The NCAA Tournament tips off on Thursday, March 18 with the opening round, and BetRivers.com is proud to provide First Four odds, props and picks for the two No. 11 seed games and two No. 16 seed games. The First Four begins with No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s vs. No. 16 Texas Southern at 5:10 p.m ET on TruTV, followed by No. 11 Wichita State vs. No. 11 Drake at 6:30 p.m. ET on TBS. At 8:45 p.m. ET, No. 16 Appalachian State faces No. 16 Norfolk State on TruTV, and the First Four wraps up with No. 11 Michigan State vs. No. 11 UCLA at 10 p.m. ET on TBS.
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Longtime national college basketball writer Rob Dauster, the co-founder of The Field of 68 Network, previews the First Four odds and provides his analysis on the best bets worth a wager.
Read below for the a First Four odds preview and predictions on what is going to take place on Thursday night.
- Texas Southern, Appalachian State, and Wichita State all win in First Four. Was +523, Now +625
- Over 5.5 games go into OT in the entire NCAA Tournament. Was -110. Now +105
- Any team to win by 40+ points in the NCAA Tournament. Was +200. Now +235
- Baylor or Iowa to score the most points in the NCA Tournament. Was +150. Now +175
- Michigan State to win, Over 139.5 total game points vs. UCLA. Was +295. Now +340
- Gonzaga, Baylor and Michigan all reach the Final Four. Was +656. Now +750
- Winthrop to beat Villanova or Oregon State to beat Tennessee. Was -134. Now -115
- St. Bonaventure to beat LSU. Was +107. Now +120
NCAA TOURNAMENT PREDICTIONS: FIRST FOUR ODDS
#16 Mount St. Mary’s (12-10) vs. #16 Texas Southern (16-8)
Date/Time/TV: Thursday, 3/18. 5:10 p.m. ET (TruTV)
Moneyline: Texas Southern -109 ML, Mount St. Mary’s -109 ML
Spread: Mount St. Mary’s -0.5
Over/Under: 133 points
Click here for the full list of Mt. St. Marys-Texas Southern odds.
Texas Southern’s roster is loaded with talent, as they are made up of a number of high-major transfers. Led by Michael Weathers, who played for Oklahoma State last season, TSU ended Prairie View A&M’s unbeaten run through the SWAC in the tournament title game. But they’re running into a Mount St. Mary’s team that can match them for size, will have the best guard on the floor in Damian Chong Qui and has developed a reputation for being a tough, physical, and hard-nosed defensive monster. They’re not like most mid-majors. They want to grind you to a pulp. I don’t think it works against the bigger schools, but I’ll take the Mount against TSU in a pick-em.
#11 Wichita State (16-5) vs. #11 Drake (25-4)
Date/Time/TV: Thursday, 3/18. 6:27 p.m. ET (TBS)
Moneyline: Wichita State -107 ML, Drake -110 ML
Spread: Wichita State -0.5
Over/Under: 141 points
Click here for the full list of Wichita State-Drake odds.
This line has shifted pretty dramatically with the news that Tank Hemphill, Drake’s best player, will be back in the lineup after recovering from a broken foot that he suffered a month ago. Their coaching staff is telling people that he’s going to be back at full strength, but I find it hard to believe that anyone can still be in shape after spending a month laid up trying to heal a broken bone in their foot.
That said, Drake is more than just Hemphill. With Roman Penn out, Joseph Yesufu has been awesome. They can really guard on the perimeter, which matters against a Wichita State team that has some solid guards.
I love the Bulldogs here even after seeing the line move this much. Part of that is due to the return of Hemphill, but I’m also planning to fade Wichita State here. I think this team is overrated. The win over Houston is great, but there’s not much else on their resume. They’ve gone 10-1 in close games, they won both of their overtime games and they got worked by Cincinnati — who lost by a million to Houston in the AAC title game — despite being in a spot where they had to win.
#16 Norfolk State (16-7) vs. #16 Appalachian State (17-11)
Date/Time/TV: Thursday, 3/18. 8:40 p.m. ET (TruTV)
Moneyline: Appalachian State -159 ML, Norfolk State +135 ML
Spread: Appalachian State -3
Over/Under: 135.5 points
Click here for the full list of Norfolk State-Appalachian State odds.
This is not going to be pretty. Two teams that want to control tempo with offenses that rank outside the top 200 nationally. App State is one of the worst shooting teams in the tournaments, and while they attempt a three on nearly 44 percent of their shots, they’re hitting those threes at a 32.6 percent clip. Norfolk State shoots it well, but they don’t shoot a lot of threes. They get to the line a lot, but the Mountaineers have proven to be good at avoiding fouls.
All that said, I like the under here. This matchup screams a game that gets played in the 50s.
#11 Michigan State (15-12) vs. #11 UCLA (17-9)
Date/Time/TV: Thursday, 3/18. 9:57 p.m. ET. (TBS)
Moneyline: Michigan State -136 ML, UCLA +114 ML
Spread: Michigan State -2
Over/Under: 137.5 points
Click here for the full list of Michigan State-UCLA odds.
The most high-profile play-in game in the history of the NCAA tournament features a pair of teams that are trending in opposite directions. Michigan State beat three top ten teams in the final two weeks of the season. UCLA lose their last four games. The Spartans have struggled on the offensive end of the floor all season long, but as Tom Izzo has gotten more comfortable with playing four guards at turning things over to Aaron Henry, Sparty has slowly gotten better.
UCLA is coached by Mick Cronin, but they are not known for their defense. They’ve been one of the most efficient offensive teams in the Pac-12, but the Pac-12 stinks and the Bruins lost their best player, Chris Smith, to a torn ACL. I’m not going to buy UCLA here. I think Sparty wins this thing by 10.