March Madness has technically begun because Selection Sunday is past us. The games haven’t started yet, but the first round of madness is here. On Selection Sunday, the NCAA DI Men's Basketball Committee select and seed the teams for March Madness based on their regular season performances. Let’s start by recapping the events from Sunday.
As expected, Alabama, Houston, Kansas and Purdue earned the No. 1 seeds in the four regions. There was some contention in the East regarding Purdue and Texas concerning the top spot, but this would have been very unfair to Purdue, the best team in the NCAA for the first three-quarters of the league and who are still well backed to do well with college basketball betting sites.
There was no doubt that Kansas would be a top seed, but some uncertainty around the region. Eventually, Kansas got the top seed in the West. The SEC and the Big Ten had eight representatives, including Alabama and Purdue. The Big 12 was just behind with seven bids, including some solid teams like Kansas, Texas, Baylor, Kansas State, TCU and Iowa State. With that out of the way, we can preview the First Four Round.
The First Four kick-starts the on-court section of March Madness. In this round, the four lowest-ranked teams face one another, and the four lowest-seeded “at-large teams” also face one another to qualify for the 64-team bracket in the first round.
The First Four round has undergone some changes through the years. It was conceptualized in 1999, but the format we see today started in 2010. Even though the teams participating in the First Four rounds have low seeds, many often go deep into the tournament and could be handy college basketball picks in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament.
The 2011 VCU and 2021 UCLA squads are great recent examples of teams who went from the First Four to the Final Four; this is part of the reason why March Madness is called what it is. Of course, things don’t always work out this way. In March Madness 2019, the First Four teams that made it to the 64-team bracket didn’t win a single match.
Some March Madness traditions start right from the first four rounds. These rounds are usually hosted at the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. The teams participating in the First Four that we are focusing on are (16) Southeast Missouri State, (16) Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, (11) Pittsburgh, and (11) Mississippi State.
Southeast Missouri State will go up against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi before Pittsburgh take on Mississippi State Tuesday evening. The winner of the first match will face Alabama in the South Region, and the winner of the second match will go up against Iowa State in the Midwest Region.
It might look like the winners of the First Four will have no chance of going any further than the first round of the 64-team bracket, but upsets are part and parcel of March Madness, and you can find plenty of value at US betting apps if an upset were to occur. In fact, Alabama were on the receiving end of one just last season when Notre Dame got the better of them. Let’s now preview the two matches.
Southeast Missouri State haven’t made it this far in over two decades, which is a fantastic achievement for the team in its own right. They had to work overtime to make it this far, and it’ll take a lot from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to knock Southern Missouri State from the stage where they got knocked out last season. Texas A&M-CC opened as 3.5-point favorites with sportsbooks.
Southeast Missouri State’s rise has been led by Phillip Russell, who has taken the offensive burden on his shoulders. He has averaged 18.2 points per game this season and will need his teammates to come through because the Redhawks rank only 263rd in the nation on offense and have the 243rd-ranked defense, according to KenPom rankings.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, on the other hand, have the 137th-ranked offense but don’t have the singular talent that Russell possesses. Trevian Tennyson has led the offense with 15.7 points per game this season. Where Russell embodies the speed and direct approach of Southeast Missouri State, Tennyson is emblematic of the three-point expertise in the Texas A&M-CC ranks.
Texas A&M-CC look like they’ll edge this one so could be a wide choice on USA sports betting sites. This is an excellent opportunity to make amends for last season’s loss at the same stage.
Both of these sides haven’t been in the field of 68 for some time. Pittsburgh’s last first round appearance was in 2016, and Mississippi State haven’t been to this stage since 2019. Both teams have come on leaps and bounds this season. Mississippi State opened as 2.5-point favorites with most betting apps.
Pittsburgh have a strong three-point game and have two reliable shooters in Jamarius Burton and Blake Hinson. Both have averaged 15.6 points per game this season.
They’ll have their work cut out against a stubborn Mississippi State defense, who have allowed just 60.4 points per game this season (eighth-best in the nation) and force teams under 31% from three. However, they lack stardust on offense. Tolu Smith is the only player on the roster who is averaging more than 10 points a matchup. He has averaged 15.8 points per game this season.
Despite this obvious weakness, the matchup suits Mississippi State. As good as Pittsburgh is from the three-point line, they showed that they’re far from a free-scoring team in their last loss in the regular season against Miami – we don’t think their offense is reliable enough to outwit Mississippi’s defense.