First Four reaction: March Madness begins in appropriately mad fashion

Jamie Jaquez Jr #4 of the UCLA Bruins clebrates after taking down Colorado on the road
Photo of Ricky Dimon

Ricky Dimon

NCAAB· 1 year ago

Show Bio

Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

If the First Four was any indication, March Madness in 2021 is going to be downright awesome. And that is exactly what we would all deserve after last year’s festivities were cancelled.

The NCAA Tournament tipped off on Thursday night with the traditional play-in games, and all four offered plenty of intrigue. Three of the four went down to the wire, and the only one that didn’t (Texas Southern vs. Mount St. Mary’s) featured a comeback from double-digits down in the second half (Texas Southern trailed 30-20 at halftime and ended up winning 60-52). All in all, the four showdowns were decided by a grand total of 10 points in regulation. The last three games combined featured a two-point margin in regulation.

Let’s recap what happened and look ahead to the prospects of the four teams that advanced.

16 seed games

If you’re in the business of fun-and-fun track meets (or if you bet on the over!) Texas Southern vs. Mount St. Mary’s was not for you. The Tigers scored only 60 points even though they shot 42.9 percent (6-for-14) from three-point range and turned the ball over just five times. That’s how slow the pace of play was (and it didn’t help that they were a ridiculous 16-for-43 from inside the arc). Fortunately for Texas Southern, the Mountaineers went 19-for-49 overall and 6-for-22 from downtown. The Tigers engineered a comeback from 10 points down in the second half mostly with defense—an especially impressive feat.

Speaking of comebacks, low-scoring contests, and Mountaineers, Norfolk State and Appalachian State offered more of the same.  Appalachian State trailed by as many as 19 points in the first half and were down 36-20 at halftime. The Mountaineers erased all of that deficit and even built a six-point lead of their own late in the second only to see Norfolk State recover. Despite scoring a mere 18 points over the final 20 minutes, it was enough for the Spartans in a 54-53 win.

Norfolk State’s reward is a meeting with No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga, which will be a nice experience but in terms of outcome will obviously be a disaster. Texas Southern, on the other hand, may actually be in with a chance—at least to keep it close perhaps for a half—against Michigan. The Tigers play good defense, have plenty of momentum, and the Wolverines are without Isaiah Livers.

11 seed games

Although no more momentous for the particular schools in question, the 11 seed matchups obviously have more bearing on the overall tournament. Drake, Wichita State, UCLA, and Michigan State are teams that can make a run in the NCAA Tournament.

Drake Bulldogs guard D.J. Wilkins (0) shoots as Loyola Ramblers guard Tate Hall (24) defends during the first half in the finals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament at Enterprise Center

No longer can Wichita State and Michigan State do so. Drake defeated the Shockers 53-52 for their first NCAA Tournament win since 1971. That’s 50 years for those counting! UCLA erased a 14-point deficit (11 in the second half) and dug out of a five-point hole with a little more than a minute remaining to force overtime and eventually stun the Spartans 86-80. Jaime Jaquez Jr. (27 points) and Johnny Juzang (23) were outstanding for the Bruins, but Juzang left midway through OT with an ankle injury.

Drake is getting six points against USC in the first round and I’m not sure that’s enough. The Bulldogs could not compete with Loyola Chicago in the Missouri Valley Conference this season and they weren’t overly impressive against Wichita State. UCLA has a manageable draw against BYU (Bruins +3.5), but a Texas team that just won the Big 12 Tournament would likely loom large in the second round.

In other words, I’m not seeing a Syracuse situation (Final Four as a play-in game team). But even if Thursday doesn’t lead to more success for the four victors, it was wildly entertaining for everyone. Welcome to March Madness!

Pickswise is the home of March Madness Predictions. Check out all of our March Madness Picks, including daily March Madness Parlays throughout the NCAA Tournament.

Virginia Bonuses

See All
FanDuel Sportsbook

$150

Bet $5, Win $150 on either NYY or CWS to win the Sunday Night Baseball matchup (30-1 Odds)!

Sign up for a new account with FanDuel Sportsbook and make your first deposit

Place a $5 bet on the Yankees or White Sox to win the Sunday Night Baseball matchup

If your teams, get 30-1 odds and win $150!

Must be 21 years or over to participate. Reward paid in site credit. Offer valid for new players only. Full terms available at FanDuel Sportsbook.

PointsBet

$500

Get 5x $100 Risk-Free Bets!

