How to Bet First-Time NCAA March Madness Final Four Teams

How to Bet First-Time NCAA March Madness Final Four Teams

There’s a first time for everything, but is it smart to bet on it?

Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams back in 1985, programs making their first trip to the Final Four have had a mixed bag of results.

Astonishingly, two college basketball programs (Auburn and Texas Tech) cut down the nets for the first time over the weekend.

This is significant for fans of March Madness betting as it marks only the third time since 1985 that two programs will go to the Final Four for the first time in the same tournament.

Which were the others? How did they do? Are Auburn and Texas Tech worth betting this year?

Below we take a look at the list of every first-time participant at the Final Four in the modern tourney format and gauge where they ended up.


First-Time Final Four Teams since 1985

TeamYearResult
Arizona1988Lost 86-78 to Oklahoma in National Semis
Seton Hall1989National Runner-Up
Georgia Tech1990Lost 90-81 to UNLV in National Semis
Florida1994Lost 70-65 to Duke in National Semis
Massachusetts1996Lost 81-74 to Kentucky in National Semis
Mississippi State1996Lost 77-69 to Syracuse in National Semis
Minnesota1997Lost 78-69 to Kentucky in National Semis
Connecticut1999National Champion
Maryland2001Lost 95-84 to Duke in National Semis
George Mason2006Lost 73-58 to Florida in National Semis
Butler2010National Runner-Up
VCU2011Lost to Butler 70-62 in National Semis
Gonzaga2017National Runner-Up
South Carolina2017Lost to Gonzaga 77-73 in National Semis
Auburn2019TBD
Texas Tech2019TBD

1988 Arizona Wildcats

Arizona basketball is a staple, but this wasn’t always the case. The Cats first got to the Final Four back in 1988 under the tutelage of Lute Olson.

The team was a true cast of characters including current Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr and Kenny Lofton. Yes, that Kenny Lofton.

The program would eventually make three more Final Fours and take home a championship in 1997 on their third try.



1989 Seton Hall Pirates

P.J. Carlesimo may have had his struggles coaching in the NBA, but he’s a legend at Seton Hall for a reason.

He brought the Pirates to within a point of immortality though they ultimately fell to Michigan in the Championship game 80-79.

1990 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The Ramblin’ Wreck made its first spash in the Final Four back in 1990. Coach Bobby Cremins would get them back there one more time before he moved on in 2009, but Tech still has yet to win a title.

Dennis Scott and Kenny Anderson were the stars that made it happen, but they fell to eventual Champs UNLV in the semis.



1994 Florida Gators

Before the days of back-to-back dominance and Billy Donovan, there was Lon Kruger’s barrier breaking squad.

This mainly forgotten and overshadowed crew featured the likes of Dan Cross and Craig Brown who overachieved their way to a loss in the semis against powerhouse Duke.

1996 Massachusetts Minutemen

Sadly this appearance has been vacated due to some improper gifts received by star player Marcus Camby.

It’s too bad because this was not only one of the three years that two teams got their first crack at the Final Four.

It was also the first Final Four to feature a young, promising coaching prospect named John Calipari, who led the Minutemen to an historic 35-2 record.



1996 Mississippi State Bulldogs

In a crazy Final Four for big men, it was future NBA center Erick Dampier that led the Bulldogs to the Final Four.

They lost to John Wallace’s Syracuse team that would come up just short against Tony Delk’s champion Kentucky Wildcats.

1997 Minnesota Golden Gophers

Another historic run vacated, this time due to academic fraud, the 1997 Gophers Final Four campaign was led by future NBA point guard Bobby Jackson under head coach Clem Haskins.

It’s a shame Minnesota can no longer celebrate this achievement, as it’s the farthest a Gopher team had gotten before or since.

1999 Connecticut Huskies

We come to the midway point of our list with its most cherished member. The 1999 Huskies cemented the start of Jim Calhoun’s championship legacy and it would only grow from there.

The star of the team and the tournament was future Detroit Pistons legend Richard “Rip” Hamilton whose late game heroics led the Huskies to greatness in their first try in Tampa, Fla.

They’re the only first-time Final Four team to win a Championship as of the date of this article.



2001 Maryland Terrapins

Some major NBA names on this roster helped make coach Gary Williams a fixture at Maryland for years to come.

Steve Blake, Chris Wilcox, Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter were all key pieces on a team that fell to Duke in the semis.

The Terps would ultimately redeem themselves a year later, taking home a title to College Park with a hungrier returning squad.

2006 George Mason Patriots

They were the Cinderella story that captivated the nation in 2006 as the mid-major Patriots beat a host of blue-blooded schools en route to the Final Four.

Before losing to eventual champion Florida in the semis, George Mason under Jim Larrañaga knocked out Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State and Connecticut in one of the toughest Final Four paths ever traveled.

2010 Butler Bulldogs

Brad Stevens became a household name and eventually scored a high-profile NBA job thanks to his work with the Bulldogs.

In basketball-crazed Indianapolis, the local team lead by the local boy (Gordon Hayward) came just a prayer of a halfcourt shot away from beating Duke.

The shot rimmed out, but the game was unforgettable and Butler would make an astonishing second trip the next season only to come up short yet again.



2011 VCU Rams

Shaka Smart’s upstart squad had its memorable Final Four run ended by Butler in 2011, as the Rams led a similarly difficult charge to the National Semifinals in Houston.

Thanks to their high pressure “Havoc” gameplan, the Rams went from First Four to Final Four with wins over USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State and finally top-seeded Kansas.

2017 Gonzaga Bulldogs

Mark Few had already led his team to 16 NCAA tournaments in 17 seasons when the Bulldogs finally made the National Championship game in 2017.

The Zags unfortunately had to face a determined Roy Williams-led team of experienced, talented stars. They fell to the Tarheels and the best Gonzaga season in history unfortunately ended in heartbreak.

2017 South Carolina Gamecocks

Frank Martin brought his signature style and recruiting to South Carolina after producing some quality tourney teams at K-State.

It was in Columbia, however, that he enjoyed his deepest postseason run to date as the Gamecocks blew up their region with gritty, defensive play under the basket and physical toughness.




Should You Pick Final Four First-Timers to Win it All?

As can be seen, the most likely scenario for first-time Final Four teams is an exit in the National Semifinals. This is likely due to the inability of an inexperienced program to deal with the big stage and massive amount of pressure that the Final Four exudes.

As hard as it can be to get to the Final Four, it can be just as hard to avoid falling into the "happy to be here" trap that many teams succumb to on their first attempt.

Plus, there's the likelihood of playing against a program or coach that's been there before and knows how to keep calm and get the job done at the highest level.

As Norman Dale points out in Hoosiers, the basket is always 10 feet from the ground no matter what gym you're in. The difference in crowd size, however, from your standard college arena to an NFL stadium can be quite jarring.

That's certainly not to say that there haven't been teams that defied the trend and at least made the championship game. In fact, out of the last four first-timers since 2010 two have been 40 minutes away from a trophy.

All things equal, however, the smart money seems to lie with the more blue-blooded and experienced programs in the Final Four achieving greatness.

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