NCAA Tournament First Four Preview: March Madness Upsets, Picks, and Bets for March 19, 2024

NCAA Tournament First Four Preview: March Madness Upsets, Picks, and Bets for March 19, 2024

March Madness begins on Tuesday night with a pair of games, and we’ll break down the action with our NCAA Tournament First Four preview and best bets. The First Four kicks March Madness off, and we have game action on March 19, so that means we have picks to make! We will be bringing you picks all NCAA Tournament, but enough jabbering. Let’s look at the March 19 picks.

UD Arena in Dayton is again the host of the First Four, with a pair of games over the next two nights. The opener is a matchup between the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion (16) Howard and the Northeast Conference Tournament winner (16) Wagner.

Meanwhile, the late-night game on Tuesday pits together (10) Colorado State and (10) Virginia. The winner will advance to play (7) Texas in the Midwest Region.

This is the start of one of the best times of the year for sports fans. So, let’s dive into these matchups in our NCAA Tournament First Four preview and best bets.

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NCAA Tournament First Four Preview: March Madness Upsets, Picks, and Bets for March 19, 2024

Wagner (16-15) vs Howard (18-16)

(Howard -3/Total – 128) – 6:40 p.m. ET on truTV

I hate to be the person who is going to be cheering on an under in the first game of the NCAA Tournament. However, I can only look that way in this opener of the First Four.

My First Four best bet is for the first half of this matchup to fall under the total of 60 at DraftKings. Unfortunately, we are likely paying a premium on this due to the success of these over recent NCAA Tournaments, but I think multiple factors led me to this bet.

For starters, Wagner is 354th in the country in first-half scoring. This is one of the primary reasons why this same bet would have cashed in nine of the previous 11 Seahawks’ games.

Howard is the better offensive squad, ranking 127th in points per game in the opening period. However, the edge still goes to Wagner, who ranks fifth in the country, allowing the fewest points on average in the first half.

The other issue here is that both offenses score a majority of their points from beyond the arc, but both defenses can defend three-pointers. Howard is 51st in the fewest percentage of opponents’ points coming from the long ball.

Meanwhile, Wagner is ranked in the top 40 by Haslametrics in opponents’ three-point percentage against average opponents. This is also the same team that ranks 361st out of 362 schools in tempo by Kenpom.

Once you add in the neutral-site atmosphere with weird site lines for shooters, I like this one to get off to a slow start for my opening First Four best bet.

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Colorado State (24-10) vs Virginia (23-10)

(CSU -2.5/O/U 120.5) – 9:10 p.m. ET on truTV

In the second game of the night, I like Colorado State to debunk the Mountain West struggles in the Big Dance against Virginia.

My second First Four best bet is to take the Rams on the moneyline of -142 at DraftKings. I would not pay more than -145 or -3 on the spread.

The key to this matchup will be who does a better job of defending shots from inside the arc. Both squads score more points on two-pointers, but CSU is better at defending those shots.

If you start first with UVA, the Cavaliers rank in the top 60 in both percentage of points from two-pointers and mid-range attempt rate. They are in the bottom 15 among NCAA Tournament teams in three-point rate since February.

Meanwhile, Colorado State is in the top 40 in opponents’ mid-range shooting percentage by Haslametrics. The Rams are also among the 10 best tournament teams since February, holding foes to 45.7 percent shooting from two-pointers.

Another issue I have with Virginia is the team’s metrics away from home. In games played on the road or neutral floors, the Cavs are ranked 56th out of 68 NCAA Tournament schools by BartTorvik.

I like Colorado State to punch its ticket to the first round with a win and cover here to cap off our First Four preview and best bets.

 

 

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