College Basketball Tournament: Trends for First Four Games

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Eight teams start their March Madness journey shortly, as four play-in games will decide the last four teams participating in the Round of 64.

Two of the First Four games today have had the favorite flip, while another is a marquee matchup between two of college basketball’s most storied programs.

Michigan State against UCLA seems more fitting for a Final Four versus First Four showdown, yet these two No. 11 seeds will square off at 9:57 p.m. ET/6:57 p.m. PT.

“I’d say the Michigan State-UCLA handle is about five times bigger than the other games today,” said Nick Bogdanovich, Director of Trading for William Hill US. “By 7 [p.m. PT], there’s no question that it will be the equivalent of a normal NCAA tournament game. We’ll need UCLA big, the masses are all over Michigan State for both straight bets and parlays.”

The Spartans were first listed as 1-point favorites at William Hill before this game dropped down to pick’em. The line has crept back up in Michigan State’s favor, as the Spartans are now -2 and -140 on the moneyline. UCLA is +120 to take the game outright and the total has shifted from 136.5 to its current number of 134.

Michigan State has snagged 85% of the total number of tickets and 90% of the total dollars wagered among all spread bets vs. UCLA, making it the most popular side in today’s action. The Spartans have also racked up 75% of the total number of tickets and 82% of the total dollars wagered for all moneyline wagers in this one. William Hill bettors are split on the total, though, as the over has collected 63% of the total number of tickets and the under has gotten 72% of the total dollars wagered.

In the other meeting between No. 11 seeds at 6:27 p.m. ET/3:27 p.m. PT, there’s been major line movement. Drake opened at +1.5 and went up to +2, however the Bulldogs are now 2.5-point chalk (and -140 ML) over Wichita State (+120 ML). The total has increased by a point, going from 139.5 to 140.5. It’s also the highest NCAA tournament total on the board for Thursday’s slate.

Drake has gotten the majority of the spread action, reeling in 68% of the total number of tickets and 60% of the total dollars wagered vs. Wichita State. There is division from William Hill bettors on the moneyline (Drake 63% tickets, Wichita State 55% dollars) and total (over 57% tickets, under 51% dollars).

One New Jersey bettor is strongly backing the underdog here. They placed $15,000 on Wichita State +2 (-105) for a total potential payout of $29,285.71 along with another $15,000 on Wichita State ML +125 for a total potential payout of $33,750.

In the first affair at 5:10 p.m. ET/2:10 p.m., a pair of No. 16 seeds duke it out. It’s also the other First Four clash that has experienced a 4-point spread shift. After opening as a 2.5-point underdog, Mount St. Mary’s (-125 ML) is -1.5 over Texas Southern (+105 ML). The total has also swung by multiple points, dropping from 136 to 133.5.

Mount St. Mary’s has drawn 54% of the total number of tickets and 66% of the total dollars wagered among all spread bets in this one. Texas Southern (55%), though, is the only First Four underdog to be capturing the majority of the total number of tickets for moneyline wagering in their respective matchup.

At 8:40 p.m. ET/5:40 p.m. PT, No. 16 seeds Appalachian State and Norfolk State will fight for the right to play No. 1 Gonzaga in the Round of 64. Appalachian State has jumped to -3.5 from -2, and the total has also seen the biggest move of any First Four game (136 to 133).

This is the only NCAA tournament matchup today where William Hill bettors aren’t aligned on who will cover the spread. Appalachian State has secured 62% of the total number of tickets, whereas Norfolk State has commanded 59% of the total dollars wagered. Additionally, the under has been the most lopsided First Four total bet in terms of total dollars wagered, receiving 81% of the total dollars wagered.

A $24,000 wager was placed on Appalachian State -160 ML for a total potential payout of $39,000. The Mountaineers’ moneyline price is now up to -170, with the Spartans residing at +150.

Check out William Hill’s latest odds and trends for every First Four spread and total below.

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