With visions of dancing in their heads, March Madness officially opens as four of the First Four teams clash for the right to enter the NCAA Tournament’s first round on Tuesday night from University of Dayton Arena in Ohio.
Though the NCAA has stopped calling tonight’s games the first round, for No. 16 seeds Florida Gulf Coast (20-13) and Fairleigh Dickinson (18-14) as well as No. 11 seeds Vanderbilt and Wichita State, the tournament very much begins now.
FGC’s Eagles make their return to the tournament for the first time since 2013’s incredible run to the Sweet 16, and they’ll first square off against a Fairleigh Dickinson squad that has yet to claim a tournament victory in its four previous appearances.
Powered by junior forward Marc Eddy Norelia’s 17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, the Eagles returned to the tournament after besting Stetson 80-78 in overtime for the Atlantic Sun’s tournament title and automatic NCAA berth.
The Knights used a 54-point second half to blow by Wagner for the Northeast conference tournament crown and automatic bid 87-79 behind sophomore guard Darian Anderson’s 28 points and sophomore Earl Potts Jr.’s 27 points.
Whomever prevails between the Knicks and Eagles will move on to the first round where they’ll face the No. 1 seeded North Carolina Tar Heels.
Afterwards, Vanderbilt and Wichita State will play for the right to face No. 6 Arizona in the first round.
The Commodores snapped their three-year tournament absence thanks to an at-large bid following two straight losses to SEC rivals Texas A&M and Tennessee to close the season. But, led by guard Wade Baldwin IV, Vanderbilt played some of the nation’s top teams this season and claimed victories over Kentucky and Texas A&M while coming close to upsetting ranked Baylor and Kansas.
The Shockers hope to make the Sweet Sixteen for the second straight season following another excellent season in the Missouri Valley conference. Wichita State couldn’t claim the MVC’s tournament championship, falling to Northern Iowa 57-50 in the semifinals, but it does bring back guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet from last year’s Sweet 16 run.
First Four TV Schedule
Tuesday, March 15
No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast vs. No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson
Start Time: 6:40 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TruTV
No. 11 Vanderbilt vs. No. 11 Wichita State
Start Time: 9:10 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TruTV