March Madness First Four can’t-miss parlay: Bank on this 3-teamer

The NCAA Tournament field is set, and the First Four matchups for Dayton, Ohio have been announced for Tuesday and Wednesday, March 14-15.

After looking at the Tipico Sportsbook’s NCAA Tournament odds and lines, here is a can’t-miss First Four parlay among our expert college basketball picks and predictions.

There are some intriguing matchups set for Dayton, including a handful of Power 5 conference teams. The margin of error in the Mississippi State-Pittsburgh and Arizona State-Nevada games is supposed to be razor thin.

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First Four can’t-miss parlay

Odds provided by Tipico Sportsbook; access USA TODAY Sports Scores and Sports Betting Odds hub for a full list. Lines last updated Monday at 8:05 a.m. ET. All game on ET and broadcast on truTV.

Leg 1: TEXAS A&M-CC -3.5 (-118) vs. SE Mo. St. – Tuesday, 6:40 p.m.

The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders (23-10) won the Southland Conference regular-season title at 14-4, as well as the league’s tourney. Overall, this is a team which won 23 games, and goes to Dayton with a head full of steam. A&M-CC has won 4 straight games, while winning 12 of the past 13 games overall. More importantly, the Islanders are a solid 10-3 ATS across the aforementioned 13-game run.

The Southeast Missouri State Redhawks (19-16) caught lightning in a bottle at the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, winning as the No. 5 seed and covering in 4 consecutive games. During the regular season, this was a team which finished a game under .500 at 15-16 — it was 10-8 in conference play.

While neither of these teams has a signature win on the season, we have to look at body of work. The Islanders have simply done a much better job, and have been more consistent. They can fill up the basket, averaging 80.4 points per game (PPG) to rank 19th nationally, according to They also were decent from the free-throw line, hitting 79.0% to rank 5th overall. Defensively, the Islanders struggled, allowing 72.5 PPG (248th), but they can score with the best of them to mask that issue, at least against inferior teams.

The Redhawks can be rather potent, too, at the offensive end, going for 77.7 PPG (45th), but they’re not a great shooting team at just 43.6% (234th). Plus, SE Missouri State hits just 71.5% at the charity stripe (184th), a big Achilles’ heel, especially in potentially close games. On the defensive end, the Redhawks allow 76.0 PPG, which is near the bottom nationally at 317th, and they allow teams to rain in 3s at a 34.7% clip (245th).

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Leg 2: PITTSBURGH +1.5 (-110) vs. Mississippi St. – Tuesday, 9:10 p.m.

The Pittsburgh Panthers (22-11) sat atop the ACC standings for a time, before sputtering a bit down the stretch. Still, this is a team which swept North Carolina, while scoring road wins against tournament teams NC State and Northwestern. The Panthers, who tied for 3rd in the ACC regular season at 14-6, also beat Fairleigh-Dickinson, another tourney team, while scoring home victories against Miami and Virginia. Pitt can get it done when locked in.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs (21-12) also didn’t finish up strong, which is why they’re in a First Four game. They finished 8-10 in SEC play during the regular season and were pounded by 23 points (72-49) by 2nd-ranked Alabama in an SEC quarterfinal. They were just 4-4 straight up (SU) and 3-5 against the spread (ATS) in the past 8 games.

The Bulldogs have some impressive wins, mostly earlier in the season, topping fellow First Four team Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, while dropping current No. 4 Marquette in November on a neutral floor. They also managed a solid home win over TCU in a Big 12-SEC challenge matchup. Their most impressive league wins were at home was against Texas A&M and on the road at Arkansas.

The Bulldogs enter on an 0-4 ATS skid, and the Panthers are on an extended 21-7 ATS run in the past 28 games overall. Pitt has the better body of work, and in a game which the books feel will be a toss-up, it’s best to lean to the team which has been more consistent.

Leg 3: ARIZONA STATE -1.5 (-102) vs. Nevada – Wednesday, 9:10 p.m.

The Arizona State Sun Devils (22-12) made a run to the Pac-12 semifinals before bowing out to rival Arizona. They scored an impressive 77-72 quarterfinal win against USC, which likely was just enough to tip the scales in the Devils’ favor to earn this Final Four spot. Arizona State’s best win was an 89-88 upset at then No. 7 Arizona on a 3-pointer at the buzzer Feb. 25. ASU, which finished 11-9 in Pac-12 play, also had strong wins over fellow tournament teams Creighton and VCU.

The Nevada Wolf Pack (22-10) went from looking like a potential sleeper to nearly out of the tournament in a hurry. The Wolf Pack, who finished 12-6 in the Mountain West during the regular season, were ousted in the first game of the MWC tourney, losing to lowly San Jose State in overtime. It has lost 3 in a row, while also going 0-3 ATS, and this team has a lost 7 games just since Jan. 10. A win over San Diego State Jan. 31 is the only bright spot since right around the holidays.

The Sun Devils aren’t a great shooting team, hitting just 41.3% from the field (317th), and 31.1% from behind the arc (318th). Arizona State struggled with a 69.3% mark from the free-throw stripe (264th). However, defensively, it held opponents to just 39.3% from the field, ranking 9th overall in the nation. That’s not what Nevada wants to see.

The Wolf Pack had some issues on offense, going for just 72.5 PPG, which was middle of the pack in the nation at 160th. But they shoot just 44.4% from the floor (186th), and a rather middling 34.8% from behind the arc (148th). If Nevada does one thing well, it’s free-throw shooting, ranking 6th overall at 78.8%. But that alone won’t be able to help it cool off a rather hot Arizona State side.

Parlay payout: Bet $10 to profit $59.84 (ticket pays $69.84).

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