NCAA Tournament 2013: Complete Guide to First Four Contests

Alex KayCorrespondent IMarch 19, 2013

Dec 21, 2012; Murfreesboro, TN, USA; Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders guard Marcos Knight (14) reacts after pulling down a rebound against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Bridgestone Arena. Middle Tennessee defeated Vanderbilt 56-52. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

The “First Four” is a relatively new addition to the NCAA tournament, beginning when the field expanded to 68 teams back in 2011. Instead of changing the beloved format, the NCAA decided to have these additional four contenders play for the right to join the traditional round of 64.

VCU proved right off the bat that these squads can be dangerous, making a run all the way to the Final Four after participating in a First Four contest as a No. 11 seed.

Will any of these eight participants be able to make a run like that in 2013? Keep reading to read our prediction and preview for each of these thrilling games.

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Liberty vs. North Carolina A&T

At Stake: No. 16 Seed, Midwest Region (vs. Louisville) 

When: Tuesday, March 19, at 6:40 p.m. ET

Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio

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Betting Line: NC A&T -3 (via Vegas Insider)


Preview and Prediction

The North Carolina A&T Aggies are led by senior forward Adrian Powell, a solid scorer, great rebounder and willing passer. He’s going to need to play his best if this squad is going to advance, despite the opponent's losing record.

That’s right, the Liberty Flames finished the 2012-13 campaign having gone just 15-20. However, they got hot at the right time and won the Big South tournament, earning the right to represent the conference in this event.

If the Flames continue this stretch of elite performances, they could steal a win against their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference foes and challenge the top seed in the NCAA field, the Louisville Cardinals.

It will all depend on how Liberty guard John Caleb Sanders is feeling, as the leading scorer will need to step up in a big way to navigate into the round of 64. Regardless, we think this team shows its true colors and falters down the stretch against the superior Aggies.

NC A&T 65, Liberty 59


Saint Mary’s (CA) vs. Middle Tennessee State

At Stake: No. 11 Seed, Midwest Region (vs. Memphis)

When: Tuesday, March 19, at 9 p.m. ET

Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio

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Betting Line: St. Mary’s -3 (via Vegas Insider)


Preview and Prediction

These two teams were both great during the regular season, but failed to win their respective conference tournaments. Now they have to play one another in order to get a chance to assume the Cinderella role in the 2013 NCAA tourney.

Both the Blue Raiders and Gaels could make a deep run, but unfortunately have perhaps the toughest road in the tourney.

After this First Four contest, the winner matches up against a hungry Memphis squad that hasn’t won a tournament game in four seasons. That is going to be a rough contest and things only get rockier in the stacked Midwest region.

In this showdown, Matthew Dellavedova is definitely a player to watch for the Gaels. He is a great scoring guard that can carry the team for stretches, plus a willing passer and above-average rebounder for his position.

The Blue Raiders have a pair of prolific players in their backcourt, as Marcos Knight and Raymond Cintron will do their best to not only contain Dellavedova, but also generate buckets for their side.

This should be a back-and-forth affair that comes down the wire, with the team with the better backcourt coming out ahead.

Middle Tennessee State 67, St. Mary’s 65


James Madison vs. LIU-Brooklyn

At Stake: No. 16 Seed, East Region (vs. Indiana) 

When: Wednesday, March 20, at 6:40 p.m. ET

Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio

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Betting Line: LIU-Brooklyn -1.5 (via Vegas Insider)


Preview and Prediction

This matchup will determine which small school will get a chance to shine on the national stage against the powerhouse Indiana Hoosiers in the Big Dance.

The Blackbirds are the favorite to win, as they are a fast-paced, run-and-gun team that loves to get up and down the floor in a hurry. They will take a three-pointer early in the shot clock or toss the ball down low to get their points, something that the Dukes will have to prevent in order to have a shot of winning.

Jason Brickman will be instrumental for LIU-Brooklyn, as the point guard averages a whopping 8.5 assists per game. He’s a top-notch set-up artist that gets this offense going when he’s in a rhythm.

A.J. Davis is the Dukes best hope of pushing through to the second round, as the 6’6” guard can fill it up from deep and has been on a tear lately, scoring well above his 12.1 PPG average in five of the past six games.

We predict LIU-Brooklyn is going to set a pace that James Madison simply won’t be able to catch up to, and the Blackbirds will soar past the Dukes on Wednesday.

LIU-Brooklyn 84, James Madison 74


La Salle vs. Boise State

At Stake: No. 13 Seed, West Region (vs. Kansas State) 

When: Wednesday, March 20, at 9:10 p.m. ET

Where: University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio

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Live Stream:

Betting Line: Boise State -1.5 (via Vegas Insider)


Preview and Prediction

These bubble squads were fortunate enough to get into the NCAA tournament field, but have an arduous path ahead that begins in the First Four.

The Broncos and Explorers both finished the 2012-13 campaign with 21 wins, while La Salle had nine losses to Boise’s 10. Neither was able to win its respective conference tournament, but that should only serve as motivation going into this matchup.

Anthony Drmic leads the Broncos in scoring and has set the tone for this squad all season long. He’s an efficient player that isn’t afraid to bomb away from deep when the opportunity presents itself, a great asset to have during a playoff showdown.

Ramon Galloway is the player to watch for the Explorers, as this potent scorer is capable of absolutely going off—even if he failed to do so during the Atlantic 10 tournament.

Don’t expect much defense to be played in this one, as these schools prefer to score first and do everything else second. However, we think Galloway is going to turn things around, put the Explorers on his back and win a trip to the second round.

La Salle 79, Boise State 75