Betting The First Four Play-In Games For March Madness

  • The UCLA Bruins face the Michigan State Spartans in an 11-seed play-in game to kick off March Madness this Thursday, with Michigan State listed as a -140 betting odds favorite.
  • The remaining “First Four” play-in games also feature the #11 Wichita State Shockers (-115) facing the #11 Drake Bulldogs (-105), and two 16-seed battles between the Mount St. Mary Mountaineers (-110) and the Texas Southern Tigers (-110), and the Norfolk State Spartans (+125) against the Appalachian State Mountaineers (-145).

INDIANAPOLIS – The 2021 NCAA Tournament officially tips off this Thursday, with the “First Four” play-in games.

These play-in games will be between four potential 16-seeds, and four potential 11-seeds, all in an effort to secure their place in the final bracket. Make no mistake, each of these teams has earned their right to play in the Big Dance, and will do anything they can to prove they belong.

The matchups this year feature some smaller mid-majors in addition to two major blue-bloods looking for redemption after a season below expectations.

Betting odds for all of March Madness are available via online sportsbooks.

NCAA Tournament – 3/18/21 5:10 p.m. EST

  • Mount St. Mary’s (16) -110
  • Texas Southern (16) -110
  • Spread: Even
  • Over/Under: 133.0

Beginning just after five o’clock in the East Region of the bracket, two 16-seeds face off in the Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers and the Texas Southern Tigers.

Despite the even betting odds, Texas Southern is riding a nine-game win streak into the tournament, including a win in the SWAC conference tournament. They face a Mt. St. Mary’s team that is on a four-game win streak of their own, and has won three of their last four NCAA play-in games.

While Texas Southern has the win streak, The Mount has the NCAA experience necessary to move on to the next round. The reward for whoever advances is the #1 seed Michigan Wolverines.

The next play-in game of the evening comes from the West region, with two 11 seeds set to face off.

NCAA Tournament – 3/18/21 6:27 p.m. EST

  • Drake (11) -105
  • Wichita State (11) -115
  • Spread: WSU -1.0 (-110)
  • Over/Under: 141.0 (-110)

The Drake Bulldogs take on the Wichita State Shockers, with the Shockers as the slight favorite to advance.

Wichita State certainly has the more experience between the two, reaching the Final Four twice in their history most recently in 2013.

Drake began the season on an 18-game win streak before finishing the season 25-4, losing to the Loyola Ramblers in the Missouri Valley conference finals.

Both teams love to crash the glass and dominate defensively, but Drake has slightly better offensive stats. However, those looking to bet on March Madness should know that Wichita State has that special something in the month of March.

The next game on the schedule Thursday is another 16-seed matchup in the West region.

NCAA Tournament – 3/18/21 8:40 p.m. EST

  • Norfolk State (16) +125
  • Appalachian State (16) -145
  • Spread: ASU -3.0
  • Over/Under: 134.5 (-110)

Despite having the more well-known name, the Appalachian State Mountaineers were pretty bad down the stretch of the season. App State finished seventh in the Sun Belt regular season, including a run of five straight losses at one point.

However, they managed to put it all together in the Sun Belt tournament, going on a run to win the title and earn a bid into the Big Dance.

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They face the MEAC Champion Norfolk State Spartans, who are riding a six-game win streak into the tournament.

College basketball sportsbooks have App State as the favorite, but don’t be surprised to see Norfolk State sneak past if App State isn’t able to hit shots from behind the arc- something their offense relies on heavily.

The reward for the winner of the game is a date with the No.1 Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Finally, the nightcap of Thursday starting at a brisk 9:57 p.m. on the East coast features two of the most historically successful programs in college basketball.

NCAA Tournament – 3/18/21 9:57 p.m. EST

  • UCLA (11) +120
  • Michigan State (11) -140
  • Spread: MSU -2.5
  • Over/Under: 135.5 (-110)

The 11-time NCAA champion UCLA Bruins face legendary coach Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans in a battle of potential 11-seeds.

It isn’t often that two blue-blooded programs get to meet in the play-in games, so don’t expect either team to be very excited about their placement.

Nevertheless, both teams will be up for the challenge, with Michigan State as the slight 2.5-point favorite. The Spartans lost their first-round matchup against the Maryland Terrapins in the Big Ten tournament, but did knock off rival Michigan in their final regular-season game.

They are led by Rocket Watts, in addition to a strong core of bench players that can get hot at any moment.

The Bruins started off the season with a loss but went on to win 13 of their next 15 games, establishing them as a threat in the Pac-12.

They have five players that average double-digit scoring, showing a solid sense of balance across the offensive roster.

However, they enter the tournament on a four-game losing streak. Without that streak, the Bruins would likely have a much higher seed in the tournament.

Instead, bettors are now treated to a unique matchup to kick start this year’s March Madness, which is sure to be one of the most unique entries into the history of the tournament.