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Rashad Phillips' 2021 March Madness First Round Day One Picks and Predictions

Rashad Phillips' 2021 March Madness First Round Day One Picks and Predictions

It’s March Madness and my favorite day of the year with no less than 16 games to enjoy in the NCAA Tournament. It’s time to share my insights on a few teams that I believe will cover the spread easily in the first round. As well as my thoughts and picks for the Pickswise $10,000 Capper Contest, make sure you check out the team’s picks on the side and total for every game throughout the tournament.

Drexel Dragons vs. Illinois Fighting Illini

Illinois is a team that will easily live up to its reputation early. They have the best foursome of guards in the country with Ayo Dosumnu, Trent Frazier, Adam Miller, and Andre Curbelo. What makes this team so dangerous is their depth and physicality.

Here’s a hidden stat about Illinois: they have won five games by more than 20 points this season. They typically bury their opponents early and often. I can see them keeping the train going.

LOCK: Illinois -22.5

Be sure to check out the full game preview for Drexel Dragons vs. Illinois Fighting Illini.


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Cleveland State Vikings vs. Houston Cougars

Being a former Horizon League player, it hurts me to make this decision because typically I’m biased for my conference. But today I have to break my streak in choosing Horizon League teams in March and there’s one reason: Houston is the team that I believe has a chance to beat Illinois and go to the Final Four.

They’re a terrific rebounding team, they’re well-coached, and I believe Quintin Grimes is playing with a chip on his shoulder. I’m sorry Cleveland State, but Houston wins this one easily.

PICK: Houston -20

Be sure to check out the full game preview for Cleveland State Vikings vs. Houston Cougars.

Click here to check out college basketball analyst and insider Jon Rothstein’s best picks!

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Oregon State Beavers

Tennessee is the most complex team in this tournament. They scare me on certain days because they don’t always play up to their talent. Then on other days, they look like a top-five team. Tennessee has two faces – a good one and an ugly one. Today I believe Tennessee beats Oregon State and they will look like one of the best teams in the country. I hope they can keep the good face on for the entire month.

PICK: Tennessee -7.5

Be sure to check out the full game preview for Tennessee Volunteers vs. Oregon State Beavers.

Want more of Rashad Phillips’ March Madness thoughts? Check out our huge NCAA Tournament preview show, which also features Jon Rothstein and Aaron Torres!


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Pickswise is the home of March Madness Predictions. Check out all of our March Madness Picks, including daily March Madness Parlays throughout the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

Last updated: Sat 20th March 2021

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