The last two sets of First Four games were played on Wednesday night, with No. 16 Texas Southern and No. 11 Syracuse advancing into the first round of the NCAA Tournament thanks to wins in Dayton, Ohio.
Syracuse 60, Arizona State 56, Final
The second game of the night was close throughout, and it was a thrilling end of a second half. With less than a minute left, it was 55-54 Cuse.
Paschal Chukwu was then sent to the line on the next possession, and he made both free throws. Arizona State’s Mickey Mitchell drove in for a layup to put his team within one. Chukwu was then sent back to the line, and he made only one. Arizona State tried for a three that would’ve won it, but it was no good. Forced to foul, Syracuse was sent to the line with 0.4 left, sealing it for the Orange.
Syracuse’s Tyus Battle had 15 points on the night, including this clutch three-pointer inside two minutes.
Syracuse had to battle back a bit late — the Sun Devils took a seven-point lead on a Kodi Justice three-pointer with just over seven minutes left, Arizona State’s largest lead of the night.
Justice finished with 15 points, the team leader on the night. The Orange’s Oshae Brissett, led Syracuse’s scoring effort with 23 on the night.
Now, Syracuse advances to Detroit to meet TCU in the Midwest bracket on Friday night.
We had ourselves a bit of a low-scoring affair in the first half, as the Orange led the Sun Devils by just one point at halftime. These were the shooting statistics with about two minutes left in the half:
Both of these teams were considered majorly on the bubble before Selection Sunday, so it’s not too surprising the committee placed them as No. 11 seeds in the First Four. Arizona State finished 20-11 with numerous late-season losses, including losing five out of the last six games. The Sun Devils do have signature wins against Kansas and Xavier, but finishing 8-11 in what’s considered a down year for the PAC-12 didn’t do them any favors.
Syracuse was named by committee chair Bruce Rasmussen as the final team in the field, with a 20-13 overall record.
Texas Southern 64, NC Central 46, Final
At halftime, the Tigers led the Eagles by a score of 10, and they didn’t let up in the second half. The game was close early in the first half, but Texas Southern took control towards the end. Tigers guard Trae Jefferson led the way for the Tigers early with 17 points in the second half. He was all over the court early, too:
Texas Southern’s win marks the first NCAA tournament win in program history. Jefferson was the star of the night — he even scored his 1,000th point in the first half, too! NC Central’s Raashan Davis led the Eagles with 19 on the night.
In the second half, NC Central couldn’t catch a break on defense, with the Tigers scoring another 28, while holding the Eagles to just 20. Jefferson kept going off.
Jefferson finished with 25 on the night. The Tigers now will advance to face No. 1 Xavier in Nashville.
These games are essentially play-in games to get into the real tournament. The two No. 16 seeds and two No. 11 teams face off on both nights with a chance to move onto the big dance, for real.
This year’s games are played at UD Arena in Dayton. The regions the winning teams will advance into after Wednesday night will be the West and the Midwest.
On Tuesday night, No. 16 Radford beat, No. 16 LIU Brooklyn 61, and will play East Region No. 1 seed Villanova in the round of 64 on Thursday in Pittsburgh. No. 11 St. Bonaventure beat , UCLA, and the Bonnies will play No. 6 Florida on Thursday in Dallas. We’ll see which lucky teams will advance to the big dance after Wednesday night.