Now that Championship Week and Selection Sunday are long gone, it's time for the excitement to kick up a notch starting in Dayton. The First Four will be held as part of the Big Dance for the fifth straight year and once again there are eight teams looking to achieve their dreams of winning a game and advancing to the round of 64.
It all starts Tuesday night with three mid-majors, and an SEC team taking the floor for the rights to move on in March.
How/Where to watch:
6:40 TruTV Manhattan vs. Hampton (Brian Anderson, Steve Smith and Lewis Johnson), followed by 9:10 TruTV BYU vs Ole Miss (Anderson, Smith and Johnson)
Preview: 16. Manhattan (MAAC Automatic Bid) vs. 16. Hampton (MEAC Automatic bid)
The Jaspers always seem to play their best basketball in March and that's an indication of how great of a coach Steve Masiello is. Last year, Masiello and the Jaspers battled wire to wire against Rick Pitino and Louisville in the round of 64 and this year they out-played a more talented Iona team in the MAAC Conference Championship game. These group of players will also be motivated to win Tuesday night because the winner of this match-up faces Kentucky in the next round. Masiello graduated from the school and will look to get a shot at John Calipari's undefeated squad.
Forwards Emmy Andujar and Ashton Pankey provide most of the Jaspers scoring but the key to their success will be the guard play. Can RaShawn Stores and Donovan Kates continue to make shots like they did in the title game against Iona?
Meanwhile, the Pirates come into the NCAA Tournament with a 16-17 record and had a miraculous run in their conference tournament after finishing sixth during the regular season. They are led by guards Dwight Meikle, who shoots an impressive 52 percent from the field and leads the team in rebounding, and Reggie Johnson, who averages 12 points per game.
Preview: 11. BYU (WCC At-Large) vs. 11. Ole Miss (SEC At-Large)
The Cougars have not played the best of competition this season but they did snap Gonzaga's home winning streak at the end of February. The versatile Kyle Collinsworth (six triple-doubles this year) and the lethal Tyler Haws (21.9 points per game) led a team that has been overlooked all season. This team has an opportunity to break out a run to the second weekend if they can knock down their shots and continue to get solid production from Skyler Halford.
It won't be easy against the Rebels of Ole Miss though. The Rebels took Kentucky to overtime back in the beginning of January and have beaten Cincinnati, Oregon and Arkansas. They also struggled down the stretch as they lost at home against Vanderbilt and in the SEC Tournament against South Carolina. Stefan Moody and Jarvis Summers will have to try to match the production of the other dynamic duo and that may be just too much to handle.
Xavier, a team that made a run to the Big East final last week, awaits the winner.