While many college basketball fans look to Thursday as the official start of the NCAA tournament, the same can't be said for eight schools which are taking part in the first round. Two contests took place on Tuesday night and the action will continue on Wednesday with a pair of intriguing play-in games that will affect the Midwest Region.
In Day 2 of the first round, No. 11 seeds Iowa and Tennessee will fight for the right to play No. 6 Massachusetts (24-8), while the winner between No. 16 seeds Cal Poly (13-19) and Texas Southern (19-14) will face No. 1 seed Wichita State (34-0).
Here's a look a full preview for the final day of action, before the field is cut to 64 and the true March Madness starts with a full slate of games on Thursday.
All Your Bracket Essentials:
No. 16 Cal Poly (13-9) vs. No. 16 Texas Southern (19-14)
Date: Wednesday, March 19
Time: 6:40 p.m ET
Live Stream: March Madness Live
This marks the fourth year since the NCAA tournament expanded to a field of 68 teams, leading to a pair of play-in games for No. 16 seeds. Whoever wins on Wednesday between Cal Poly and Texas Southern will clinch their school's first-ever victory in the NCAA tournament.
Still, the celebration will be short-lived, as top-seeded and undefeated Wichita State awaits the victor in the next round.
Despite struggling and going 10-19 in the regular season against less-than-stellar competition in the Big West, Cal Poly strung together three wins in the conference tournament, toppling Cal State Northridge in the title game to punch their ticket to the Big Dance.
It sounds like the Mustangs are enjoying the ride, per Josh Scroggin of the San Luis Obispo Tribune.
Mustangs head coach Joe Callero plans to have the team sign a framed sports section from Sunday’s edition of The Tribune and see it hung at Firestone Grill, which displays memorabilia that together serves as an unofficial San Luis Obispo sports hall of fame.
“Twenty years from now,” Callero said, “I’ll be coming back down here, saying, ‘Oh yeah, I coached here. We made history here, got Poly to the tournament.’ When I’m 70 years old, that’s going to be really, really cool to have that on the wall for 20 years.”
Cal Poly is led by forward Chris Eversley (13.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG) and guard Dave Nwaba (11.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG), and their main concern will be slowing down TSU center Aaric Murray.
Listed at 6'10", 245 pounds Murray averaged 21.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game while shooting 48.5 percent from the floor. In the Southwestern Conference title game, Murray went off for 27 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Prairie View A&M. It's a nice final act for Murray, who had a troubled career at La Salle and West Virginia before settling at TSU, per Joseph Duarte of the Houston Chronicle.
Aside from Murray, other top scorers for the Tigers include D.D. Scarver (13.3 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 35 FG%) and Jose Rodriguez (11.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG). TSU coach Mike Davis has also been here before, as he guided Indiana to a surprise run to the 2002 NCAA championship game.
With a more experienced coach and roster highlighted by Murray, who will be the best player on the floor, look for Texas Southern to win this one on Wednesday.
Predicted Winner: Texas Southern
No. 11 Iowa (20-12) vs. No. 11 Tennessee (21-12)
Date: Wednesday, March 19
Time: 9:10 p.m ET
Live Stream: March Madness Live
Iowa men's basketball coach Fran McCaffery spent Tuesday in Dayton, Ohio, watching his team prepare for Wednesday's matchup against Tennessee. But McCaffery will have bigger things on his mind, as he will be in Iowa City earlier in the day as his 13-year-old son undergoes surgery to remove a thyroid tumor.
"My hope is...if I can, fly back for the surgery and then fly back for the game if I can work that out," McCaffery told Luke Meridith of the Associated Press. "We'll see, logistically, if we can pull all that together."
For McCaffery, it figures to be a roller-coaster day, but let's hope all goes well back home and he can be on the sidelines for Iowa's first tournament game in since 2006.
As Rick Brown of the Des Moines Register reported, Tenneesee coach Cuonzo Martin has been thinking about McCaffery:
The Hawkeyes enter this contest on a bit of a tailspin, losing six of their past seven despite a talented roster. But Iowa has been consistently competitive against the powerhouses of the Big Ten this year, with notable wins at Ohio State, against Michigan and Xavier.
Iowa only has two double-digit scorers in guard Roy Devyn Marble (17.3 PPG, 3.5 APG) and forward Aaron White (13 PPG, 6.7 RPG), but McCaffery has a deep and talented bench with nine players who get solid time in the rotation.
Awaiting the Hawkeyes will be a Tennessee bunch that is peaking at the right time. The Vols had won six straight down the stretch, with a 72-45 shellacking of Missouri highlighting the streak, before losing to Florida, 56-49, in the semifinals of the SEC tournament.
Tennessee features a powerful duo of forwards in Jarnell Stokes (14.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 52.7 FG%) and Jeronne Maymon (10.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 52.9 FG%), but the leading scorer is 6'6" senior guard Jordan McRae (18.6 PPG, 2.3 3PG, 43.2 FG%).
In the end, I think the Volunteers will keep riding their current momentum and outlast the Hawkeyes to advance to face UMass in the next round. Iowa has the roster to wear down any team in the tournament, but the defense has been too porous in recent weeks and Tennessee's has rounded into form.
This game figures to be a close one, but the Vols are the hotter team, and that goes a long way in this tournament setting.
Predicted Winner: Tennessee
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!