It’s officially time to stop paying attention to work for a few weeks and start penciling in the best bracket busters and favorites to win the 2019 NCAA tournament.

While you’re filling out your bracket, don’t forget every game can produce action, with the point spreads already released for the first round. The East region is full of interesting matchups, even if Duke is the overwhelming favorite.

With Duke having to play the winner of the 16-seed play-in game, there’s no line on the Blue Devils just yet for the first round. However, there’s plenty of other games to watch in the East region in round one.

8 VCU (-1) vs. 9 Central Florida

This should be one of the most competitive games in the first round in the NCAA tournament.

Both teams aren’t very good offensively. However, both teams are elite on the defensive side of the ball.

This will be a coin flip game, with both teams virtually playing the same style. However, I trust the Rams a little more on defense and with four players averaging in double-figures, the Rams should be able to score when necessary.

This will be the lone game for either of these teams, because they don’t score well enough to compete with Duke in the second round. However, back the Rams in round one. — Go Chalk with VCU

5 Mississippi State (-7.5) vs. 12 Liberty

Mississippi State is the opposite of the previous two teams. The Bulldogs play very little defense, but can score at a high level, with Quinndary Weatherspoon leading the way.

Weatherspoon averages more than 18 points per game, so if he’s on, the Bulldogs have a shot at scoring in every game. However, Liberty is one of the more balanced teams in the tournament. Liberty is ranked in the 30s for both offensive and defensive efficiency.

The Flames will rely on big man Scottie James to carry the load. And that should be enough for Liberty. I’m anticipating Liberty to not only compete, but win this game outright. — Go Against The Chalk with Liberty

4 Virginia Tech (-10) vs. 13 St. Louis

Virginia Tech is one of my favorite sleepers in the NCAA tournament. The Hokies are elite on the defensive end, while also being an above-average offensive team.

A balanced scoring attack will pace the Hokies on the offensive side, with four players who average in double-figures. Nickell Alexander-Walker is good enough to compete with any team in the tournament and will have the Hokies in the Sweet 16. St. Louis caught fire in its conference tournament. However, St. Louis is till among some of the worst offensive teams in the nation. It was a nice ride during the conference tournament, but the inability to score will haunt St. Louis in this one. — Go Chalk with Virginia Tech

11 Belmont (-3.5) vs. 11 Temple

Belmont is the better team in this game. I’m actually surprised this spread is this small.

The Bruins own one of the better offensive units in the nation, led by Dylan Windler, who averages a double-double. That ability to score has me questioning whether Temple can keep up in this game.

The Owls don’t have an offense capable of scoring in spurts, like the Bruins. Belmont will make some noise in this tournament, and will start in the play-in game. — Go Chalk with Belmont

The LSU Tigers should be considered a sleeper heading into the 2019 NCAA men’s tournament. Flickr

3 LSU (-8) vs. 14 Yale

At one time, I would have easily backed the Tigers. LSU owns a high-octane offense and was one of the better teams in the nation.

However, with all the noise surrounding the head coach, I’m not as excited about the Tigers potential.

And Yale offers an interesting matchup. The Bulldogs can score with the Tigers and the defense may actually be a little better than LSU’s. The Tigers have the talent edge, but I’m concerned with their focus level. — Go Against The Chalk with Yale

7 Louisville (-5) vs. 10 Minnesota

This doesn’t seem like it’s going to be close.

The Cardinals are a five-point favorite for a reason. The Cardinals are not capable of making much of a run in the NCAA tournament, but they’re more than capable of making quick work of the Gophers in round one.

Minnesota is ranked below 150 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. The Gophers will struggle to score on the Cardinals and I anticipate Louisville will be able to score at will against Minnesota. This one won’t be close. — Go Chalk with Louisville

2 Michigan State (-19) vs. 15 Bradley

This is tough to predict. The Spartans usually turn it on during the postseason. However, the Spartans have shown some weakness at times when they are highly seeded.

But despite those concerns, Bradley has no business being in this tournament. The Braves are terrible on offense. They’re so bad, their field goal percentage is ranked 223rd in the nation.

I hate to give up so many points, but the Spartans are one of the most balanced teams in the country. Michigan State should be the best team in the East to challenge Duke. — Go Chalk with Michigan State

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