It’s been two years, but the NCAA Tournament is finally back! The schedule does mix up a bit this year, with the full slate of opening games pushed from Thursday to Friday. But the adjustment leaves us with a nice four-game betting card of First Four games on Thursday. While I may not bet all these games, here are some leans on plays for Thursday on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Get a 20% profit boost on any 4+ leg March Mania Round 1 Tourney parlay! See the DraftKings Sportsbook Promos page for more details!
These 16-seed play-in games are nearly impossible to find an edge on. Both teams won their conference tournaments, and both teams are desperate to get the chance to face Michigan on the big stage. Texas Southern enters the tournament on a nine-game winning streak, winning eight in a row as favorites before winning their conference title as a three-point dog. Nothing wrong with that, but the Mountaineers had to work a bit harder for their’s, winning as more sizable road dogs at Wagner and Bryant (who hadn’t lost at home all season) to earn their birth. The Tigers are the team that’s supposed to be in this spot, but I lean to the scrappiness of Mount St. Mary’s paying off. Both teams rank pretty highly in defensive efficiency, but just being an average three-point shooting team should help the Mountaineers. The Tigers have the sixth-worst shooting percentage from deep in the country.
Get your bet back if your team loses but scores 75+ points! See the DraftKings Sportsbook Promos page for more details!
This was a tough game for me to figure out, and right when I started leaning towards backing the Shockers, we got news that put me on the Bulldogs. ShanQuan Hemphill, who missed the last nine games for Drake, is returning on Thursday. The senior wing is averaging 14.1 points, 6.3 boards and 1.5 assists per game on nearly 59% shooting from the field this season, and was playing his best basketball of the year prior to going down. The Bulldogs went 6-3 straight up and ATS without him, but were 19-1 and 17-3 ATS with the senior in the lineup. This is a big enough addition to tip the scales for me. Wichita State is also somewhat limping into the play-in round, going just 3-7 ATS in its last 10, despite winning eight-straight games before getting bounced in the conference tournament. I think the boost from Hemphill makes the difference in this one.
It’s always better to bet on games when you can dig into the numbers and use them to back your play. That’s not really the case here. UCLA had a pretty mediocre season of highs and lows, brought down by an injury to senior leader Chris Smith. Still, if Michigan State doesn’t show up — as has been the case so many times this season — the Bruins will win this game. But I have to just close my eyes here and back the talent and the coaching of the Spartans, who have all the ability to make a tournament run, despite their insane inconsistencies. This team has shown us its ceiling in wins over Michigan and Illinois, so I can’t ignore that in this game.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
All betting odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
All views expressed are my own. I am an employee of DraftKings and am ineligible to play in public DFS or DKSB contests.
21+ (18+ NH). CO/IL/IN/IA/NH/NJ/PA/TN/VA/WV/MI only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.