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First Four Recap & March Madness First Round Preview

Mark Fordham for Bookies.com

Mark Fordham  | 8 mins

First Four Recap & March Madness First Round Preview

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Selection Sunday and the First Four Round are the precursors to March Madness, and with both out of the way, it’s time to get to the business of making our college basketball picks. But before we preview that, here’s a recap of the First Four Round matches. 

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 75 - 71 Southeast Missouri State

Isaac Mushila led Texas A&M-CC to the first round with an excellent two-way display against Southeast Missouri State in the opening First Four matchup. The match ended 75-71 in Texas A&M-CC’s favor thanks to Mushila’s 15 points and 12 rebounds.  

Texas A&M-CC held their nerve in the last 15 seconds of the game – they went 3-of-4 on free throws during this period. They’ll have the unenviable task of facing one of the favorites with college basketball betting sites, Alabama, in the next round, but this win calls for a celebration in its own right.

Pittsburgh 60 - 59 Mississippi State 

Mississippi State’s return to March Madness for the first time since 2019 ended in heartbreak. Guard Shakeel Moore had the opportunity for a buzzer-beater, but his shot missed and forward D.J. Jeffries could not tip the rebound in. 

On the other hand, Pittsburgh showed a lot of resilience to edge the game. They made a slow start but regained great composure to lead the first-half 35-34. Mississippi State were terrible from three this season, and this weakness turned out to be the difference in the end. Pitt face Iowa State in the Midwest region

Fairleigh Dickinson 84 - 61 Texas Southern

Fairleigh Dickinson made light work of Texas Southern to set up a meeting with Purdue in the first round. After two tight First Four matchups, more of the same was expected on day two, but the Knights had other ideas. 

Forward Ansley Almonor was on fire all night and ended the game with 23 points. Of the 23 points, 15 came in a devastating second-half performance. He also had eight rebounds. Texas Southern struggled with their shooting throughout the match and mailed it in by the end.

Arizona State 98 - 71 Nevada  

Arizona State had the most comfortable of the First Four games, with a 98-71 win over Nevada. Arizona State took a 53-26 lead into half-time; the game was essentially over by then. The highlight of the half was a 22-2 run where the offense and defense synced perfectly. 

Everything that could go wrong did go wrong for Nevada in this period. It was always going to be an uphill climb from there. DJ Horne was the pick of the players for Arizona State with 20 points. Arizona State will face TCU next, which will be a much more challenging game. 

First Round Preview 

The regular season, Selection Sunday and First Four are the appetizers. From the first round onwards, the madness will be unleashed. All eyes will be on the four number-one seeds: Houston, Purdue, Kansas and Alabama. Other teams have fascinating narratives, but these are the four top contenders with US betting apps for a reason. 

Houston had the best regular-season record in the country, Purdue have the player of the season on their roster, Kansas are the defending champions and Alabama have beaten more top sides than any other team in the regular season. 

No Sasser for Houston?

Houston have an easier run to the latter stages but didn’t play as many top teams in the regular season, which has led to a lot of doubts regarding their ceiling. They face Northern Kentucky in the first round, and they might be without their top scorer Marcus Sasser, which could make the line closer on sportsbooks than might have previously been assumed.

Sasser has averaged 17.1 points per game this season, and the team doesn’t have anyone else capable of putting up such numbers. This is certainly a worry, but their defense should be more than capable of handling Northern Kentucky. This won’t be an easy game for Houston, but they have enough quality to go through to the next round. They can’t go without Sasser for too long, though.

Alabama need to exorcise their demons 

Alabama’s first-round defeat was one of the stories of last season’s March Madness. It was a bit of an anomaly, but Alabama have to be careful. There’s a reason this tournament is called March Madness. 

They’re up against Texas A&M-CC, who had to work tirelessly to get the better of Southeast Mississippi State. Alabama are an entirely different animal; if Alabama are on their game, there will only be one winner at the end of this tie. 

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Zach Edey’s big-stage debut

Averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds and being a college basketball player prop cheat code is all well and good in the regular season, but tournament play is where the top players make a name for themselves. Zach Edey’s rise has been one of the stories of the season. The 7’4” tall Purdue center has been the outstanding player in the NCAA this season. 

Teams will come up with all sorts of in-game tactics and strategies to slow him down, and how he evades this will be a fascinating development. Fairleigh Dickinson, who eased past Texas Southern, will not find it easy against Edey and co, and they will start the matchup as huge underdogs on USA sports betting sites.

Can Kansas retain their title?

The short answer is yes. Of course, they can. They’re a top seed again and have the services of Jalen Wilson to call upon. Their first match is against Howard Bison, who are massive underdogs heading into this tie. For Kansas, this is a great chance to show their superiority and why they should be feared again. 

About the Author

Mark Fordham for Bookies.com
Mark Fordham
Mark spent over a decade as a sports reporter and editor with Goal.com and Bleacher Report. He is now a Content Editor at Bookies.com covering all manner of sports from the Premier League and cricket to the NBA and NFL.