Returning Texas teams, first-timers make up First Four field
Mon, Mar 13, 2023
Other News (AP)
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - Texas A&M-Corpus Christi guard Trevian Tennyson got a taste of the pomp and star treatment at last year's First Four and wanted more.
The Islanders lost their 2022 play-in game to Texas Southern, which notched its second First Four victory in a row.
"We had meetings at the beginning of the year, and the only thing I told them was, my goal this year was to get back to March Madness," said Tennyson, who led the Islanders with 15.7 points per game and hit 41% of his 3-pointers. "We're here, so that's really it.
"Anything can happen really because it's March Madness," Tennyson said Monday. "Last year we started off on a really good trail. We (were) up, I think, almost 15, and we didn't end up coming up with the win. Really, just anything can happen."
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (23-10) has won 12 of its last 13, including the Southland Conference tournament. This time in the First Four, they face the Redhawks of Southeast Missouri State, a team that had a losing record before winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament for the first time in 23 years.
For the Redhawks, it was the first winning season in nine years.
"It's basketball Christmas. It really is," Southeast Missouri State coach Brad Korn said. "Every time you turn the corner, you smile at something else. We had a guy playing bagpipes at the hotel today, so what else could you ask for?"
The winner moves on as the 16th seed to face top-seeded Alabama in the first round at Birmingham on Thursday.
THESE GUYS AGAIN
Texas Southern is as close to a First Four regular as the annual play-in event can claim.
The Tigers return to the event for the third straight year and fifth time overall, facing off Wednesday night against Fairleigh Dickinson (17-15), the New Jersey school that won a First Four game in 2019 and is just a year removed from a 4-22 finish.
Texas Southern's fifth-year coach, Johnny Jones, is 3-0 in the First Four since taking over in 2018. The Tigers come to Dayton this time with a losing record (14-20) but earned the postseason berth by sweeping through the Southwest Conference tournament, beating second-seeded Grambling State in the final.
The winner of the Texas Southern-Fairleigh Dickinson game will jump on Interstate 70 for the hour's drive to Columbus, where it will slot in as the 16th seed in the East and play top-seeded Purdue on Friday.
Mississippi State and Pitt should be an intriguing matchup because their strengths are so different.
Mississippi State (21-12) is the worst 3-point shooting team in college basketball. Expect the Bulldogs, just 8-10 in the SEC, to try to get to the rim and try to clamp down on Pitt with excellent perimeter defense.
The Panthers (22-11) can make the mid-range and long jumpers but don't play as well inside, and they aren't as good defensively.
"One of the things that's difficult is that we can't simulate their size and their strength and athleticism in what we're doing in practice," Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. "So we really have to be totally dialed in to the little things that add up to big things."
The winner of the late Tuesday night game advances to Midwest Regional as the 11th seed, facing sixth-seeded Iowa State on Friday.
Arizona State (22-12) beat Oregon State and USC in the Pac-12 tournament before being routed in the semifinal by No. 8 Arizona, a team the Sun Devils had bested Feb. 25.
They did so in no small part because of forward Warren Washington and Desmond Cambridge Jr., a fifth-year guard who led the team with 13.7 points per game.
Both players transferred from Nevada - the team Arizona State will face in Wednesday's late game.
Nevada lost four of its last six games to finish 22-10 but still got picked off the bubble for the play-in game. Guard Jared Lucas leads the way, averaging 17.3 points and hitting 38% of his 3-point shots.
The winner moves on as the 11th seed in the West and a Friday matchup with TCU.
For bracketeers looking for a Cinderella to come out of Dayton, it could happen.
In fact, at least one First Four team has gone on to win another game in the tournament every year except 2019. The event has been played in Dayton every year since 2011, except for 2020, when it was canceled because of the pandemic, and 2021 when it was moved under the COVID-19 bubble in Indianapolis.
In 2011, No. 11 seed VCU got on a roll and went all the way to the Final Four, beating No. 1 Kansas in the regional final.
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