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March Madness survivor pool: Safe, Value, Trap picks for Thursday, Friday first-round games

March Madness is back, and the Survivor pool is a great way to change up the bracket experience! We are here to provide tips to stay alive all tournament long.

General view of the March Madness logo at UD Arena. Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 NCAA Tournament is officially underway with the First Four, but things really heat up on Thursday with the first round. Novice and expert basketball fans are picking brackets, but there is another pool game worth considering: Survivor.

A Survivor pool in any sport involves making a team selection and if your team wins, you make a pick for the next round of games. However, you can only pick a given team once, so you have to use strategy in who you pick.

For purposes of March Madness, you’ll need to make a Thursday pick and then a Friday pick. If your picks survive, you then make Saturday and Sunday picks. You’ll need to decide when to use your high seeds, particularly your No. 1 picks. Picking a No. 1 to beat a No. 16 is a safe pick, but it holds no value since you’ll need a No. 1 seed later in the tournament. If you reach a given round and don’t have any teams left, it’s considered a loss and you’re eliminated.

With We’re here to offer you some advice for making first-round picks. We’ve got a look at some safe picks, some value picks, and some trap picks.

Safest picks

No. 2 Arizona over No. 15 Princeton

The Wildcats are entering the tournament fresh off a Pac-12 tournament championship over the UCLA Bruins. They finished the season 28-6 and were one of the best teams in the country all season long. Lead by junior Azuloas Tubelis, who averaged 19 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season. Princeton finished their season 22-8, after winning the Ivy League conference tournament. Despite their record, Princeton has yet to play a team the caliber of Arizona. Take the Wildcats.

No. 3 Kansas State over No. 14 Montana State

Kansas State made its way out of a rough and tough Big 12 with a conference record of 11-7. Head coach Jerome Tang turned this team around in just one season. Transfers Keyontae Johnson and Markquis Nowell came in and led the team in scoring with 17 and 16 points per game, respectively. As a team Kansas State averages 75 points per game while holding its opponents to 69. They will attempt to ride their stifling defense as far as it will take them.

Best value picks

No. 2 Texas over No. 15 Colgate

Texas found a way to keep its season afloat after letting head coach Chris Beard go due to some legal issues off of the court. Assistant coach Rodney Terry took over midway through the season, and rallied the troops, and got them a Big 12 tournament championship and a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. Led by guard Marcus Carr, who averages 15.9 points per game, the Longhorns have a strong backcourt poised to lead them on a deep run.

No. 7 Michigan State over No. 10 USC

Michigan State was essentially given a home game in Columbus, OH, only a few hours away from their home in East Lansing, Mi. They were given a second gift in having USC having to travel across the country and play a noon game on the east cost. The Trojans will likely be without their big man Iaroslav Niagu, which could create a some problems down low against the Spartans. Michigan State guard Tyson Walker has the feel of a classic Tom Izzo guard who gets hot at the right time and takes his team on a run. Walker is averaging 14 points per game this season, and as he goes, the team goes. If Michigan State wins, look out for them as a sneaky upset pick on Sunday against Marquette.

Trap pick

No. 12 Oral Roberts over No. 5 Duke

Duke has hit its stride this season, but Oral Roberts comes into this game with NCAA tournament experience. Guard Max Abmas is back after winning a game in the 2021 tournament. This year he’s averaging 22 points per game and shooting 37 percent from deep this season. Alongside, Abmas is big man Connor Vanover, who is averaging 12 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season. Oral Roberts is upset-minded, and if Duke isn’t careful, they will be one of the annual 5/12 upsets.