The First Four games are expected to be close.

All four of Tuesday and Wednesday’s contests have spreads of four points or fewer, so even if you have no idea who some of these teams are, you’ll likely see competitive basketball. That’s been par for the course, as nine of the last 12 First Four games were decided by single digits, and there was one overtime game each in 2021 and 2022.

The biggest March Madness trend from the First Four is that one of the four victors usually wins at least one more game in the NCAA tournament. VCU in 2011 and UCLA in 2021 made it all the way to the Final Four. Tyrone Garland’s 2013 La Salle team and three others went from the First Four to the Sweet 16, so it’s something to consider when we’re making our picks on Pennsylvania sports betting apps and at NJ sportsbooks.


Wagner vs. Howard (-3) (over/under 128.5)

No better way to start March Madness than with the sixth-best team in the NEC playing the fourth-best squad from the MEAC.

Both Wagner and Howard had under .500 records against the spread this season. Howard was 19-12-1 to the over, while Wagner was 10-19 to the over.

Wagner ranks 361st in tempo in D1. Only Virginia plays at a slower pace. No team reached over 66 points in Wagner’s three NEC tournament games.

Howard scored more than 70 points in all but one of its 18 victories. The Bison rank 19th in three-point offense on KenPom, but Wagner can negate that strength with the 10th-best three-point defense.

It sounds very basic, but if you like Howard, the over will probably hit. A Wagner win probably comes with the cashing of the under.


Colorado State (-2.5) vs. Virginia (over/under 121.5)

Well, I just warned you about Virginia.

The Cavaliers play at the slowest pace in D1. What makes it worse is this is not a good Virginia team. A majority of college basketball fans did not want to see them in the NCAA tournament because of how they play.

Colorado State is not exactly the fastest team in the world either, but it ranks ninth in two-point offense. The Rams rank 99th in points per game, while Virginia is 354th. Only nine teams in D1 have worse scoring production than UVA.

I would like to think Colorado State carries more motivation into this game as well because the Mountain West feels like it got screwed with its low seeding.

Also, you hate basketball if you wager on Virginia.


Grambling vs. Montana State (-4) (over/under 135)

More actual real basketball will be played on Wednesday.

Grambling is playing in its first-ever NCAA tournament game.

Montana State is the better team and should outscore Grambling. The Bobcats rank in the top 65 in three-point and two-point offense. Grambling averages eight fewer points per game than Montana State.

Both teams have similar records ATS and to the total, so there is no distinct difference there. Montana State is probably the play because of its superior offense.


Colorado (-2.5) vs. Boise State (over/under 140.5)

Boise State will probably play pissed off, like Colorado State, but Colorado is a far tougher opponent than Virginia.

The Buffaloes have NBA draft talent, led by Cody Williams, the brother of OKC’s Jalen Williams, but they are in this spot because injuries tore apart their starting lineup for most of the season.

Colorado won seven of its last eight games to get in as an at-large team. They rank in the top 60 in most offensive categories, and most importantly for March, rank 18th in free-throw percentage.

Colorado went 20-14 to the over, while Boise was 16-14 to the over. This is probably the game that delivers the most points out of the four in Dayton.