March Madness First Four Predictions & Picks

Doug Bonjour
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2024

The field of 68 is set, including the First Four in Dayton, Ohio.

To get bettors ready for the opening games of March Madness, I’ll dive into a pair of these initial matchups before the action truly picks up on Thursday.

Here are our best First Four bets for the 2024 NCAA Tournament.

March Madness First Four Predictions

College basketball odds used for these NCAA Tournament predictions are current as of Monday March 18, and courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook.

Virginia vs Colorado State Prediction

Best Bet: Colorado State -2.5 (-110)

The Mountain West placed six teams in the NCAA Tournament — matching the second-most behind the Big 12 and SEC — but only one school netted higher than a eight-seed.

Plenty of prognosticators felt the conference deserved better, especially 10th-seeded Colorado State, which was sent to the First Four despite strong peripheral rankings (No. 36 NET and No. 38 KenPom) and a signature non-conference win over Creighton.

With the Over/Under sitting at 120.5 points, oddsmakers are expecting a slog. For perspective, no tournament game since 2019 has closed under 120.

Because of Isaiah Stevens, Colorado State will be comfortable playing at Virginia’s glacial pace. The Rams are top 50 in offensive efficiency despite ranking 270th in tempo, proving they tend to make the most of their opportunities.

The same can’t be said for a Virginia team that frankly didn’t deserve a bid after an uninspiring regular season.

The Cavaliers are just 4-5 over their last nine games, with a pair of double-digit losses to non-tournament teams. They are also 69th in the KenPom ratings, well below any other at-large team.

Colorado State is the more complete team, and I’m siding with it to move on to the Round of 64 on Tuesday night.

[pick id="178382"]

Grambling vs Montana State Prediction

Best Bet: Montana State -4 (-108)

Montana State dialed it up offensively in the Big Sky Tournament, averaging 83.3 points in three games to clinch its third consecutive automatic bid.

The Bobcats shot 38.6% from deep, a couple ticks above their season average of 36.7%.

In Robert Ford III — who is averaging 15.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists — the 16th-seeded Bobcats have an experienced guard capable of thriving against Grambling’s suspect defense, which ranks 197th in efficiency.

Grambling, a first-time tournament darling, is hot, too (9-1 last 10 games). But experience matters in March, and I’m siding with the team that’s been here before to persevere.

[pick id="178383"]


Doug Bonjour

Doug covered college and prep sports in Connecticut for more than a decade, including stints as the UConn women’s basketball and UConn football beat reporter for Hearst Connecticut Media. During his time reporting on the 11-time national champion Huskies, he covered three NCAA Final Fours. He also has written for the Associated Press and New York Times.

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