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March Madness is officially under way. After conference tournaments came to a close over the weekend, and the NCAA committee finalized their brackets -- crushing dreams and opening doors for others -- the best tournament in sports is set to kick off. With the First Four games upon us, we already have some great storylines. Texas Southern’s improbable conference run earned them a spot in the tournament, while Arizona State’s successes from the transfer portal will face off against their old team for the right to join the field of 64. It’s March Madness time, baby!

Best 2023 NCAA Tournament Parlays Picks for First Four Games: 3-Leg Parlay Picks (+436)

Pittsburgh vs Mississippi State Prediction and Pick

The First Four will get a marquee ACC-SEC matchup when Pittsburgh and Mississippi State take the floor in Dayton, Ohio, on Tuesday night. While Pittsburgh had more success that Mississippi State in conference play, the SEC was significantly harder this year compared to the ACC. That’s part of the reason the SEC had eight teams selected for the NCAA Tournament compared to only five from the ACC. Despite getting blown out in SEC Tournament play against Alabama last week, Mississippi State was very competitive this season and had a very impressive non-conference win at Marquette in November. While Pittsburgh has proven that it can score -- especially in ACC play -- the Panthers’ non-conference play is what scares me. When they went outside of the ACC, they weren’t even really competitive. Both teams were stunned by Vanderbilt this season, and while that does raise concerns for both programs, Mississippi State and senior big man Tolu Smith will be too much for Pittsburgh to handle. Seven-foot freshman Guillermo Diaz Graham did provide a nice spark off the bench for Pittsburgh, scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the ACC Tournament loss to Duke, but he’s still too raw for me to trust him. Mississippi State had a battle-tested season in the SEC and will prevail out of the First Four in Dayton on Tuesday night.

Leg-1 Parlay Pick: Mississippi State ML (-140)

Fairleigh Dickinson vs Texas Southern Prediction and Pick

Fairleigh Dickinson is probably the first lower-major school to make the tournament despite not winning its Conference tournament. The Knights, who lost to Merrimack in the Northeast final, were awarded the spot to represent the Northeast in the tournament since Merrimack reclassified to a Division II school. As for Texas Southern, their 11-20 regular season finish earned them a spot in the tournament by making an improbable run in SWAC Conference Tournament last week. The Tigers made an improbable run led by senior guard PJ Henry. Henry, who was the tournament MVP and had a few clutch threes in the closing minutes against Grambling is one of the reasons the Tigers are dancing. Texas Southern is battle-tested. Despite being well below .500 during the regular season, the Tigers faced a tough non-conference schedule that included Texas Tech, Arizona State, Houston, Auburn and Kansas. While they got beat in each of those matchups --  other than Arizona State, whom they upset in overtime --  the Tigers definitely gained experience and toughness against some of those powerhouses. The Tigers are red-hot and started their Cinderella run last week. Get to know PJ Henry and Davon Barnes, because it’s a 1-2 combo that’s ready to make a splash in March.

Leg-2 Parlay Pick: Texas Southern ML (-130)

Nevada vs Arizona State Prediction and Pick

I have no idea how the Mountain West Conference got four teams into the NCAA tournament, but they did. I’m not sure what the selection committee saw from that conference this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if all four teams from the Mountain West are out of the tournament come Monday. The first team to go will be Nevada, which drew the last game of the First Four against Arizona State on Wednesday night. The Pac-12 also only had four teams make the tournament, which is crazy since Oregon should hae made it over one of these Mountain West teams. Arizona State will prove that for the Ducks on Wednesday night. This will be an interesting game for both teams, as Desmond Cambridge Jr. and Warren Washington, two key contributors for the Sun Devils, are both transfers from Nevada. As a guard and big-man combo, both very familiar with Nevada’s style of play and their former teammates, they’ll certainly have some tips and tricks that will help the Sun Devils even more. But the bigger help will be that Cambridge and Washington are playing for Arizona State and not Nevada. The Sun Devils will win big and continue to ride their wave of success from the Pac-12 tournament.

Leg 3 Parlay Pick: Arizona State ML (-130)

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