Introducing the First Four, the NCAA Tournament's Great Compromise

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Introducing the First Four, the NCAA Tournament's Great Compromise
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The new 68-team NCAA men's basketball tournament will begin with the final four at-large teams and the final four automatic qualifiers competing in the "First Four" round of the tournament, according to Selection Committee Chairman Dan Guerrero's announcement Monday.

Formerly known as the "play-in" or "opening-round" game, the "First Four" will begin on either the Tuesday or Wednesday following the tournament's selection announcement, with the winners playing their second-round games two days later.

"First Four" games will be televised on TruTV, the channel formerly known as CourtTV. Dayton, Ohio, which has hosted the opening-round game since its inception, is expected to be the host for this year's "First Four" games, but Guerrero said that other destinations may be considered in the future.

An interesting aspect to the compromise solution will the formal announcement of the previously speculative "Last Four In." The at-large teams that are placed in the First Four will be called out and placed on the seed lines that the committee felt they earned. This could lead to some teams competing for a No. 11 seed in one region or No. 12 in another.

The other two members of the First Four will be automatic qualifiers competing for No. 16 seeds, similar to the current opening-round game. These games will still match the lowest-ranked automatic qualifiers.

Guerrero said that the hybrid First Four format arose from the lack of consensus on how the tournament should handle its three extra teams.

NCAA spokesman Greg Shaheen added that major conference teams angry at being shunted into the First Four should think twice about complaining.

"Three of the four teams that would be in these games [the two First Four games involving at-large teams] wouldn't have been in the tournament in 2010," Shaheen said. "The fact is they weren't in the tournament before."

 

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