The NCAA men’s basketball championship gets under way Tuesday, March 15, and we have the NCAA First Four schedule for the 11th edition of the first-round prequel. Eight play-in games for four spots in the Round of 64, the First Four provides a betting appetizer for college basketball enthusiasts.
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2022 First Four Odds
No. 16 Texas A&M Corpus Christi vs. No. 16 Texas Southern
Texas Southern topped the SWAC and faces off against cross-state opponent Texas A&M Corpus Christi, which won the Southland Conference. Corpus Christi is one of the lowest-rated teams in KenPom’s numbers that made the field of 68.
The winner gets the dubious reward of a matchup with Kansas in the Midwest.
No. 12 Indiana vs. No. 12 Wyoming
Indiana made a surprising run to the Big Ten tournament semifinals and probably grabbed a bid because of that. They face Wyoming, a small-conference darling this season that finished fourth in a loaded Mountain West.
The winner earns the No. 12 seed in the East and faces St. Mary’s in the first round.
No. 16 Bryant vs. No. 16 Wright State
Bryant and Wright State sit back to back in KenPom’s numbers. Wright State squeaked out the Horizon League title by one over Northern Kentucky. Bryant blasted Wagner in a high-profile conference final marred by a fight.
The winner earns the No. 16 seed in the South and faces Arizona in round one, a daunting task to be sure.
No. 11 Rutgers vs. No. 11 Notre Dame
Rutgers put together a strong season, finishing fifth in the Big Ten. Notre Dame managed a loftier second place finish in the ACC but the conference was significantly down this year, so they’ve been installed as an early underdog despite more favorable rating from KenPom.
The winner here faces No. 6 seed Alabama as the No. 11 seed in the West.
NCAA First Four Schedule, Teams, Location
The NCAA selects the 68 teams to compete in March Madness, but they don’t simply tie the teams into seeds. Each team is individually ranked in the field, and the selection committee takes the bottom four at-large teams and bottom four automatic qualifiers to play in the First Four. Each at-large team matches up with another at-large team and likewise for the weaker conference champions.
In recent years, that has meant two No. 11 seeds up for grabs from the last four teams in as at-large bids and two No. 16 seeds from the bottom automatic qualifiers. However, the last four in do not always have to be 11 seeds.
Dayton, Ohio has traditionally played host to the First Four. That changed for 2021 due to attempts to minimize travel. But, the first eight teams will once again converge on the Western Ohio city of 140,000.
First Four TV Schedule
Texas A&M Corpus Christi vs. Texas Southern and Indiana vs. Wyoming will play March 15, starting at 6:30 p.m. ET, televised on truTV. The latter will follow the ending of the former with an allowance for both teams to get some warm-up time on the court.
On Wednesday, Bryant vs. Wright State and Rutgers vs. Notre Dame will feature an identical schedule for the second half of the First Four.
Can A First Four Team Make A Final Four Run?
While the odds will be long, the answer is actually yes. It’s happened twice, the first time coming in 2011, the very first year of the First Four.
That year, VCU trounced USC and then went on a legendary run through the bracket. They put together a dominant stretch of basketball, with only Florida State giving them a scare in a one-point squeaker in the Sweet 16. Finally, Butler felled them in the Final Four, a battle of Cinderellas.
Last year, UCLA matched that VCU run. They got even closer to a finals appearance, taking top-seeded Gonzaga to overtime before losing by three.
In the aggregate, First Four teams are 18-20 for a more than respectable NCAA tournament record, especially considering how many No. 16 seeds emerged from it. They’re 9-11 in the first round. So, while they may carry low seeds in, don’t dismiss them out of hand.
Final Four Futures
First Four History
Below are the First Four at-large teams, and how far they advanced in the NCAA Tournament. Of the 16-seeds to play in the First Four, none have beaten a 1-seed after advancing out the play-in round. UMBC is the only 16-seed to ever beat a top seed but didn’t play in the First Four.
|Year||Team (Seed)||Advanced To...|
|2011||VCU (11)||Final Four|
|2011||Clemson (12)||First Round|
|2012||South Florida (12)||Second Round|
|2012||BYU (14)||First Round|
|2013||St. Mary's (11)||First Round|
|2013||La Salle (13)||Sweet 16|
|2014||Tennessee (11)||Sweet 16|
|2014||NC State (12)||First Round|
|2015||Dayton (11)||Second Round|
|2015||Ole Miss (11)||First Round|
|2016||Michigan (11)||First Round|
|2016||Wichita State (11)||Second Round|
|2017||Kansas State (11)||First Round|
|2017||USC (11)||Second Round|
|2018||St. Bonaventure (11)||First Round|
|2018||Syracuse (11)||Sweet 16|
|2019||Arizona State (11)||First Round|
|2019||Belmont (11)||First Round|
|2021||Drake (11)||First Round|
|2021||UCLA (11)||Final Four|