The 2018 NCAA Tournament tips off with the First Four from Dayton, Ohio on Tuesday and Wednesday, in No. 16 vs. No. 16 and No. 11 vs. No. 11 matchups. The four No. 11s were the last four at-large teams into the field. While it’s not likely, it is possible for a First Four team to reach the Final Four. VCU did it as a No. 11 back in 2011.
Tuesday’s games feature Radford as a 3.5-point favorite on the March Madness odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com against fellow No. 16 LIU Brooklyn, and UCLA at -3 against fellow No. 11 St. Bonaventure.
Of course, no No. 16 seed has ever upset a No. 1 and the Radford-LIU Brooklyn winner goes up against East No. 1 Villanova (printable March Madness bracket). Neither Radford nor LIU Brooklyn was its conference’s regular-season champion (or has ever won an NCAA Tournament game) but won their postseason tournaments.
Radford did so in the Big South after finishing second during the season to UNC Asheville, and LIU Brooklyn was fourth in the Northeast before its tournament run. The Blackbirds played in the First Four in 2013, losing by 13 to James Madison.
No school has more national championships than UCLA with 11. Interestingly, the Bruins got into the Big Dance despite finishing one spot behind crosstown rival USC in the Pac-12 and the Trojans didn’t make it. UCLA did sweep the season series, which surely was the deciding factor.
Led by Lonzo Ball, the Bruins won two games in last year’s NCAA Tournament before losing to Kentucky. St. Bonaventure, which finished second in the Atlantic 10 to Rhode Island, had a 13-game winning streak snapped in a conference tournament semifinals loss to Davidson – which might have stolen USC’s bid by winning the tournament. The Bonnies/Bruins winner gets East Region No. 6 Florida.
On Wednesday, Texas Southern is a 5-point favorite over fellow No. 16 North Carolina Central, and Arizona State is -1 against fellow No. 11 Syracuse.
Texas Southern was the SWAC Tournament champion after finishing tied for second in the regular season behind Grambling. TSU is led by former Indiana head coach Mike Davis, who took the Hoosiers to the 2002 Final Four. North Carolina Central was just sixth in the MEAC before winning the tournament; it lost in the First Four last year to UC Davis. The winner faces No. 1 Xavier on Friday in the West Region.
Syracuse was the final team in the field, according to committee chair Bruce Rasmussen. The Orange were a below-.500 team in ACC play yet got in over Louisville, which finished one spot ahead. Syracuse did beat Louisville on the road in their lone meeting.
Arizona State, coached by former Duke star point guard and national champion Bobby Hurley, is one of only three Pac-12 teams in the field. The Sun Devils made it despite finishing eighth in their league; they did have huge road wins at Xavier and Kansas, two No. 1 seeds. The winner of this game gets No. 6 TCU on Friday in the Midwest Region.
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