Upcoming Match-ups

Opening Odds for All First Four Games

Chris Amberley

by Chris Amberley in College Basketball

Updated Mar 16, 2021 · 7:55 AM PDT

UCLA guard Tyger Campbell driving on Arizona guard James Akinjo during a game.
UCLA guard Tyger Campbell (10) drives on Arizona guard James Akinjo during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, in Tucson, Ariz. UCLA won 81-76. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
  • The NCAA Tournament’s First Four Games all take place on Thursday, March 18th, starting at 5:10 pm ET
  • Michigan State and UCLA, who’ve combined to win 13 National titles, headline the First Four matchups
  • See below for opening odds analysis for each First Four contest

The NCAA Tournament’s First Four games tip-off on Thursday (March 18th), and while a handful of lesser known programs make up the eight teams, the list also includes a pair of National Champions.

First Four Odds (Thursday, March 18th)

Team Spread Moneyline Total Time
Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers +2.0 (-110) +116 Over 132.0 (-116) 5:10 pm ET
Texas Southern Tigers -2.0 (-110) -136 Under 132.0 (-106)
Team Spread Moneyline Total Time
Drake Bulldogs +2.0 (-116) +106 Over 139.5 (-110) 6:27 pm ET
Wichita State Shockers -2.0 (-106) -124 Under 139.5 (-110)
Team Spread Moneyline Total Time
Norfolk State Spartans +3.0 (-110) +130 Over 134.5 (-116) 8:40 pm ET
Appalachian State Mountaineers -3.0 (-110) -154 Under 134.5 (-106)
Team Spread Moneyline Total Time
UCLA Bruins +2.0 (-110) +116 Over 136.5 (-106) 9:57 pm ET
Michigan State Spartans -2.0 (-110) -136 Under 136.5 (-116)

Odds taken March 15th at FanDuel.

UCLA versus Michigan State, who’ve combined to win 13 National titles, is the marquee matchup that will tie a bow on a fantastic evening of college hoops. The quadruple header gets underway at 5:10 pm ET, with Mount St. Mary’s taking on Texas Southern.

Tigers Eye 10th Straight Win

Texas Southern opened up as a 2-point favorite over the Mountaineers, in a game that features a total of 132. The Tigers enter play winners of 14 of their past 15 games, including nine straight. They crushed top seed Prairie View in the SWAC Final, punching the school’s ninth March Madness ticket along the way.

Their resume is without a win over a big-time program, but they are battle tested. They squared off against tournament teams Oklahoma State and BYU this season, in addition to matchups versus top-85 teams Auburn and Saint Mary’s.

Mount St. Mary’s meanwhile, has the honor of trying to become the first Northeast Conference champion to ever win a First Round game. NEC teams have won two of their past three First Four games, but are 0-31 all-time in the First Round.

The Mountaineers’ calling card is their defense, which is top-15 in the nation in points allowed, and held enemy shooters to 40.5% from the floor. Like their opponent, they don’t have a big-time win on their resume, but did face VCU and Maryland earlier this season.

Drake Decimated By Injuries

The second game features Mountain West finalist Drake taking on Wichita State as 2-point underdogs. The Bulldogs fell to Loyola Chicago in the conference tournament final, and have been decimated by injuries. Their third leading scorer Roman Penn is out for the season, while leading scorer ShanQuan Hemphill hasn’t played since undergoing foot surgery in mid-February.

There’s a chance Hemphill is ready for Thursday, but if not, Drake has little chance of living up to the their offensive potential. They ranked 19th in adjusted offensive efficiency this season, and shot 48.8% from the field.

The Shockers meanwhile, were the top seed in AAC Tournament thanks to a stronger winning percentage than Houston, but were ousted in the semifinal. Most experts projected Wichita State to fall just short of the final 68, but here they are against a very familiar opponent.

The Shockers, formerly of the Mountain West Conference, are 104-47 all-time versus Drake, winning each of the past 11 matchups.

Norfolk State Red-Hot

Next up, is Norfolk State against Appalachian State, with the Mountaineers listed as 3-point favorites. The Spartans enter play winners of six straight, punctuated by a Mid-Eastern Conference title, with three of those victories coming by 19 or more points.

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It’s their first March Madness appearance since upsetting 2-seed Missouri nine years ago, and their offense is certainly capable of leading them to another shocking win. They average 75 points per outing, and are the nation’s 33rd ranked team from beyond the arc.

Appalachian State on the other hand, underwhelmed in conference play with a 7-8 record, but went on an incredible run in the Sun Belt Tournament to claim the title.

They knocked off top seeds Georgia State and Texas State en route the championship, led by Michael Almonacy. The Senior averaged 21.7 points in the conference tourney and shot 51% from three.

Michigan State Is Undervalued

Last but not least, Michigan State is a 2-point favorite over UCLA. The Bruins ended the season on a four-game skid, and were upset in the Pac-12 quarterfinal by Oregon State. They have just two Quadrant 1 victories and lost each of their last four games to tournament teams.

They’re a strong offensive program, and will need to get hot from three to have any chance of making a multiple game run. They shot 39% from beyond the arc in league play, and rank 26th in adjusted offensive efficiency.

The Spartans meanwhile, haven’t missed the NCAA Tournament since 1997, and ended the season playing their best ball. Sure, the opening round loss to Maryland in the Big Ten Tournament stings, but this is a team with five Quadrant 1 wins this season, and beat a pair of 1-seeds, Illinois and Michigan, and 2-seed Ohio State down the stretch.

MSU relies heavily on its top-32 defense, but will need to find their form on offense. They shot above 41.5% just once in their final five outings, and below 40% in three of those contests.

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