- The First Four kicks off the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday and Wednesday.
- Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is the best bet of the bunch.
- Pittsburgh could be the best underdog in Dayton.
Tuesday’s First Four games kick off a 96-hour extravaganza of 36 March Madness games.
If you’re looking to get into the action, the BetMGM online sportsbook has loads of March Madness college basketball odds, including single-game spreads, Sweet 16 futures and national championship odds.
Tuesday’s first two games may seem like cannon fodder to casual fans, but anyone experienced in online sports betting knows that even games between No. 16 seeds can offer quality betting opportunities.
First Four Odds: Southeast Missouri State vs. Texas A&M Corpus Christi (-3.5)
This is the game I’m definitely most confident in handicapping.
SEMO is a fun story, but the Redhawks are the No. 5 seed in a mostly unimpressive low-major conference.
Texas A&M-CC, on the other hand, won a Southland conference that has some legitimately good low-major players at the top. Three wins over Northwestern State – including one in the SLC championship game – is nothing to sneeze at.
The point spreads in these games generally rely on two ideas: Tournament games are close, and most casual fans have minimal exposure to the teams in play.
In the case of this game, that’s a mistake on the oddsmakers’ part. One of these teams is clearly better than the other, and 3.5 (down from 4.5) is not enough of a tax to pay.
Not only am I on Corpus Christi, I think it’s one of the better bets of this first week in the NCAA Tournament.
Play: Texas A&M Corpus Christi -3.5
First Four Odds: Mississippi State vs. Pittsburgh (+2.5)
I don’t love either side in this matchup, but I lean toward Pittsburgh outright at +120 in Tuesday’s late game.
In last week’s conference tournament betting guide, I talked about Pitt’s ongoing status as an undervalued team. And I did this despite my general, in-borne animosity toward Pitt. I am a West Virginia fan, after all.
Just 10 days ago, Pitt played at Miami for a share of the regular-season ACC title. If it won that game, it would have had an extra Quad 1 win and a superior draw position in the ACC tournament. It would not be playing in the First Four.
Instead, Pitt lost to Miami by two points, 78-76, and is suddenly an underdog to the SEC’s ninth-place team. Talk about a high-leverage moment.
Play: Pitt +2.5; Pitt +120
First Four Odds: Texas Southern vs Fairleigh Dickinson (+2.5)
This is my least favorite game of the First Four and the one I’m most inclined to stay away from.
But in the spirit of providing picks like the NCAA Tournament Santa Clause that I am, I’ll point out that early (likely sharp) action on this game pushed the total from its opening position of 147.5 down to 145.5.
If I’m betting anything, I’ll tail the steam and bet the under.
Lean: Under 145.5
First Four Odds: Arizona State vs Nevada (+2.5)
Mountain West teams are a shocking 0-8 straight up in their last eight NCAA Tournament games, but that’s not why I’m staying away from Nevada in this spot.
In the great, unsolvable debate of Rest vs. Rust, I generally lean toward rust. I hate that Nevada will have played just two competitive games in 16 days when this play-in game tips off.
Compare that to Arizona State, which has played five games this month. Four were against tournament teams: UCLA, Arizona, and USC twice.
Oh, and those two games Nevada played? It lost both. Neither of those teams is in the tournament.
With the Mountain West’s tourney woes well-established in this spot, I’d rather have Arizona State at a short number.
Play: Arizona State -2.5
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