First Four Betting Odds, Predictions, and Preview: 2024 March Madness

The start of the 2024 NCAA Tournament is just hours away, as No. 16 seeds Wagner and Howard tip off First Four action from UD Arena in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday evening. A week after North Carolina sports betting went live, fans in the Tar Heel State have to wait until Thursday to see Duke, North Carolina, or NC State, but Tuesday night’s play-in slate does include an intriguing matchup between the ACC’s third-place finisher, Virginia, and Colorado State.

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Let’s take a look below at what’s on tap in the two First Four matchups apiece scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday:

  • 16-seed Wagner vs 16-seed Howard (Tuesday, 6:40 p.m. Eastern, truTV)
  • 10-seed Colorado State vs 10-seed Virginia (Tuesday, 9:10 p.m., truTV)
  • 16-seed Grambling vs 16-seed Montana State (Wednesday, 6:40 p.m., truTV)
  • 10-seed Colorado vs 10-seed Boise State (Wednesday, 9:10 p.m., truTV)

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Here are our First Four betting odds and predictions.

Wagner vs Howard Odds and Prediction


Wagner (16-15, 7-9 NEC) and Howard (18-16, 9-5 MEAC) are fighting for a spot opposite 1-seed North Carolina in the West region. Howard enters this matchup as the favorite after finishing third in the MEAC, while Wagner finished in sixth place in the NEC. Howard is ranked No. 276 on, while the site ranks Wagner No. 293.

Howard appears to be the stronger team on paper and enters Tuesday’s game having won nine of its last 11, but Wagner has been tough to score on all season, allowing just 62.1 points per game, the 6th-fewest in the nation. This looks like a competitive matchup, but let’s go with Howard, which is coming off a strong finish to the season, over a Wagner squad that finished below .500 in the NEC.

Prediction: Howard to advance

Best Bet: Howard (-3 at time of publishing)

Colorado State vs Virginia Odds and Prediction


Colorado State (24-10, 10-8 Mountain West) and Virginia (23-10, 13-7 ACC) meet in the Midwest, with the winner to take on 7-seed Texas later this week. The Rams are back in the tournament after earning a 6-seed in 2022 and missing the Big Dance last season. Virginia, on the other hand, has been a fixture in the tournament throughout the last decade, with a national championship in 2019 but has not won an NCAA Tourney game since it cut down the nets.

Colorado State (No. 38 on KenPom) looks like the better team, but Virginia is always stout defensively, and this season was no exception. Still, given the Rams’ impressive work outside the Mountain West Conference (including a 21-point win over No. 11 Creighton last November), it’s easy to see them not just winning, but covering, against the Cavaliers, who are just 4-5 in their last nine games.

Prediction: Colorado State to advance

Best Bets: Under (120.5 at time of publishing), Colorado State (-2.5 at time of publishing)

Grambling vs Montana State Odds and Prediction


The Grambling Tigers (20-14, 14-4 SWAC) and Montana State Bobcats (17-17, 9-9 Big Sky) meet for a chance to take on Purdue in the Midwest’s 1-16 matchup scheduled for Friday night. Grambling went on an impressive run in the SWAC after starting the season 2-10 thanks to a brutal nonconference schedule.

Prior to conference play, the Tigers’ opponents included No. 4 Iowa State and five other NCAA Tournament teams: Colorado, Drake, Florida, Dayton, and Washington State.

Montana State punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament by winning the Big Sky conference tourney as the 5-seed after going 4-7 in its last 11 regular-season games.

Though getting blown out by a handful of tournament teams obviously doesn’t make you a threat to make a run, it should bode well for Grambling’s chances against Montana State.

Prediction: Grambling to advance

Best Bet: Grambling (-1.5 at time of publishing)

Colorado vs Boise State Odds and Prediction


Colorado (24-10, 13-7 Pac-12) takes on Boise State (22-10, 13-5 MWC) to determine 7-seeded Florida’s first-round opponent. The Buffaloes boast one of the top NBA prospects in the country in 6-foot-8 freshman Cody Williams, and he’s one of five CU players who average at least 10 points per game. Colorado has a tough first-round opponent, as the Broncos finished second in a league that made history with a record six NCAA Tournament berths.

Boise is led by Tyson Degenhart (17 points, 6 rebounds per game), who helped his team go 2-1 against 11-seed New Mexico (which is favored over Clemson) and 2-0 vs. 5-seed San Diego State. The Broncos went 6-5 (including the conference tournament) against the MWC’s NCAA Tournament teams. That experience makes Boise a worthy candidate to upset the slight favorite from the four-bid Pac-12 (Arizona, Oregon, and Washington State were the conference’s other three qualifiers).

Prediction: Boise State to advance

Best Bet: Boise State moneyline (+125 at time of publishing)

About the Author
Tyler Everett

Tyler Everett

Tyler Everett has been a sports writer since joining the student newspaper at his alma mater, NC State, back in 2008. He has covered sports, sports betting, and the business of sports for several newspapers and websites, including the Denver Broncos, Charlotte Observer, High Press Soccer, and Sports Business Journal.

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