Seven things to know about this year’s First Four field

Syracuse playing at UD Arena in NCAA tournament for second time

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Credit: David Jablonski - Staff Writer

Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley won Selection Sunday when video surfaced of his reaction to seeing his older brother Bobby, the head coach at Arizona State, make the NCAA tournament field.

Dan screamed with joy, pumped his fist and then bent over and put his head in his hands. He cried tears of joy as his players patted him on the back.

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Earlier in the day, Rhode Island lost 58-57 to Davidson in the Atlantic 10 championship. Dan thought Davidson, which had no chance of making the tournament as an at-large team, might have stolen a bid from Arizona State, a team on the bubble.

“Once our game was done and I was done hurting for our seniors and for our program and for everyone that supports us,” Dan told the Providence Journal, “the next thing that was on my mind on that bus to the hotel was my brother’s fate.”

The NCAA later revealed Davidson’s victory knocked Notre Dame out of the tournament, not Arizona State, though Dan didn’t know that at the time.

Bobby Hurley, the Duke legend who’s in his third year at Arizona State, will take the memory of seeing his brother’s reaction to Dayton this week. His team (20-11) earned a No. 11 seed and will play another No. 11 seed, Syracuse (20-13), in the First Four at 9:10 p.m. Wednesday at UD Arena.

“I was moved by the video and seeing how he reacted,” Bobby told reporters in Arizona on Sunday. “He’s such a good brother. We have such a strong relationship. You have no idea how much more pressure he put on himself this morning. I felt terrible he was thinking about that. I said just, ‘Go out and have fun and win a championship.’”

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Arizona State’s connection to Rhode Island, a program that knows UD Arena well, is one storyline to know heading into the First Four. Here are six more:

1. Slighted Bonnies: St. Bonaventure fans were about as excited to see their team earn a spot in the First Four as Dayton fans were in 2015. While the Bonnies were happy to make the field, they thought they deserved a better seed.

St. Bonaventure (25-7) will play UCLA (21-11) at 9:10 p.m. Tuesday at UD Arena. St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt kept the focus on the positive Sunday. His team was on the wrong side of the bubble two years ago and will play in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012.

“This is a lifelong dream of every player that laces them up when they’re 6 years old,” Schmidt said. “What happened two years ago is now history, water under the bridge. I’m just proud of our guys and happy they’re going to get the opportunity to play in the big dance.”

2. Orange return: Syracuse, a team that played the Dayton Flyers in the NCAA tournament in 2014 and 2016, will make its 39th tournament appearance. It played in the NCAA tournament at UD Arena in 2001 and lost 87-58 to Kansas in the second round.

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The Orange were on the bubble Sunday just like Arizona State and exploded in excitement when their name appeared on the selection show.

“I think the locker room was the most excited I’ve seen our players in all the years we’ve been in there,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Most years you think you’re in and you are in. This year, you’re on the edge.”

3. UCLA history: The Bruins have a history with the Dayton Flyers, though this will be the first time UCLA has played at UD Arena. The teams met in the 1967 NCAA championship game. UCLA won 79-64 in Louisville, Ky. UCLA also beat Dayton in the 1974 NCAA tournament in Tuscon, Ariz., 111-100 in triple overtime.

4. Familiar coach: No. 16 seed Long Island-Brooklyn (18-16) plays No. 16 Radford (22-12) at 6:40 p.m. Tuesday. Brooklyn's head coach is Derek Kellogg, who spent the previous nine seasons at Massachusetts. He was 0-4 at UD Arena with the Minutemen.

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5. Dramatic victory: Radford advanced to the tournament with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Carlik Jones, a graduate of Aiken High School in Cincinnati, in the Big South tournament championship game March 4. Radford beat Liberty 55-52 to earn its first NCAA berth since 2009.

One of Radford’s assistant coaches is Ron Jirsa, who spent four years at Dayton on Oliver Purnell’s staff. Dayton made two NCAA tournaments during his time with UD.

6. Amazing turnaround: No. 16 seed Texas Southern (15-19) plays No. 16 North Carolina Central (19-15) at 6:40 p.m. Wednesday. Texas Southern started the season 0-13. It won its last four regular-season games and then three more in the Southwest Athletic Conference tournament.

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