March Madness Betting Guide: First Four
March Madness is here!
Filling out a bracket is the main attraction for most sports fans this time of year, but the fun doesn't have to stop there. It's also the perfect opportunity to place some bets at NCAAB odds.
While the Round of 64 doesn't get underway until Thursday, we can still get our feet wet on Tuesday and Wednesday with the First Four games.
Which matchups should draw our attention? Let's find out.
Please note that lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. Please check here to make sure you're seeing the most updated information.
Southeast Missouri State (16) vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (16)
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi -3.5 (-110)
Of Tuesday's games, it's the first one at 6:40 pm ET that stands out. The Southeast Missouri State Redhawks and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders are battling for the right to play the top overall seed in Alabama Crimson Tide, so this is essentially their Super Bowl.
Given that these are two of the four lowest seeds of the entire tournament, their respective resumes don't exactly leap off the page -- but one team definitely outshines the other.
Per KenPom's rankings, the Islanders actually check in at a respectable 170th, which is a sizable step up over the Redhawks (257th). Similarly, BarTorvik has TAMU-CC 186th and SEMO 263rd.
The biggest difference between the two schools comes down to offense. While the Redhawks are outside the top 260 in both adjusted offense and adjusted defense, per BarTorvik, the Islanders are an above-average 144th offensively. TAMU-CC ranks 36th in three-point shooting percentage, and they're also 58th in offensive rebounding rate.
Our model gives the Islanders a 60.1% probability to cover the modest 3.5-point spread. TAMU-CC enters the game as winners of 12 of their last 13, as well.
Nevada (11) vs. Arizona State (11)
Nevada +2.5 (-120)
The Nevada Wolf Pack might be underdogs in this spot, but numberFire's model thinks they're the more likely team to advance to the Round of 64, giving them a 58.8% chance of doing so. That suggests that the Wolf Pack might not be getting enough respect from sportsbooks against the Arizona State Sun Devils.
KenPom and BartTorvik both prefer Nevada over Arizona State. The former is particularly bullish, ranking the Wolf Pack 43rd compared to 68th for the Sun Devils.
Both teams boast top-50 adjusted defenses, per BartTorvik, but much like the previous matchup, it's the offenses that diverge. Nevada is 77th in adjusted offensive efficiency, whereas Arizona State is just 135th. Perhaps most damning for the Sun Devils is that they rank a troubling 307th in effective field goal percentage, and that includes hitting threes at a poor clip (312th).
Nevada comes into the tournament on a three-game losing streak, which could possibly explain this point spread. But the season-long numbers suggest that the betting roles should be reversed. Backing the Wolf Pack and the points is one of our model's favorite bets among the First Four games, and it projects that to hit 63.6% of the time.