March Madness: The First Four Odds, Picks, Predictions and Upsets
Well, it’s that time of the year again. The newest iteration of March Madness is just days away, with our first, First Four game tipping off Tuesday, March 15th at 6:40 PM EST. Since it was implemented in 2011, the First Four has expanded the field of 64 to a field of 68, and has given fans what they’ve always wanted–more March Madness. This year’s first four games are as follows:
- #16 Texas A&M Corpus Christi vs #16 Texas Southern (3/[email protected]:40 PM EST)
- #12 Wyoming vs #12 Indiana (3/[email protected]:10 PM EST)
- #16 Wright State vs #16 Bryant State (3/[email protected]:40 PM EST)
- #11 Notre Dame vs #11 Rutgers (3/[email protected]:10 PM EST)
Here, I’ll break down all four of these games, and give my best bets as to who I think will make it into the Round of 64. I’ll be getting my odds from DraftKings Sportsbook, but if DraftKings isn’t available in your state don’t worry! You can click HERE to see which sportsbooks are available in your area.
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#16 Texas A&M Corpus Christi vs #16 Texas Southern
Our first, First Four game is a battle for the Lone State State between Corpus Christi and Texas Southern. Both teams are playing for the #16 seed in the Midwest region and for the right to take on #1 seed Kansas. Texas Southern is the slight favorite right now, and I don’t expect that line to change much come tip-off.
The A&M Islanders find themselves in this position after they pulled off a shocking tournament upset in the Southland Conference, defeating the SE Louisiana Lions in the finals, 73-65. Their offense is mostly led by Junior forward Isaac Mushila, who averages 13.5 points per game while grabbing 9.5 rebounds per game.
Texas Southern, on the other hand, has more of a team approach to things–no one player averages more than 10 points per game, but only 4 average less than 5 points per game. Talk about sharing the wealth.
This Texas Southern team started off their season going 0-7, but had managed to upset the #20 ranked Florida Gators for their first win of the season. Since then, they’ve gone 18-5 and easily dominated the SWAC Conference tournament.
I think Texas Southern’s dominance will continue in this first four matchup against Corpus Christi, as long as they can utilize their height advantage early and establish the paint. The Texas Southern Tigers have 3 players 6’9 or taller, while the Islanders have none. Add on the fact that Mushila does almost all his scoring in the paint, and it could be a tough night for the Islanders.
Prediction: Texas Southern (-3.5/-160 ML)
#12 Wyoming vs #12 Indiana
If you’re a Cowboys fan, you might want to just skip this section because I LOVE this Indiana Hoosiers team. Hoosiers Sophomore forward Trayce Jackson-Davis seems to get better every time he steps on the court, and is starting to look like a real Draft prospect. In the Big 10 tournament, where Indiana played against THREE March Madness teams, Jackson-Davison scored 75 points on 68% shooting from inside the arc. And even when the Hoosiers aren’t feeding their star forward, they are playing great defense–the defense that allowed them to grab wins over both Michigan and Illinois in the Big Ten Conference tournament.
Keep in mind they only lost by 3 to the #5 seed Iowa Hawkeyes.
Prediction: Indiana (-4/-180 ML)
#16 Wright State vs #16 Bryant State
Bryant is making their March Madness debut this year, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Peter Kiss, a Senior guard on the Bryant Bulldogs, is the nations leading scorer, scoring 25.5 points per game. Yes, you read that right–the NATIONS leading scorer plays for a school that, frankly, I didn’t even know existed.
Well, Kiss has a chance to enshrine his legacy even deeper, because a win of Wright State in this first four matchup would be huge for the Bulldogs–and it’s entirely in the realm of possibility.
Wright State has an incredibly strong offense, led by Tanner Holden (19.8 PPG), Grant Basile (18.5 PPG), and Try Calvin (14.3 PPG). They’re also a team that shoots exceptionally well from the free-throw line, so free points should be coming in heavy for this Wright State Raiders team. However, where they fall a bit short is on defense. Not only do they allow over 71 points per game, but they fail to grab effective rebounds, which often leads to more offensive possessions for their opponent. And, who do you not want to give extra possessions to? Probably the leading scorer in the nation.
Prediction: Bryant State (+3.5/+145 ML)
#11 Notre Dame vs #11 Rutgers
If I were the Fighting Irish, I’d be shaking in my boots right now. Rutgers have been giant slayers all season long, collected wins over 5 ranked opponents (#1 Purdue, #13 Michigan State, #16 Ohio State, #14 Wisconsin, and #12 Illinois). They are 2-4 in their last 6 games, but Notre Dame is having no better luck. They’re 3-3 in their last 6, and have some tough losses to Florida State and Virginia Tech mixed into it.
This is a pick ‘em game as it stands, but Rutgers HAS to get the nod here just do to their strength of schedule and quality wins. It’s always fun to root for David, even if the Goliath isn’t that strong.
Prediction: Rutgers (-110 ML)