2022 March Madness predictions: NCAA bracket expert picks against the spread, odds in Thursday’s Round 1 games

Officially, the 2022 NCAA Tournament began in earnest on Tuesday with a pair of First Four games. Unofficially, though, the real mayhem of March starts Thursday and Friday as first-round action takes place across the country. Between the two days, the field will shrunk in half from 64 to 32 teams as a (nearly) sun up to sun down schedule for the sport. It’s part of what makes March Madness, well, March Madness.

Getting some extra skin in the games may be what gets you in the tournament spirit, too. Below, I’ve called on the expertise of the college hoops team to shed some insight with picks straight up and against the spread for some of the top games on Thursday’s extended slate. Our expert brackets may offer some help on this front as well.

While surviving and advancing is clearly what matters for most, we care about whether these teams will cover their spreads, and we’ve tracked the season since November to be able to offer our own thoughts on every game.

Be sure to stick with CBS Sports throughout the rest of the month for NCAA Tournament coverage through the end of the Final Four. Let’s take a look at our expert picks as first round games get underway Thursday.

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook | All times Eastern

Featured NCAA Tournament picks

(6) Colorado State vs. (11) Michigan

Thursday, 12:15 pm | CBS, March Madness Live: The loss of starting point guard DeVante’ Jones (concussion) for at least Michigan’s first-round game against Colorado State is a significant one. He’s the team’s assist leader, third-leading scorer and has been big down the stretch. But I’m still taking the 11 over 6 in this matchup. Michigan’s frontcourt between Hunter Dickinson and Moussa Diabate is a huge mismatch. Can’t see Colorado State stopping them consistently enough, though I do expect Rams star David Roddy to keep this one fairly close. Pick: Michigan-1.5

Spread

CSU +1.5

MICH-1.5

CSU +1.5

MICH-1.5

CSU +1.5

CSU +1.5

straight up

CSU

MIC

CSU

MIC

CSU

CSU

(4) Providence vs. (13) South Dakota State

Thursday, 12:40 pm | truTV, March Madness Live: Since 2010, the top 3-point shooting team in the field has advanced at least one round in every year but two. That should bode well for South Dakota State, which ranks No. 1 in the country in 3-point shooting percentage. Providence is no slouch — it won the Big East regular season and plays a physical style that will muck this game up — but I like the Jackrabbits to advance as an underdog. Pick: South Dakota State +2

Spread

SDST +2

SDST +2

SDST +2

SDST +2

PROV-2

PROV-2

straight up

SDST

SDST

SDST

SDST

PROV

PROV

(5) Iowa vs. (12) Richmond

Thursday, 3:10 pm | truTV, March Madness Live: Iowa is arguably the hottest team in the country entering the NCAA Tournament. Coming off a Big Ten Tournament title, the Hawkeyes have won 12 of their last 14 games and have found a groove as Keegan Murray has blossomed from a star to a superstar. Murray averaged 26 points per game as Iowa won four games in four days to clinch the conference tourney title, and this team seems battle-tested and perfectly positioned to continue its incredible March with a dominating win in Round 1. Pick: Iowa -10.5

Spread

IOWA-10.5

IOWA-10.5

IOWA-10.5

IOWA-10.5

IOWA-10.5

IOWA-10.5

straight up

IOWA

IOWA

IOWA

IOWA

IOWA

IOWA

(1) Gonzaga vs. (16) Georgia State

Thursday, 4:15 pm | TNT, March Madness Live: This is a big line to cover, even for the No. 1 overall seed in Gonzaga. But I care not and don’t think you should, either. Its average scoring margin on the season was a whopping 22.5 points, and that factored in games against Duke, UCLA, Alabama and other top schools. The Zags will roll, and I expect they will roll big. Pick: Gonzaga-23

Spread

ZAGS-23

ZAGS-23

ZAGS-23

ZAGS-23

GAST +23

GAST +23

straight up

ZAGS

ZAGS

ZAGS

ZAGS

ZAGS

ZAGS

(5) UConn vs. (12) New Mexico State

Thursday, 6:50 pm | TNT, March Madness Live: I don’t necessarily love New Mexico State as an underdog on the moneyline in this one, but I do think it can cover the spread. The Aggies this season went 26-6 overall and half of those losses were by four or fewer points. They’re a tough, resilient bunch who are well-coached under Chris Jans and have the personnel to give UConn a run for its money. Pick: New Mexico State +6.5

Spread

NMST +6.5

NMST +6.5

UCONN-6.5

NMST +6.5

NMST +6.5

UCONN-6.5

straight up

UCONN

UCONN

UCONN

UCONN

UCONN

UCONN

(7) Murray State vs. (10) San Francisco

Thursday, 9:40 p.m. | CBS, March Madness Live: San Francisco’s a quality squad that all season has put up real fights, including against Gonzaga in WCC play and against MVC tourney champ Loyola-Chicago. But Murray State’s a 30-2 club that hasn’t lost since Dec. 22 and can beat you inside and out with good balance on both sides of the ball. I’ll lay the dot here with the Racers. Pick: Murray State-1

Spread

MURST-1

MURST-1

MURST-1

MURST-1

MURST-1

MURST-1

straight up

MURST

MURST

MURST

MURST

MURST

MURST

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