Clay Travis picks all 16 NCAA Tournament games on Thursday

Back in 2014 Todd Fuhrman, Charissa Thompson and I made sports TV history, we did live shows from the Westgate sportsbook for the NCAA Tournament.

Crazily, that has now been a decade ago.

A few years later, back in 2019, we took Lock It In to Las Vegas as well and did a week of live shows on FS1 from the MGM Grand.

One of those years I even had roughly 50 OutKick VIP members up to my suite at the Palazzo to drink beers and talk tournament. We also did meetups all over the place inVegas as well. And for many of those years, I bet every single first-round game, all 32 of them.

And this year I’m doing it again.

It’s time to get rich kids.

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Here are my Thursday NCAA tourney picks in order of tip-off time.

Michigan State vs. Mississippi State — the over 130.5

Head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans speaks with the media during practice day ahead of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Spectrum Center on March 20, 2024 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

I get it, you have two defensive first teams and the expectation is it will be 56-55 with a minute to play.

But those expectations are wrong, one of these teams will come out and shoot phenomenally well from outside and soar into the 70s.

Which team?

I have no idea.

But one will.

And the over will hit.

Duquesne +9.5 vs. BYU

Duquesne’s Jake DiMichele (44) huddles with Dusan Mahorcic (0) and Fousseyni Drame (34) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against VCU in the championship of the Atlantic 10 Conference tournament on Sunday, March 17, 2024, in New York.  (AP Photo/Peter K. Afriyie)

As a general rule betting on teams that most fans can’t pronounce is a good idea.

Why?

Because people are embarrassed to bet on teams they can’t pronounce and this means those teams are undervalued.*

*I just totally made this up, but go Dukes.

Akron +12.5 vs. Creighton

Akron sports have existed for a hundred years and they have never won any game of consequence in those hundred years.

They basically have existed to get beat by a team that everyone knows.

But what happens when they play Creighton, a team that most people still don’t know?

They lose but cover.

This is science.

SCIENCE.

(Put on your mask, loser.)

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Long Beach State +20.5 vs. Arizona

Long Beach State and its coach agreed to separate because they weren’t winning enough and then they won their conference tournament and now they are sticking together and taking on Arizona in the NCAA tournament.

So Long Beach State is basically the couple you knew who were going to get divorced, but they had a baby instead.

And everybody knows those relationships always go great.

Which is why Long Beach State will cover.

Wagner +24.5 vs North Carolina 

Julian Brown #13 of the Wagner Seahawks reacts after defeating the Howard Bison in the First Four game during the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at University of Dayton Arena on March 19, 2024 in Dayton, Ohio.  (Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

After watching Virginia, which finished third in the ACC, get obliterated last night, I think there’s a real question about the quality of ACC competition this year.

Plus, there’s often value in getting an early play-in win as it limits the nerves of big underdogs.

Give me Wagner plus the points.

And, no, I have no idea where Wagner is either.

Morehead State +11.5 Illinois

How could you ever bet against Morehead State?

That’s the kind of anti-sex rhetoric I won’t stand for.

It’s also why Cunnilingus State is undefeated.

Oregon vs. South Carolina +1.5

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a successful basketball team that Vegas hates more than South Carolina.

The computers think the Gamecocks are trash. In every game against a decent team all season long they’ve been underdogs. Heck the SEC media, the smartest people on the planet, picked South Carolina to finish last in the conference.

Instead they finished tied for second.

And now they’re the underdog against an 11 seed Oregon team.

Balderdash, the Gamecocks are solid, I think they have a good shot at the Sweet 16, but first they beat Oregon outright.

Nevada vs. Dayton +1.5

You know what team was the most screwed by the disastrous decision to shut down college basketball because of covid in 2020?

Dayton.

The Flyers were on track for a one seed, legit poised to contend for a national title with Obi Toppin and it was all yanked away. Of all the teams in college sports, I think Dayton was the most screwed because they are unlikely to ever be in this position again.

Ever.

I don’t want to pour salt in the Dayton fan wounds — to the extent any of them are reading this right now — which is why I’m picking UD to beat Nevada.

Go Flyers!

Colorado State +2.5 vs Texas 

Isaiah Stevens (4) of the Colorado State Rams celebrates with teammates during the second half of CSU’s 85-78 win at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada on Thursday, March 14, 2024. (AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post)

The Rams dominated Virginia on Tuesday night and Texas has gone 9-9 in conference over the past couple of months, alternating good with bad performances.

With a win under their belt already, give me Colorado State to pull off the small upset and advance to play Tennessee.

Oakland vs. Kentucky, the over 162.5

Kentucky doesn’t play any real defense.

And Oakland is going to come out guns blazing. (Not literally, silly, they aren’t Democrat voters!)

The result?

A 95-82 Kentucky win, which hits the over with ease.

McNeese at Gonzaga, the over 149.5

I’ve got a solid, damn offer for you — the over cashes.

Two solid offensive teams spend the day throwing haymakers at each other.

A basketballdonnybrook, which leads to another over hitting.

South Dakota State +16.5 vs. Iowa State

Iowa State dominated Houston to win the Big 12 title which means they are ripe for a comedown in this game against the Jackrabbits.*

*This is the exact sentence a drunk sportswriter will type in his picks column at four in the morning from a strip club in the town where he’s covering the NCAA tournament.

St. Peter’s vs. Tennessee -21.5

Rick Barnes has failed to cover in 632 consecutive NCAA tourney games.

But that all changes on Thursday night when Tennessee beats St. Peter’s so bad you would think they were named after Judas. (This joke brought to you by 1988 First Baptist Vacation Bible School.)

N.C. State vs. Texas Tech -5.5

N.C. State had to win 72 straight NCAA tournament games to advance to the NCAA tournament.

That means their legs are shot.

And DJ Burns, who weighs 468 pounds, is going to have to play with an oxygen tank strapped to his back, like he’s scuba diving in Culebra.

Now they have to turn around and play on Thursday night.

The Red Raiders roll, winning by double digits.

Samford +8.5 vs. Kansas

FILE – Samford head coach Bucky McMillan is hugged by assistant coach Lorenzo Jenkins after their team won the NCAA men”s college basketball championship game for the Southern Conference tournament against East Tennessee State, March 11, 2024, in Asheville, N.C. Samford coach Bucky McMillan has led his hometown team to its first NCAA Tournament in 24 years.  (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek, File)

Bucky Ball isn’t just the name of the party the creepy frat on your campus threw, it’s also how Samford plays basketball.

It’s frenetic, it’s crazy, it’s going to lead to a first-round upset of a Kansas team that has fallen apart down the stretch and hasn’t played well on the road all year.

Sure, it’s a neutral site, but Samford wins outright.

Drake vs. Washington State +1.5

Hate the Drake!

Washington State covers as the underdog and staves off the end of their Pac 12 life for one more game.

• • •

There you have it, boys and girls, 16 guaranteed winners for Thursday.

I don’t see any way possible we aren’t 16-0 come Friday morning.

You’re all very welcome.

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