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Wagner vs Howard Predictions, Odds & Expert Picks for First Four on March 19

Sascha Paruk

by Sascha Paruk in College Basketball

Updated Mar 19, 2024 · 9:19 AM PDT

Wagner Seahawks guard Melvin Council Jr shooting a three
Nov 28, 2023; Providence, Rhode Island, USA; Wagner Seahawks guard Melvin Council Jr. (11) shoots against the Providence Friars during the first half at Amica Mutual Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
  • The Wagner Seahawks and Howard Bison meet in the First Four in Dayton on Tuesday, March 19
  • Wagner hasn’t reached the round of 64 at the NCAA Tournament since 2003, while Howard lost in the first round last year
  • See the Wagner vs Howard odds, spread, predictions and picks for Tuesday’s First Four game

The 2024 NCAA Tournament begins on Tuesday with a 16-vs-16 First Four game between the Wagner Seahawks (16-15, 0-0 neutral, 14-15 ATS) and Howard Bison (22-13, 3-3 neutral, 12-18-2 ATS) at 6:45 pm ET at University of Dayton Arena in Dayton, Ohio.

Howard is making its second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament while Wagner is in the dance for the first time in over twenty years (2003). The more-experienced Bison are listed as not-insignificant favorites in the Wagner vs Howard odds on March 19.

Wagner vs Howard Odds

Team Spread Moneyline Total
Wagner Seahawks +3.5 (-120) +135 Over 128.5 (-115)
Howard Bison -3.5 (-100) -160 Under 128.5 (-105)

The current college basketball odds list Howard as 3.5-point neutral-court chalk and -160 on the moneyline to win straight-up. Wagner comes back at +135 while the game total is at just 128.5, largely motivated by Wagner’s lethargic pace (second-slowest among all 362 DI teams, trailing only Virginia).


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Odds as of March 19 at BetMGM. Lock in a BetMGM promo code before wagering on the 2024 NCAA Tournament. 

The winner of Tuesday’s game will face #1 North Carolina in the first round in the West Region of the March Madness bracket.

Last year, Fairleigh Dickinson became the first #16 seed to make it from the First Four to the second round when it stunned Purdue (63-58) after taking down Texas Southern in the First Four.

The college basketball public betting splits show Howard getting 59% of ATS handle as of 12 pm ET along with a monstrous 98% of moneyline handle. The public slightly favors under 128.5 (58% of game-total handle).

Howard Has Faced Stiffer Competition

Howard coach Kenny Blakeney scheduled fairly aggressively in the non-conference portion of Howard’s schedule. The Bison faced three Power Six teams during the regular season (Georgia Tech, Rutgers, and Cincinnati) plus another two NCAA Tournament teams (James Madison and Yale). While the Bison went 0-5 straight-up in those games, they did manage to take Cincinnati (#37 at KenPom) to overtime in late November (86-81).

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Howard finished in a three-way tie for second in the MEAC this season at 9-5 and then took down top-seeded Norfolk State in the semifinal of the conference tournament (80-74) before punching its ticket to the dance with a 7–67 win over Delaware State in the final.

Junior guard Bryce Harris averages a team-high 16.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game while Ohio State transfer Seth Towns (14.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG) and former Maryland Terrapin Marcus Dockery (13.7 PPG) are also in double-figures for an offense that averages 75.1 PPG (141st in the nation).

Overall, bigger and better things were expected from the Bison this season. They entered the year as the preseason pick to win the regular-season title and were 234th at KenPom, returning several contributors from last year’s NCAA Tournament team. But they faded all the way to 276th during their 18-16 campaign, which saw several starters and rotation players miss time due to injury.

The latest March Madness injuries list shows Shy Odom (8.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.4 APG) and Dom Campbell (7.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG) listed as questionable. Both missed all three games of the MEAC Tournament. Ose Okojie (4.1 PPG, 3.1 RPG) is also questionable and hasn’t played since Feb. 26.

Wagner Defense Steps Up in NEC Tournament

Wagner greatly outperformed expectations by winning the NEC Tournament. The Seahawks were below .500 in the regular season (13-15 overall and 7-9 in conference play) before a three-game win streak in the conference tournament gave them their first ticket to March Madness since 2003.

Head coach Donald Copeland has his team playing a down-tempo, defense-first style that proved suffocating in the NEC Tournament. After beating Sacred Heart (60-57) and Central Connecticut (66-56) in the quarters and semis, Wagner took down regular-season NEC champion Merrimack (54-47) in the title game, averaging just 53.3 points against in the trio of victories. For the season as a whole, they are now averaging 62.1 points against per game.

Making Wagner’s NEC title all the more impressive, all three wins were true road games, and Wagner ranged from a 5.5 to an 8-point underdog.

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Just two Seahawks are averaging in double-figures: junior juco transfer Melvin Council Jr (14.6 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 3.4 APG) and junior Monmouth transfer Tahron Allen (10.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG).

Wagner played two Power Six teams this season, losing 72-51 at Seton Hall on Nov. 18 and 86-52 at Providence on Nov. 28. None of the Seahawks’ opponents qualified for the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

The table below shows how Wagner and Howard stack up against each other in key efficiency, shooting, and rebounding metrics.

Wagner vs Howard Head-to-Head Stats

Wagner Stat Howard
293rd Overall Efficiency 276th
334th Offensive Efficiency 192nd
171st Defensive Efficiency 334th
31.6 (291st) 3P% 37.5 (19th)
42.8 (358th) 2P% 49.2 (228th)
44.6 (353rd) Eff. FG % 52.0 (105th)
16.1 (111th) Turnover % 27.1 (354th)
29.9 (141st) Off. Reb % 33.9 (39th)
72.9 (97th) Def. Reb. % 69.3 (264th)
361st Tempo 163rd

Bettors can expect a massive contrast in styles. Wagner is going to try to keep this game in the 60s (or lower) while Howard wants to get up-and-down, launching threes with regularity.

Wagner vs Howard Prediction

While Howard has faced better teams, and performed slightly better against them, the Seahawks are more battle-hardened. They went 9-6 straight-up in their final 15 true-road games of the season, including two wins at Merrimack (215th at KenPom). Wagner is also at full health, while the Bison could be missing as many as three starters/rotation players on Tuesday.

With the defensively-oriented Seahawks getting a handful of points, I love the underdog to cover. Wagner hasn’t surrendered more than 57 points in its last four games, and the fewer possessions there are in a game, the easier it is for the underdog to cover.

Wagner vs Howard pick: Wagner +3.5 (-110)

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