Sign up for a new PointsBet account

Make a bet of up to $100 and receive a refund if you lose

Get this offer once a day for the first 5 days you sign up

Must be 21+. Full terms are available at PointsBet.

DraftKings

$200

Bet $5 on Any MLB Game, Get $200 if Your Team Wins!

Sign up for a new account with DraftKings Sportsbook and make your first deposit

Bet $5 on any MLB team to win their next game

Win $200 in free bets + any cash winnings from your original wager

Offer valid for new players only. Must be 21 years or older to play. Reward paid in site credit. Full terms available at DraftKings Sportsbook.

BetMGM

$200

Win $200 If ANY NBA Team Makes a 3-Pointer!

Sign up for a new account with BetMGM, and make a deposit of $10+.

Place a $10 moneyline bet on any upcoming NBA game.

Win $200 if either team in your selected game makes a 3-pointer

21+ and new players only. Full terms available at BetMGM Sportsbook.

DraftKings

$150

Bet $5 on any NBA team, Get $150 in Free Bets if they win!

Sign up for a new account with DraftKings Sportsbook and make your first deposit

Bet $5 on any team to win an NBA playoff game

Win $150 in free bets if your team wins

Offer valid for new players only. Must be 21 years or older to play. Reward paid in site credit. Full terms available at DraftKings Sportsbook.

BetMGM

$200

Win $200 If A Goal Is Scored In ANY NHL Game!

Sign up for a new account with BetMGM, and make a deposit of $10+.

Place a $10 moneyline bet on any upcoming NHL game.

Win $200 if either team in your selected game scores a goal

21+ and new players only. Full terms available at BetMGM Sportsbook.

PointsBet

$2,000

Get $2,000 in Risk-Free Bets!

Register for a new PointsBet account & deposit

Receive a free bet refund up to $500 if your first fixed odds bet loses

& a free bet refund up to $1,500 if your first two PointsBetting Wager loses

Must be 21+. Full terms are available at PointsBet.

Caesars Sportsbook

$1,100

Get up to $1,100 in First Bet Insurance!

Sign up for a new Caesars Sportsbook account

Make your first deposit of $50+

If your first bet is not a winner, get it all back as a free bet (up to $1,100) if you lose!

21+. Terms and conditions apply.

BetRivers

$250

Get a $250 Deposit Bonus!

Sign up for a new BetRivers account using promo code PICKSWISE

Make a deposit & get it doubled up to $250 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $100

Must be 21+. Play in IA Only. Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-BETS OFF

Unibet

$500

Get a $500 Risk-Free Bet!

Register for a new Unibet account & make a deposit

Place your first bet up to $500 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $500

New players only. Terms & conditions apply. 21+. VA only.

BetMGM

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new BetMGM & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

FanDuel Sportsbook

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Risk Free Bet!

Register for a new FanDuel Sportsbook account & deposit

Place your first bet up to $1,000 risk-free!

Get refunded up if you lose up to $1,000

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

DraftKings

$1,000

Get a $1,000 Deposit Bonus!

Register for a new DraftKings Sportsbook account & deposit

DraftKings will match 20% of your deposit up to $1,000 total

To get a $100 bonus, deposit $500

21+. Terms & conditions apply.

Monkey Knife Fight

$100

Claim 100% Instant Deposit Match up to $100!

Register for a Monkey Knife Fight account & deposit using promo code PICKSWISE100

Monkey Knife Fight will match your first deposit up to $100

Deposit $100 and you'll get $100 bonus + a free $5 game

18+. Terms and conditions apply. You must live in one of the states where real money DFS is legal.

Yahoo DFS

$25

Get $25 in Site Credit With Yahoo DFS When You Deposit $5!

Register for a new account with Yahoo DFS and deposit $5+

Enter a $5 DFS contest

Upon entry, you will receive a bonus $25 in credit into your account!

21+ and new players only. Full terms available from Yahoo DFS.

TVG

$300

Get a $300 Risk-Free Bet with TVG Racebook!

Register for a new TVG account and make a deposit

Place your first single horse win-type bet up to $300

If your horse doesn't win you'll get a refund up to $300

21+. T&C's apply. Please gamble responsibly.

TwinSpires

$200

Get a $200 Sign-Up Bonus with Twinspires Racebook!

Open your TwinSpires.com account using offer code BET200

$200 bonus cash will be credited in increments of $100 for every $400 wagered

To earn the full $200 bonus players must wager $800 within 30 days

21+. Terms and conditions apply.