History of First Four Winners Bodes Well for Pitt
PITTSBURGH – The NCAA Tournament has grown exponentially since its inception in 1939. Originally an eight-team tournament, the field expanded to 16 teams in 1951, doubled in 1975 to 32, then doubled again 10 years later (1985) to the Field of 64.
The First Four officially began in 2011 and has typically included No. 11 and No. 16 seeds, playing for a chance to move out of the Field of 68 play-in game and into the official bracket. In the 11 years of First Four play – excluding 2020, the year without a tournament – several teams have passed through Dayton, Ohio to make a run in the tournament field.
Pitt basketball received a No. 11 seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament, earning its first dance in March Madness since 2015-16 under Jamie Dixon. The Panthers will play Mississippi State in Dayton, Ohio in the First Four and if they win, they will play No. 6 Iowa State Friday back in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Two No. 11 seeds have advanced from the First Four to the Final Four. In 2010-11, the inaugural year of the First Four, VCU (23-11) defeated USC in the play-in game and went on to defeat No. 6 Georgetown (74-56), No. 3 Purdue (94-76), No. 10 Florida State (72-71 OT), and No. 1 Kansas (71-61) before falling to No. 8 Butler (70-62) in the Final Four.
Two years ago, UCLA advanced to the Final Four in one of the most memorable tournament runs and Final Four games in recent memory. The Bruins (17-9) overcame a five-point deficit in the final 89 seconds to down Michigan State and move on and face No. 6 BYU. UCLA defeated BYU (73-62), No. 14 Abilene Christian (67-47), No. 2 Alabama (88-78 OT), and No. 1 Michigan (51-49) before falling to No. 1 Gonzaga (93-90) in overtime on a Jalen Suggs triple at the buzzer.
Last season, Notre Dame (22-10) survived the bubble and took down Rutgers 89-87 in double overtime. The Fighting Irish won its first-round game against Alabama (78-64) before falling to Texas Tech in their next matchup.
Overall, a First Four team that won its play-in game and also won at least another tourney in the Field of 64 every season except 2018-19: 2010-11 (VCU), 2011-12 (South Florida), 2012-13 (La Salle), 2013-14 (Tennessee), 2014-15 (Dayton), 2015-16 (Wichita State), 2016-17 (USC), 2017-18 (Syracuse), 2020-21 (UCLA), 2021-22 (Notre Dame).