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Daniel Wilco | NCAA.com | March 18, 2022

The First Four of the NCAA tournament, explained

Notre Dame beats Rutgers in double overtime thriller

The First Four is the official start to March Madness: four games traditionally played on the first Tuesday and Wednesday of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Starting with the 2022 NCAA women's basketball tournament, there will also be a First Four for the women's bracket, as the tournament field expands to 68 teams.

While things were different in the 2021 men's tournament because of the pandemic, with every First Four game being played on a Thursday, the results were arguably familiar as No. 11 seed UCLA defeated fellow No. 11 seed Michigan State before the Bruins went on an impressive and unlikely NCAA tournament run to the Final Four, continuing the success of teams that started in the First Four in the bracket.

Here’s everything you need to know about the First Four:

Who is in the men's and women's First Four this season?

Here is the schedule and teams for the men's tournament. Click or tap on any of the games below to be taken directly to that live stream, score and preview/result:

GAMES TIME TV CITY Venue
First Four — Tuesday, March 15
No. 16 Texas Southern vs. No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 6:40 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
No. 12 Wyoming vs. No. 12 Indiana 9:10 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
First Four — Wednesday, March 16
No. 16 Wright State vs. No. 16 Bryant 6:40 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
No. 11 Rutgers vs. No. 11 Notre Dame 9:10 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena

Here is the schedule and teams for the women's tournament. Click or tap on any of the games below to be taken directly to live scoring and results:

GAMES TIME TV CITY
First Four — Wednesday, March 16
No. 16 Incarnate Word vs. No. 16 Howard 7 p.m. ESPNU Columbia, South Carolina
No. 11 Dayton vs. No. 11 DePaul 9 p.m. ESPNU Ames, Iowa
First Four — Thursday, March 17
No. 16 Longwood vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary's 7 p.m. ESPN2 Raleigh, North Carolina
No. 11 Missouri State vs. No. 11 Florida State 9 p.m. ESPN2 Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Who was in the men's First Four last season?

In the 2021 men's NCAA tournament, No. 11 seeds UCLA, Michigan State, Drake and Wichita State appeared in the First Four, as did No. 16 seeds Norfolk State, Appalachian State, Mount St. Mary's and Texas Southern.

The former set of four teams featured the last four at-large teams on the overall seed list.

When did the First Four start as part of men's March Madness?

In 1999, the Mountain West Conference was added to Division I. In its second season, the 2000-01 campaign, the conference received an automatic bid for the first time, bumping the total number of automatic qualifiers in the NCAA tournament to 31, and the total number of teams to 65.

From 2001 to 2010, this was addressed by an opening-round game, where the two worst-seeded teams played on the Tuesday after Selection Sunday.

In 2011, the NCAA tournament expanded again, to 68 teams, with 31 automatic qualifiers, and 37 at-large bids, and the First Four was created to trim the number of teams from 68 to 64 for the first round.

Who plays in the men's First Four?

When selecting the teams for the NCAA tournament, the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Committee ranks every team from No. 1 through No. 68. In its current format, the First Four consists of eight teams — the four lowest-seeded automatic qualifiers, and the four lowest-seeded at-large teams. Each subset plays against itself (i.e., at-large teams face at-large teams, and automatic qualifiers face automatic qualifiers).

When was the First Four added to the women's tournament?

In November 2021, the NCAA announced the expansion of the NCAA Division I women's basketball tournament to 68 teams. For the 2022 NCAA tournament only, the First Four games will be played on the campuses of teams seeded in the top 16, with two games played on both Wednesday, March 16, and Thursday, March 17. The last four at-large teams and teams seeded 65 through 68 will compete in opening-round games prior to the start of the first and second rounds of the championship.

Winners of the opening-round games will advance to first-round play on Friday, March 18, and Saturday, March 19, respectively, at the same hosting site location.

"While the 2022 championship will be conducted at top-16 seed campus sites, this is a transition year for the tournament, and strong consideration will be given for other improvement areas, including opening-round games taking place at a predetermined site, in order to improve the championship experience in 2023 and beyond," said Lisa Campos, chair of the Division I Women's Basketball Oversight Committee and director of athletics at UTSA.

How do men's First Four teams do in the 64-team bracket?

Well, better than might be expected.

Through the 2021 NCAA men's tournament, at-large First Four winners, though seeded between No. 11 and No. 14, win in the first round at a rate roughly equal to a seed at least two spots better (No. 9 seeds). The standard-bearers are the 2011 VCU and 2021 UCLA squads, which are the No. 11 seeds that made it to the Final Four after starting in the First Four. The 2019 NCAA tournament is the only tournament since the field expanded to 68 teams where at least one at-large First Four team failed to win a game in the 64-team bracket.

You can read exactly how First Four teams do here.

Who was in the inaugural men's First Four?

The 2011 First Four consisted of Texas, San Antonio, Clemson, UNC Asheville, VCU, Alabama State, UAB, Arkansas-Little Rock and Southern California. Here’s what that bracket looked like (First Four scores are in the bottom right):

2011 NCAA tournament bracket

When is the men's First Four played?

The men's First Four is normally played on the Tuesday and Wednesday after Selection Sunday, with the NCAA tournament’s Round of 64 starting that Thursday. In 2021, it was played on a Thursday.

Where is the men's First Four played?

The First Four of the men's tournament has always been hosted at the University of Dayton, in Dayton Ohio. Here is more on Dayton's impressive history as a college basketball town. It was played in Indiana on the campuses of Indiana University and Purdue University in 2021.

Who are some notable teams that have come out of the men's First Four?

In the first 10 NCAA men's basketball tournaments that have featured the First Four, at least one First Four team has survived until the Round of 32 in nine of those seasons.

A decade after the first-ever First Four, No. 11 seed UCLA, in 2021, was able to match the success of VCU in 2011.

In the first 68-team field, the Rams knocked off No. 11 seed USC in the First Four, then downed No. 6 seed Georgetown, No. 3 seed Purdue, No. 10 seed Florida State, and No. 1 seed Kansas to reach the Final Four, where they fell to No. 8 seed Butler.

VCU stuns Kansas

VCU was the only team to have made the Final Four from the First Four until 2021, when the Bruins overcame an 11-point halftime deficit to Michigan State in the First Four (and a 14-point hole late in the first half) to win in overtime. That set up a magical run where UCLA knocked off No. 6 seed BYU, No. 14 seed Abilene Christian, No. 2 seed Alabama and No. 1 seed Michigan to advance to the Final Four, where the Bruins lost in overtime to No. 1 overall seed and then-undefeated Gonzaga.

GAMES TIME TV CITY Venue
First Four — Tuesday, March 15
No. 16 Texas Southern vs. No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 6:40 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
No. 12 Wyoming vs. No. 12 Indiana 9:10 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
First Four — Wednesday, March 16
No. 16 Wright State vs. No. 16 Bryant 6:40 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
No. 11 Rutgers vs. No. 11 Notre Dame 9:10 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
GAMES TIME TV CITY Venue
First Four — Tuesday, March 15
No. 16 Texas Southern vs. No. 16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 6:40 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
No. 12 Wyoming vs. No. 12 Indiana 9:10 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
First Four — Wednesday, March 16
No. 16 Wright State vs. No. 16 Bryant 6:40 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena
No. 11 Rutgers vs. No. 11 Notre Dame 9:10 p.m. truTV Dayton, Ohio UD Arena

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