The First Four four “play-in” games for March Madness get underway this week and they all have very tight lines. DraftKings Sportsbook is offering lines for all four matchups and on Monday provided a look at how the public is betting the point spread, point total, and moneyline.
No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s vs. No. 16 Texas Southern
Spread: Texas Southern -2 (57% handle, 51% bets on MSM)
Total: 132.5 (56% handle, 60% bets on under)
Moneyline: Texas Southern -134, Mount St. Mary’s +112 (60% handle, 58% bets on Texas Southern)
The Texas Southern Tigers don’t have a very impressive record on the surface. But going a bit deeper, you see they’ve won nine straight. Even early in the season, when they did take losses against major-conference teams, they were all pretty close. The only exception was a 20-point loss to Oklahoma State.
The Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers defense is going to be the determining factor in this one. They’re ranked highly by KenPom as the 136th most efficient unit in the nation. That’s the highest for either of these teams in any KenPom metric. TSU’s offense and defense are both ranked 236, while the MSM’s offense is ranked all the way down at 287th in its efficiency.
No. 16 Norfolk State vs. No. 16 Appalachian State
Spread: Appalachian State -3 (88% handle, 80% bets on App State)
Total: 135.5 (53% handle, 46% bets on under)
Moneyline: Appalachian State -157, Norfolk State +132 (70% handle, 68% bets on App State)
The Appalachian State Mountaineers were struggling mightily before their Sun Belt tournament run. Before then, they had lost six of their last seven games to finish off the regular season. Their offense is ranked 227th in the nation by KenPom and the defense is slightly better at 205.
The Norfolk State Spartans, on the other hand, finished the season strong, winning nine of their final 10 games. Over their last four games, they’re scoring an average of 80 per contest, which should test the App State defense.
No. 11 Drake vs. No. 11 Wichita State
Spread: Wichita State -2 (60% handle, 50% bets on Drake)
Total: 139.0 (83% handle, 72% bets on under)
Moneyline: Wichita State -129, Drake +108 (56% handle, 44% bets on Wichita State)
The Wichita State Shockers come into this one as a favorite, but it’s not quite clear why. The regular-season AAC champions are projected to lose this one, according to KenPom. They come into the Tournament as the 74th best team in the nation while Drake is ranked 53rd.
The Drake Bulldogs offense should give WSU fits all night, as they’re ranked as the 19th most efficient unit in the nation according to KenPom. Drake only lost three games in the regular season and were bounced from the Missouri Valley tournament by No. 17 Loyola-Chicago in a close game.
No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 11 Michigan State
Spread: Michigan State -1.5 (95% handle, 92% bets on MSU)
Total: 136.0 (79% handle, 67% bets on under)
Moneyline: Michigan State -124, UCLA +104 (90% handle, 82% bets on Michigan State)
This matchup brings us the tightest line of the four Thursday matchups. The Michigan State Spartans struggled mightily to kick off the season, losing seven of their first nine Big Ten games. But down the stretch, they seemed to figure it out a bit, winning seven of their final nine and defeating Michigan in the process.
The UCLA Bruins are heading in the opposite direction. The Bruins come into this game on a four-game losing streak. Their offense is solid, though — KenPom has it ranked as the 26th most efficient in the country, while MSU’s is way down at 98. Still, the Spartan’s defense will test the Bruins — the unit comes into the game ranked 32nd in the country by KenPom.
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