The 2023 NCAA tournament is finally here! On Wednesday night, we have First Four matchups between 16 seeds Texas Southern and Fairleigh Dickinson, and 11 seeds Arizona State and Nevada. Here are our best bets for the NCAA tournament's second night of First Four games.
6:40 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: Texas Southern badly underperformed during the regular season. Head coach Johnny Jones is back in the NCAA Tournament after taking his team to the Big Dance as a 16 seed last season. The Tigers won in Dayton over Texas A&M Corpus Christi to move on into the first round, where Kansas won 83-56.
There’s something to be said about having played in Dayton before and going through that pressure cooker. Texas Southern just did it last season with senior John Walker III leading the way and others like PJ Henry and Joirdon Karl Nicholas, who are also on this year’s roster. This is a much younger Texas Southern team with a lot of freshmen involved, so it makes sense that there were some growing pains.
Fairleigh Dickinson comes into this game having played one of the worst schedules in the country. The Knights also rank among the worst defensive teams in the country, despite a high TO% on defense and a pathetic schedule. They rank 362nd in adjusted defensive efficiency per Torvik, 356th in eFG% defense, 329th in 3P% defense and 353rd in 2P% defense. They’re a decent offensive bunch, but Texas Southern was an above-average defense in both 2P% and 3P%.
Texas Southern played a very tough nonconference schedule and didn’t fare well, but at least they’ve played in some bigger arenas with bigger stakes. They also get to the rim at a higher rate and Fairleigh Dickinson has no rim protectors. The “been there, done that” factor helps I think, as the First Four in Dayton can be tricky, but Texas Southern just did it last year and should emerge victorious again.
Pick: Texas Southern -2
9:10 p.m. ET
Stormy Buonantony: - I think this number is playable up to -3. Arizona State's defense will be the difference-maker in this game. I don't like how Nevada has played recently, having dropped three straight games coming into the tournament.
Pick: Arizona State -2
Matt Youmans: As a surprising at-large team that few expected to be in the field, Nevada is dangerous because that’s how these situations tend to work. This is a second chance for the Wolf Pack, who lost to Wyoming, UNLV and San Jose State to back into this tournament. Current form favors the Sun Devils, who won two games in the Pac-12 tournament. Desmond Cambridge, a transfer from Reno, scored 27 points in Arizona State’s 77-72 victory over USC last week. Nevada shoots it better from 3 and the free-throw line, but the Devils are better defensively and want to make this a low-scoring, ugly game. Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley has experience in the First Four. The Wolf Pack have something to prove for the Mountain West, which has lost eight straight NCAA tournament games. I’ll make a slumping Nevada team prove it.
Pick: Arizona State -2
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