NCAA Tournament starts with First Four round on Tuesday and Wednesday night

The tourney tips off with four play-in games from Dayton, Ohio

Jon Simon
March 18, 2019 - 4:39 pm

Photo: Troy Wayrynen - USA TODAY Sports


The 2019 NCAA Division-I Men’s Basketball Tournament tips off on Tuesday night in Dayton, Ohio with a pair of first four matchups. The other two First Four contests will be played in Dayton on Wednesday night; all four games can be heard on ESPN 1520 and will be on truTV. 

Tuesday night’s double-header starts at 6:30 p.m. with a clash between 16-seeds Prairie View A&M and Farleigh Dickinson. The Panthers of Prairie View A&M (22-12) were the SWAC regular season and conference tournament champions and have only lost one game in the calendar year of 2019. The Farleigh Dickinson Knights (20-13) won their conference tournament and regular season title as well, and are making their second appearance in the NCAA tournament in the last four years. The winner of this game will face the West Region’s No. 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs on Thursday, March 21 at 7:15 p.m.

The second game on Tuesday evening tips-off at 9 p.m.; 11-seeds Temple and Belmont face-off for a chance to play six-seed Maryland in the East Region on Thursday, March 21 at 3 p.m. The Owls of Temple finished third in the American Conference with a 23-9 record and found their way into the tournament despite losing in the conference tournament quarterfinals to Wichita State. The Bruins received an at-large bid as well. Belmont (26-5) won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season title, but fell to Murray State in the tournament Championship. 

16-seeds will open the action on Wednesday night at 6:30 p.m. as well. North Carolina Central (18-5), winners of the MEAC tournament championship, will take on Summit League-champion North Dakota State (18-5) with a trip to Columbus, Ohio on the line. The winner of this game will have the pleasure of facing Zion Williamson and the No. 1 overall seed Duke Blue Devils in the first round on Friday, March 22 at 7 p.m. on CBS.

The First Four will be capped-off with a matchup that should be a must-watch for UB Basketball fans. At 9 p.m., 11-seed Arizona State Sun Devils (22-10) and 11-seed St. John’s Red Storm (21-12) battle for a chance to face the sixth-seeded Bulls in the first round on Friday at 4 p.m.

Should Arizona State win, the Bulls will see a familiar face on the sidelines in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the location of their first-round game.

Bobby Hurley, the Sun Devils’ head coach, held the same position at UB for two years before heading to Tempe. Nate Oats, Buffalo’s current head coach, was Hurley’s assistant before taking the reigns after the latter’s departure.

Stay tuned for a preview of the Bulls’ first round matchup later in the week after Arizona State and St. John’s has ended. Also keep an eye out for our Sweet 16, Elite Eight, Final Four and National Championship predictions piece. For now, here is a quick look the bracket as a whole:


East Region: 


The East starts and ends with the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed the Duke Blue Devils. Following Zion Williamson’s return from injury and a dominant run through ACC tournament en route to the title, the Blue Devils are the odds-on favorite to win the National Championship. In fact, Duke is the heaviest favorite to win since the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats, who entered the NCAA Tournament undefeated, but lost to Wisconsin in the Final Four.

Michigan State is another team poised to make a run. The Spartans may not have gotten the best draw being the two-seed in Duke’s region. Michigan State won a share of the Big Ten regular season title and won the conference tournament, defeating rival Michigan for the third time this season on Sunday in the finals.  


West Region:

The Gonzaga Bulldogs earned the No. 1 seed in the west despite getting upset by Saint Mary’s in the WCC tournament final. While some didn’t believe the Zags deserved a one-seed, their region is loaded with solid teams and that could be punishment enough. Of all the one-seeds, Gonzaga’s road to the Final Four may be the toughest.

Michigan (2), Texas Tech (3), and Florida State (4), all have a legitimate shot at winning the region and advancing to the national semifinals. The Wolverines had 19 quadrant-1 and quadrant-2 wins. Texas Tech spent a number of weeks ranked among the top ten teams in the country and won the Big 12 regular season title. Florida State made an impressive run to the Elite Eight as a nine-seed last year and came up short against Michigan. This year the Seminoles are still loaded with athletes and have a lot of length on defense. They had a strong showing in the ACC tournament, falling just short to Duke in the finals.

12-seed Murray State is a double-digit seed to keep an eye on. The Racers have top NBA prospect and human highlight-reel Ja Morant. They might not make a Loyola-Chicago-type of run, but the Racers and their star could make some noise in the first weekend.

If UB gets past Arizona State/St. John’s, they’ll have a tough round of 32 opponent in Texas Tech (assuming the Red Raiders defeat 14-seed Northern Kentucky). But, Tech did lose in the first round of the Big 12 tournament to West Virginia, who the Bulls beat in Morgantown at the start of the season back in November.


South Region:

The ACC regular season co-champion Virginia Cavaliers sit atop the South bracket, with the SEC tournament runner-up Tennessee Volunteers as the two-seed and the Purdue Boilermakers, who split the Big Ten regular season crown with Michigan State, as the three-seed.

A lot of the seeds in the middle of this region could make some noise. The defending national champion-Villanova Wildcats are less of a favorite this year as a six-seed, but Jay Wright’s group did lose a lot of star power and upperclassmen after last year’s title.

Wisconsin, the five-seed, had a strong run at the end of Big Ten play and have one of the nation’s best players in senior forward Ethan Happ. seven-seed Cincinnati and 11-seed Saint Mary’s are two other interesting teams who could make a surprise run to the Elite Eight from the region as well.


Midwest Region:

North Carolina, the other ACC regular season co-champion holds the top seed in the Midwest section of the bracket. The Tar Heels could run into a tough matchup in the second round with 8-seed Utah State (28-6), the winner’s of the Mountain West tournament, if they can beat nine-seed Washington on Friday.

The two-seed Kentucky Wildcats, three-seed Houston Cougars and four-seed Kansas Jayhawks round out the top of the region. Kansas, should they get past 13-seed Northeastern, could see five-seed Auburn, the SEC tournament champions, in the second round, which could be one of the best games of the first weekend.

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