Previewing the First Four
The NCAA tournament officially starts with the First Four in Dayton Ohio. Eight teams will take the court in where the field gets cut from 68 to 64.
16 New Orleans vs 16 Mount St Mary’s
These two teams will be vying for the coveted honour of losing to Villanova in the next round. Although both of these teams stays in the tournament will be short-lived, this game should mean a lot to both as the opening set of games is usually viewed more as a play-in game than the actual tournament itself.
New Orleans comes in as the Southland conference champions, while Mount St. Mary’s comes off of their Northeast Conference win. Each od the teams we’re regular season champions of their respective leagues as well, so not much separates the two. The edge in this matchup goes to New Orleans, for playing in a slightly better conference this year.
11 Kansas St. vs 11 Wake Forest
Kansas St. enters the tournament after a disappointing loss to West Virginia in the Big 12 tournament, despite leading the entire game. Wake Forest will be making their first appearance in the tournament for the first time since 2010, a far cry from the Tim Duncan and Chris Paul years.
Kansas St played an extremely weak non-conference schedule but have some impressive conference wins, defeating Baylor twice, and West Virginia. Danny Manning has done an incredible job revitalising the Wake Forest program in just his third year in charge, but they dont quite have enough firepower yet to make an impact in the tournament. K-State takes this one.
16 UC Davis vs 16 NC Central
Apologies to fans of big upsets, but for the 32nd straight year, a 16 seed will not beat a one seed. Like the previous game between the 16 seeds, one of these teams seasons will end in just two days time at the hands of Kansas.
UC Davis defeated top seeded UC Irvine in the Big West championship game to make it to this point, while NC Central cruised through the MEAC tournament after their regular season conference title. UC Davis should have the advantage in this one, as the Big West is one of the better low major conferences in the country, while the MEAC is the worst.
11 Providence vs 11 USC
USC was the last team invited to go dancing this March, narrowly selected over usual powerhouse Syracuse. Meanwhile, Providence finishing third in the gauntlet that is the Big East even though some preseason predictions had them finishing as low as ninth.
These two teams may be on opposite sides of the country, but there is some familiarity between them as this is a rematch of last years first round matchup. With respect to the top half of the Pac-12, no conference was tougher top to bottom than the Big East, which managed to get 70% of their teams into the tournament. Providence should take the rematch, setting themselves up to take on SMU in the next round.