DAYTON, Ohio – The First Four are returning to Dayton for the first time in three seasons, and the selection committee has ensured there will be added excitement in the building by dropping a local team into the mix of play in.
One of the things the NCAA loves about the University of Dayton Arena is that no matter who plays, fans will fill it up for all four games and help put on a good show for a March-hungry national television audience. madness.
This time, the First Four will have an unofficial home team in Wright State, whose own basketball arena is just 15 minutes across town.
The Horizon League Tournament champion Raiders (21-13), making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance, take on Bryant (22-9) early Wednesday, before Rutgers takes on Notre Dame.
Tuesday’s slate will feature Indiana, returning to the tournament for the first time since 2016 and in the first season under Mike Woodson. The Hoosiers (20-13) face a Wyoming team from Mountain West that finished 25-8 and, like Indiana, got a general offer.
The Hoosiers’ five-year absence — not counting 2020 when the pandemic wiped out the tournament — was the longest since they were absent from it from 1968 to 1972.
“Honestly, Coach Woodson just shed some light for me,” Hoosiers forward Trayce Jackson-Davis said. “I feel like Indiana basketball has been in the dark for so long now.”
Indiana wasn’t stellar during the season, but got going, beating Michigan and upsetting top-seeded Illinois in the Big Ten tournament, before losing to eventual champion Iowa by three in semi final.
The Cowboys are back for the first time since 2015, when they won their conference tournament. This year, Wyoming lost to top-seeded Boise State in the semifinals of the tournament.
“We knew we were going to be there in that bubble,” Wyoming coach Jeff Linder said. “Fortunately, the committee has seen our work throughout the season.”
The game to watch will be Jackson-Davis against Graham Ike of the Cowboys. Both are 6-foot-9 sophomore forwards and lead their teams in points and rebounds. Jackson-Davis is averaging 18.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Ike is at 19.6 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game.
The winner will be the 12th seed in the Eastern Region and will face fifth-seeded St. Mary’s on Thursday.
SOUTH TEXAS (16) VS. TEXAS A&M – CORPUS CHRISTI (16)
Texas Southern (18-12) earned an automatic bid by winning the Southwest Athletic Conference tournament. The Tigers had already won the first four games in 2018 and 2021 and lost one in 2014.
Texas Southern is an experienced team but lacks a top scorer. He is paced by John Walker III (9.9 ppg, 4.3 rebounds per game) and Joirdon Karl Nicholas (9.2 ppg, 6 rpg).
“I think experience helps us a lot because there are 68 teams, and I feel like a lot of people don’t understand how hard it is to win a game, especially in March Madness,” said senior forward Brison Gresham. “I think all the experience we have right now is a favor in our hands.”
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (23-11) entered winning the conference tournament from Southland. The Islanders are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007. Steve Lutz, a former Purdue assistant, brought his team here in his first season as the college’s head coach.
The Islanders are led by Isaac Mushila, a 6-5 junior forward averaging 13.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is the lowest-ranked team in the tournament based on KenPom’s ratings. The Islanders are 243rd out of 358 teams. Texas Southern is slightly better, coming in at 188th place.
The winner will have the formidable task of facing top-seeded Kansas in the regional Midwest on Thursday.
DAYTON IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Recently renovated, the UD Arena still rolls out the red carpet for the First Four, as it is a high-profile event for the city and generates approximately $4.5 million in direct spending for the local economy.
This year, the arena, which seats approximately 13,400, is also hosting championship tournaments for high school boys and girls. So, counting the first four, that’s 28 games in 11 days with around 100,000 people in attendance.
UD Arena secured the play-in game when the ground was expanded to 65 teams in 2001 due to it already being a first-round venue that year. It started a tradition. The single game remained for 10 years and in 2011 the field of play was extended to four games.
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