NCAA First Four puzzles ‘home’ team

By: Daniel Massa – Staff Writer

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Selection Show placed eight teams in Dayton.

On Wednesday, at approximately 9:10 p.m., the Dayton Flyers will tip off on their home floor in the second night of the NCAA First Four against Boise State University for the chance to advance to the Round of 64 to play 6-seed Providence up Interstate 70 in Columbus, Ohio Friday.

Tuesday, 16 seeds Manhattan College and Hampton University face off for a shot at No. 1 overall seed University of Kentucky, while Brigham Young University and the University of Mississippi played for the right to be the 11-seed to play 6-seed Xavier University.

The First Four, installed in 2011 when the field was expanded from 64 to 68 teams, are the first four games of the tournament featuring two matchups of four 16 seeds in addition to two games between the last four at-large teams selected.  The games are held on the Tuesday and Wednesday nights before the rest of the tournament kicks off Thursday, and each night has a 16-seed matchup and a last four at-large matchup.

Dayton and Boise State were given 11-seeds, with the selection committee reporting Dayton was the last at-large team selected.

The Flyers finished the season 25-8 overall and second in both the Atlantic 10 conference regular season (13-5) and tournament.  In addition to a signature road win against conference foe Virginia Commonwealth University on the last day of February, Dayton was ranked 29th in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) at the end of the season.  RPI is widely considered one of the most important quantifiers the selection committee looks at when seeding teams.

An RPI of 29 would coincide with an eight seed, the “best” eight-seed, in fact. Quite obviously, though, the committee looks at much more than RPI when seeding teams, including geographic location and strength of schedule.

For some perspective, the other three First Four teams—BYU, Boise State and Ole Miss—were ranked 36th, 41st and 55th, respectively in the RPI.

Meanwhile, power conference teams such as UCLA and Indiana University were slotted safely into the field as an 11 and 10-seed, respectively, while the Bruins are 48th in the RPI and the Hoosiers finished at 60th.

In Wednesday’s matchup, the University of North Florida meets Robert Morris at 6:40 p.m. The winner of the 16-seed matchup will go on to face No. 1 seed Duke University in Charlotte Friday.

The Ospreys of North Florida will be playing in their first ever NCAA Tournament; they finished the season 23-11 and secured an automatic bid by winning the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament. The Colonials of Robert Morris (19-14), winners of the Northeastern Conference tournament, are making their first NCAA trip since 2010, where they took two-seed Villanova to overtime in the first round as a 15-seed, losing 73-70.

Moving on to the main event, the Flyers will play the Boise State Broncos out of the Mountain West Conference. BSU finished its season with an identical 25-8 overall record, posting a 14-4 conference record and losing in the conference tournament semifinals to eventual champion Wyoming.

Boise State does have some size, as Nick Duncan (6-8, 245 lbs.) and James Webb III (6-9, 202 lbs.) have each started the majority of games this season and are first and third on the team in minutes played, respectively.

However, the Broncos do most of their damage from the 3-point line. They are 15th in the country from beyond the arc, sinking 39.4 percent of their three-point tries as a team. In fact, both of their big guys have attempted over 100 threes in the season, with Duncan converting 39 percent of his three-pointers and Webb III second on the team with a 42 percent clip.

The game will be broadcast on truTV and is slated to tip off at 9:10 p.m.