March Madness First Four Predictions: Best Bets for the 2024 NCAA Tournament First Four

Colorado State Rams forward Joel Scott (1) and guard Jalen Lake (15) and guard Nique Clifford (10) and guard Josiah Strong (3) in the second half against the Air Force Falcons at Moby Arena.
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Caleb Wilfinger


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Deputy Editor for Pickswise with years of experience handicapping and giving out winning picks. Lover of all US sports and Southampton FC. For Caleb Wilfinger media enquiries, please email
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After a long and unpredictable college basketball season, the full 68-team bracket is out and the madness is just days away! Most people would probably define the start of the “madness” portion of March Madness as Thursday’s action, but we have 4 games that will help fill the 48 hours before the greatest 2 days in sports. Before the Round of 64 kicks off, we have the First Four to look forward to, so let’s get into our best bets for the action in Dayton.

Winning money in these games counts the same as Thursday and Friday, so read below for two recommendations of bets to consider. Also, be sure to keep an eye on our March Madness picks for all the content you need to get you primed for the madness.

See our expert’s NCAA Tournament winner predictions for March Madness, including a +4000 longshot!

Colorado State Rams vs Virginia Cavaliers Under 121 (-110)

Historically, the NCAA Tournament has been a heaven for unders, particularly in the First Four and Round of 64. I don’t expect that to change on Tuesday as we’ll see the Colorado State Rams take on the Virginia Cavaliers in a game that should be played at a snail’s pace. Most college basketball fans are aware of Tony Bennett’s system at Virginia, as the Cavaliers play at the slowest pace in the country (362 out of 362) and generally make every game a rock fight. Colorado State doesn’t play much faster, checking in at 270th per KenPom.

It’s certainly fair to assume that Virginia will not change its style under any circumstances, instead typically dragging its opponents into the mud as a way to keep the game script to its liking. In this case, the Rams seem more than willing to let the opponent set the terms, and thus we can expect Colorado State to take 20+ seconds per possession as well. There’s also the matter of the pressure that both teams will undeniably be facing in a “win or go home” situation, which should lead to a more conservative game script, particularly in the first half. Even factoring in the close spread here, it would be hard to play the over in this one. It’s a ridiculously low total, but I’m still taking the under.

Expert March Madness picks to reach the Final Four at +750 and +1200 odds

Howard Bison -3 over Wagner Seahawks (-110)

The Wagner Seahawks have to be one of the best stories in this tournament. Wagner earned its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2003 after winning the Northeast Conference tournament, despite having only 7 players on the roster throughout the stretch run. However, I can’t see the Seahawks moving on in this tournament, even against a fellow #16 seed in what looks to be a fairly evenly matched game on paper.

Howard’s biggest issue is on the defensive side of the ball, but Wagner can’t score at all. This season, the Seahawks are 334th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric, and they have not been much better in recent weeks – ranking 349th in eFG% over the past month. In fact, Wagner has just 1 healthy player with an eFG% higher than 50% on the year, yet somehow won the NEC tournament without scoring more than 66 points in any of the games. While Wagner plays at a glacial pace and will likely try to limit Howard’s possessions, the Bison still have a clear edge on offense in this matchup. Not only is Howard shooting over 41% from beyond the arc over the past month, but they also have a top 20 free-throw rate during that span. Those are clear indicators for success in the postseason, so let’s get to the window with Howard.

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