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NCAA Tourney Betting: Thursday

The bracket busting begins with the March Madness Round of 64 on Thursday from coast to coast.

The only top seed in action on Thursday is the Southeast's No. 1, Pittsburgh. The Panthers open up against First Four winner N.C. Asheville as a 17.5-point favorite at Bovada.

The Bulldogs got past Arkansas Little Rock 81-77 in overtime as a 3-point favorite on Tuesday night, but they'll have a much harder time against the Panthers. Led by Ashton Gibbs and Gilbert Brown Pittsburgh should easily win on Thursday, but don't be shocked if they don't cover since they are 1-7 ATS in their last eight tournament games.

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Typically some of the best first-round games in the tournament are the battles between No. 8 and No. 9 seeds. There's only one 8 vs. 9 battle on the Thursday schedule, and it's in the Southeast where No. 8 Butler faces No. 9 Old Dominion as a 2-point underdog on the March Madness odds.

The Monarchs look like a solid pick to end Butler's tourney run early. Not only are they favored but they've also won nine straight while going 7-1-1 ATS, and they're 2-0 SU and ATS in their last two versus the Bulldogs.

A few other noteworthy matchups in the Southeast region on Thursday are No. 2 Florida vs. No. 15 UC Santa Barbara, and No. 10 Michigan State vs. No. 7 UCLA.

The Gators are 12.5-point favorites against the Gauchos on the March Madness odds and are expected to move on easily. That might not mean an easy cover, though. Florida is a solid 7-1 SU in their last eight games as a double-digit favorite, but they're only 1-7 ATS in those same games. The Gauchos haven't exactly rolled over for teams this season, and in their last 12 games as the underdog they are 9-3 ATS.

Michigan State has made the Final Four the last two years, and with most of last year's roster returning, including a healthy Kalin Lucas, they were expected to challenge for a national title. Instead the Spartans struggled for most of the season and enter the tourney as a No. 10 seed. Despite being seeded lower then their first-round opponent, No. 7 UCLA, the Spartans are actually a 1.5-point favorite at Bovada. In their last three games against the Spartans the Bruins are 2-1 SU but 0-3 ATS. UCLA also enters the tournament 3-3 SU in their last six games, which includes two SU losses as the favorite.

In the West region Thursday the games to watch are No. 10 Penn St. vs. No. 7 Temple, and No. 11 Missouri vs. No. 6 Cincinnati.

The Owls have owned the Nittany Lions SU for years with a 7-2 record in their last nine matchups. It's a different story ATS, though, as Penn State is 6-3 ATS in those nine games, which could be a factor in Thursday's matchup in which the Nittany Lions are a 2.5-point underdog. Both teams enter the tournament streaking - Penn State 7-3 in their last 10 and the Owls 12-2 in their last 14 - which could mean a close-fought battle to the final horn and at least an ATS win for Penn State.

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In Missouri vs. Cincinnati the oddsmakers don't know which way to go after listing it as a pick'em. The Tigers have won their last five first-round games and could deliver an upset as a No. 11 seed. Cincinnati is coming off a dreadful loss against Notre Dame in the Big East Tournament in which they were hammered 89-51 as a 2.5-point underdog.

Here's a rundown of the rest of Thursday's games with odds from Bovada:

Southeast:
Morehead State (13) vs. Louisville (4) -10
Richmond (5) vs. Vanderbilt (5) -2

West:
Northern Colorado (15) vs. San Diego State (2) -15.5
Bucknell (14) vs. Connecticut (3) -10.5

East:
Clemson (12) vs. West Virginia (5) -1.5
Princeton (13) vs. Kentucky (4) -13.5

Southeast:
Wofford (14) vs. BYU (3) -8
Belmont (13) vs. Wisconsin (4) -4.5
Gonzaga (11) vs. St. John's (6) -1.5
Utah State (12) vs. Kansas State (5) -2.5

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