A look at the NCAA Tournament’s First Four teams
Wednesday, March 16
- 7:00 PM ET, #16 Incarnate Word vs. #16 Howard, ESPNU, Columbia, SC.
- 9:00 PM ET, #11 DePaul vs. #11 Dayton, ESPNU, Ames, IA
Thursday, March 17
- 7:00 PM ET, #16 Mount St. Mary’s vs. #16 Longwood, ESPN2, Raleigh, NC
- 9:00 PM ET, #11 Florida State vs. #11 Missouri State, ESPN2, Baton Rouge, LA
Last November, the NCAA’s Division I Council approved the expansion of the women’s DI tournament from 64 to 68 teams. The NCAA expanded the number of teams in the men’s tourney to 68 in 2011. Since then, at least one team in the men’s First Four Field has won a game in the first round for every year except 2019.
During the first two days of the tournament, eight teams, making up the First Four bracket, vie for inclusion in the round of 64 and a chance to play in the first round. The committee selects the eight teams after ranking the entire field from No. 1 to No. 68. The committee chooses the lowest four seeds from the at-large teams and the lowest four from automatic qualifiers.
Dayton, DePaul, Missouri State, and Florida State were the last four at-large selections and seed at No. 11 in their respective regions. Incarnate Word (Southland), Howard (MEAC), Mount St. Mary’s (NEC), and Longwood (Big South) are the lowest-ranked automatic qualifiers and seeded at No. 16 Longwood is making its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.
Winners of the First Four games will advance to first-round play on Friday, March 18, and Saturday, March 19.
Last Four At-Large
Dayton (25-5), Atlantic 10
Head coach: Shauna Green, 2022 A-10 Coach of the Year
The A-10 regular-season champions make their 10th NCAA appearance. Sophomore and A-10 Most Improved Player Makira Cook leads Dayton with 14.6 points per game. Graduate students Erin Whalen and Jenna Giacone added 13.3 and 12.4 points per game, respectively.
DePaul (22-10), Big East
Head coach: Doug Bruno
DePaul makes its 25th NCAA appearance under Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame coach Doug Bruno. All-American power forward Aneesah Morrow leads the Blue Demons averaging 21.7 points and 13.8 rebounds. Guard Sonya Morris adds nearly 17.9 points a game, and Deja Church contributes 14.2 points per game. Lexi Held puts in 12.8 points per game, and Darrione Rogers averages 10.1 points per contest.
Missouri State (24-7), MVC
Head coach: Amaka Agugua-Hamilton
Missouri State has made 17 NCAA Tournament appearances. Abi Jackson leads the team with 13.0 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. The Lady Bears lost the previous leading scorer and last season’s MVC Defensive Player of the Year, Jasmine Franklin, to a torn ACL in late December. Missouri State has faced its First Four opponent Florida State three times in program history, owning a 3-0 record.
Florida State (17-13), ACC
Head coach: Sue Semrau
FSU earned its ninth consecutive bid to the NCAA Tournament and 20th overall. The Seminoles are among eight ACC teams in the Big Dance. Senior guard Morgan, a two-time All-ACC First Teamer, leads FSU in points per game (14.1), rebounds (5.7), steals (1.1), blocks (1.03), field goals made (153), and free throws made (104).
Last Four Automatic Qualifiers
Incarnate Word (20-9), Southland
Head coach: Jeff Dow
The Cardinals clinched the Southland Conference Tournament for the first time in program history, earning an automatic bid. Grad student forward Tiana Gardner won the tournament MVP honor following a 22-point performance with 12 rebounds in the championship game. This is the first-ever NCAA tournament appearance for UIW. They will face Howard, and that contest’s winner advances to meet the No. 1 overall seed South Carolina. This will be the first meeting between the two teams.
Howard (20-9), MEAC
Head coach: Ty Grace
The Bison won a conference-record 11th Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) title to earn an auto-bid. Sophomore guard Destiny Howell scored a career-high 25 points in the conference tournament win. She averages 12.9 points per game. Sophomore forward Anzhane’ Hutton also averages double-digit scoring with 11.1 points per contest and 7.7 rebounds each outing. This will be Howard’s 11th NCAA appearance and first since 2001.
Mount St. Mary’s (16-12), NEC
Head coach: Antoine White
Mount St. Mary’s earned a second consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament by winning the Northeast Conference Tournament. This marks the fourth March Madness appearance for the program. The Mountaineers will meet Longwood in the First Four for the 12the meeting between the teams. Grad student guard/forward Kendall Bresee leads the team averaging 14.7 a contest. She also is the program lead in rebounds (7.4 RPG), assists (3.9), and blocks (26).
Longwood (21-11), Big South
Head coach: Rebecca Tillett
After a dominant win over Campbell in the Big South Tournament final, Longwood punched a ticket to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. After years of dismal records, third-year head coach Rebecca Tillet took the helm and orchestrated a stunning turnaround as the team was 3-27 during the 2018-19 season. All-Big South guard Kyla McMakin leads the Lancers with 18.1 points per game. Big South Conference Player of the Year Akila Smith ranks third in blocks in the nation.