The “First Four” is a play-in round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, commonly referred to as March Madness. It consists of four games played between eight teams to determine the final four spots in the tournament’s main bracket.
The First Four games are typically played on the Tuesday and Wednesday following Selection Sunday, which falls in mid-March each year. The winners of the First Four games advance to the first round of the tournament, which begins on Thursday and Friday of the same week.
Since the First Four began in 2011, there have been several upsets, but the biggest underdog to win the First Four tournament is probably the 2013 Liberty Flames.
In 2013, Liberty entered the First Four as a 20-13 team from the Big South Conference, facing off against the 21-12 North Carolina A&T Aggies from the MEAC. Liberty was not expected to win the game, but they managed to come out on top, winning 73-72 in a thrilling finish.
Liberty’s victory was notable not only for being an upset but also for being the first NCAA Tournament win for the Flames in program history. They went on to face the Louisville Cardinals in the Round of 64 but were ultimately defeated.
Since the First Four tournament began in 2011, there have been several NBA players who played in the First Four:
C.J. McCollum: McCollum played for Lehigh in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, where they won their First Four game against Duke. He is currently a star player for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Robert Covington: Covington played for Tennessee State in the 2012 First Four. He is currently playing for the Portland Trail Blazers.
Jeremy Lamb: Lamb played for Connecticut in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, where they won their First Four game against Butler. He is currently playing for the Indiana Pacers.
Tacko Fall: Fall played for the UCF Knights in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, where they won their First Four game against VCU. He is currently playing for the Boston Celtics.
Dylan Windler: Windler played for Belmont in the 2019 NCAA Tournament, where they lost their First Four game against Temple. He is currently playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
These are just a few examples, and there may be other NBA players who have played in the First Four tournament that are not included in this list.
Before the First Four play-in tournament was introduced in 2011, the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament consisted of 65 teams.
The tournament included 31 automatic bids, which were awarded to the winners of each of the 31 conference tournaments, and 34 at-large bids, which were given to teams that did not win their conference tournament but had strong regular seasons.
The tournament was structured so that the bottom eight at-large teams played in four first-round games to determine which teams would advance to the traditional 64-team bracket. These games were sometimes referred to as the “play-in games” or the “opening-round games.”
The winners of these games would then join the other 56 teams in the main bracket, which began with the Round of 64. The tournament format changed in 2011 with the introduction of the First Four, which expanded the number of teams in the tournament to 68 and provided a different structure for the play-in games.
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