Every renewal of March Madness tips off in Dayton, Ohio. The city plays host to the First Four, where four automatic-qualifying teams and four at-large squads duke it out.
Before the First Four was implemented in 2011, one game was played in what was called “the opening round.” This is where the two lowest-ranked teams among the automatic bid leagues face off in a loser-leaves-town match to see who would make it into the first round of the Big Dance.
This was later canceled in favor of the First Four, because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t love the idea of more March Madness? While most First Four teams often face demise in the tournament’s first weekend, there have been a few teams that have gone on unforgettable Cinderella runs.
All in all though, it makes for good fun. So without further ado, here’s a complete history of every team to come out of the First Four and how they did in their perspective tournament.
2011 March Madness
First Four winners: UTSA, Clemson, UNS-Asheville, VCU
First Four losers: Alabama State, UAB, Arkansas-Little Rock, USC
The NCAA’s first installment of the First Four produced one of the greatest Cinderella stories of all-time. While UTSA, Clemson, and UNC-Asheville all lost in the first round, VCU managed to upset No. 6 Georgetown, and they didn’t stop there.
VCU went on to trounce No. 3 seed Purdue in the second round, squeak out a narrow victory over No. 10 seed Florida State in the Sweet 16, and even beat No. 1 overall seed Kansas in the Elite Eight.
Unfortunately, that’s where the story ends. VCU ended up losing in the Final Four to No. 8 seed Butler.
2012 March Madness
First Four winners: Western Kentucky, Vermont, BYU, South Florida
First Four losers: Mississippi Valley State, Lamar, Iona, California
Unfortunately for this group of First Four teams, no program repeated the success of VCU. While South Florida did pull off an upset in their first-round matchup against No. 5 seed Temple, they were the only one of the four to make it out of the first round.
They went on to lose their Second Round game to No. 13 seed Ohio, 62-56.
2013 March Madness
First Four winners: Saint Mary’s, North Carolina A&T, La Salle, James Madison
First Four losers: Middle Tennessee, Liberty, Boise State, Long Island
La Salle was the lone team to make it out of the first round in this year’s group of First Four winners, and they even managed to make it into the Sweet 16. After beating No. 5 seed Wisconsin in the first round, La Salle kept the good times rolling by squeaking out a two-point victory over No. 12 seed Ole Miss in the Round of 32.
However, they ran into an even hotter Cinderella story in the form of No. 9 seed Wichita State. The Shockers prevailed, 72-58, in their Sweet 16 matchup.
2014 March Madness
First Four winners: NC State, Albany, Tennessee, Cal Poly
First Four losers: Xavier, Mount St. Mary’s, Iowa, Texas Southern
The trend of one First Four team finding success in the first round continued. No. 11 seed Tennessee pulled off a First Round win over No. 6 seed UMass.
Tennessee then went on to beat No. 15 seed Mercer with ease, but lost a close one to No. 2 seed Michigan in the Sweet 16.
2015 March Madness
First Four winners: Ole Miss, Hampton, Dayton, Robert Morris
First Four losers: BYU, Manhattan, Boise State, North Florida
The hometown Dayton Flyers were the only First Four team to make some noise. They upset No. 6 seed Providence in the first round of the tournament. They would go on to lose to No. 3 seed Oklahoma in the Round of 32.
2016 March Madness
First Four winners: Wichita State, Florida Gulf Coast, Michigan, Holy Cross
First Four losers: Vanderbilt, Fairleigh Dickinson, Tulsa, Southern
Wichita State was the only one of the First Four winners to see any success this year, beating No. 6 seed Arizona in the First Round. They would then fall to No. 3 seed Miami in the Round of 32.
2017 March Madness
First Four winners: Mount St. Mary’s, Kansas State, UC Davis, USC
First Four losers: New Orleans, Wake Forest, North Carolina Central, Providence
USC made a bit of a run. They upset No. 6 seed SMU before bowing out at the hands of No. 3 seed Baylor.
2018 March Madness
First Four winners: Radford, St. Bonaventure, Texas Southern, Syracuse
First Four losers: LIU Brooklyn, UCLA, North Carolina Central, Arizona State
Syracuse was the only First Four team to make it out of the first round. The Orange strung together a bit of a run before falling to No. 2 seed Duke in the Sweet 16. They beat No. 6 seed TCU and No. 3 seed Michigan State before being topped by the Blue Devils.
2019 March Madness
First Four winners: Fairleigh Dickinson, Belmont, North Dakota State, Arizona State
First Four losers: Prairie View A&M, Temple, North Carolina Central, St. John’s
For the first time in NCAA Tournament history, no teams from the First Four made it past the round of 64.
2021 March Madness
First Four winners: Norfolk State, Drake, UCLA, Texas Southern
First Four losers: Appalachian State, Wichita State, Michigan State, Mount St. Mary’s
The UCLA Bruins decided to make up for lost time after the 2020 tournament was canceled due to COVID-19. They were the first, First Four team to make it to the Final Four since the year it began.
With wins over BYU, Abilene Christian, Alabama, and Michigan, the Bruins made it the Final Four before losing to Gonzaga.
Although Ohioans can’t yet legally gamble on sports, the good news is they will be able to very soon. With the approval of House Bill 29 in December 2021, the debut of sportsbooks in OH is anticipated to be no later than the beginning of 2023.