What is the First Four in March Madness

It’s a wild time of year and one of the best postseasons in all of sports. March Madness is here and get ready to be amazed at the drama, upsets, and more that comes with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The field expanded to 68 teams back in 2011 and now the tourney kicks off with the First Four. What is the First Four in March Madness? Here’s everything you need to know.

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What is the First Four in the NCAA Tournament?

The NCAA tournament has 68 teams. It expanded from 64 teams back in 2011. With only 16 seeds per region, the 64-team bracket can’t hold 68 teams. Because of this, four play-in games called the First Four were born. Eight teams compete in four games for a chance to make it to the First Round of the tournament.

The tournament had 65 teams that earned bids before 2011 and there was a play-in game to determine the final 16 seed in the tournament. This was called the Opening Round and it consisted of just one game due to there being 65 teams in the tournament. Now, the expansion gives us four play-in games.

Teams That Play in the First Four

The First Four consists of eight teams. The four lowest-seeded automatic bids and the four lowest-seeded at-large teams make up the First Four. Each subset group plays against itself. So an at-large bid will play another at-large bid. Automatic bid teams play automatic bids. Automatic qualifiers in the NCAA tournament had to win their conference tournament.

The inaugural First Four in 2011 included Texas, San Antonio, Clemson, UNC Asheville, VCU, Alabama State, UAB, Arkansas-Little Rock, and Southern California. VCU made a run all the way from the Men’s First Four to the Final Four that season. UCLA did the same thing in the 2021 Men’s NCAA Tournament. Both teams were a number 11 seed.

Last year’s First Four winners were Indiana and Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish went on to beat Alabama in the First Round of the 2022 NCAA Men’s Tournament.

When is the First Four Played?

The First Four games start on the Tuesday after Selection Sunday. Two of the NCAA Tournament play-in games take place on Tuesday with the other two games taking place on Wednesday. Winners advance to the First Round on Thursday. The First Round takes place on Thursday and Friday.

A team that started in the First Four would have to win six games to reach the National Championship Game while teams in the round of 64 need five wins to reach the title game.

College Basketball Selection Sunday

Selection Sunday is the revealing of the Men’s and Women’s NCAA brackets for the March Madness Tournament. Each tournament field has 68 teams. Both begin with the First Four of the NCAA Tournament fighting to advance to the First Round.

The NCAA Selection Committee gives out 32 automatic bids and 38 at-large bids to the tournament. Strength of schedule, record, and more determine teams who get at-large bids.

What is the First Four in March Madness FAQs

What is the First Four in March Madness?

The First Four are the play-in games that kick off March Madness. The First Four teams compete on Tuesday and Wednesday after Selection Sunday while the First Round begins on Thursday. The NCAA Tournament expanded to 68 teams in 2011 which created the First Four.

When are the First Four games played?

The First Four games for 2023 will be played on March 14 and 15. The games usually take place on the Tuesday and Wednesday of the week after Selection Sunday. They lead into the First Round on Thursday and Friday.

How is the First Four selected for the NCAA Division I Tournament?

The four lowest-ranked automatic-bid teams and the four lowest-seeded teams with at-large bids are in the First Four. Each subset group plays against itself. So an at-large bid will play another at-large bid. Automatic bid teams play automatic bids.

Is there a First Four in the Women’s Tournament?

Yes. The women’s NCAA basketball tournament expanded to 68 teams in 2022. It now has a First Four that take place on Wednesday and Thursday after Selection Sunday.

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Sam hails from Grandville, Michigan. He has a rich sports background, including playing baseball at Central Michigan before covering high school sports and working with the Orlando Magic. He earned his broadcasting/journalism degree from Central Michigan University and was a member of the 2010 MAC Championship baseball team. Sam developed his expertise while working with Betsperts, Bleacher Nation, and 4for4 in various areas such as writing, social media, betting research, and business development. He's a big fan of the NBA, NFL, and MLB, highly interested in data and statistics.

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