The 2021 NCAA tournament is finally here, and will tip off with the First Four on Thursday.
Our experts -- Josh Appelbaum, Tim Murray, David Stall and Greg Peterson -- give their best bets for Thursday's opening four games.
Odds are consensus lines from VSiN's odds page, as of Tuesday night.
No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers vs. No. 16 Texas Southern Tigers (-1, 133)
Murray: The first game of the 2021 NCAA tournament will have the SWAC champion, Texas Southern, facing the winner of the Northeast Conference, Mt. St. Mary’s. The Mountaineers defeated top-seeded Bryant in the NEC Tournament thanks in part to a tremendous defensive game plan. The Mount has tremendous size for a team from the NEC; their starting frontcourt is Mezie Offurrum (6-foot-8), Nana Opoku (6-9) and Malik Jefferson (6-9). Despite Bryant ranking 14th in the country in adjusted tempo according to Ken Pom, the Mountaineers dictated the pace of the game holding Bryant to just 68 points, 16 points below its season average. Opoku, the NEC defensive player of the year, had five blocks against Bryant and Jefferson pulled down 15 rebounds.
Similar to Bryant, Texas Southern will look to run, as the Tigers are 41st in the country in adjusted tempo. However, Texas Southern ranks just 342nd in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (27.7%). With the Mountaineers’ size, I anticipate the Mount to pack the paint and force Texas Southern to score from the outside.