less than 4 points (or win outright)

COLLECT: Kent State (+160 money at FOX Bet) to win outright

Chris “The Bear” Fallica has covered sports for nearly three decades. While college football has been his focus, he also enjoys the NFL, soccer, golf, tennis, MLB, NHL and horse racing, with an “occasional” bet on these events. Chris recently won the inaugural Circa Football Invitational and finished in the Top 10 of the Golden Nugget Football Contest. He is a multiple-time qualifier for the NHC Handicap Championship. Remember, “The less you bet, the more you lose when you win!” Follow him on Twitter @chrysphallic.

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