Albuquerque Journal

NCAA ‘First Four’ features familiar faces, different styles


DAYTON, Ohio — Texas A&M-Corpus Christi guard Trevian Tennyson got a taste of the pomp and star treatment at last year’s First Four and wanted more.

“We had meetings at the beginning of the year, and the only thing I told them was, my goal this year was to get back to March Madness,” said Tennyson, who led the Islanders with 15.7 points per game and hit 41% of his 3-pointers. “We’re here, so that’s really it.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (23-10) has won 12 of its last 13, including the Southland Conference tournament. This time in the First Four on Tuesday afternoon, they face the Redhawks of Southeast Missouri State, a team that had a losing record before winning the Ohio Valley Conference tournament for the first time in 23 years.

“It’s basketball Christmas. It really is,” Southeast Missouri State coach Brad Korn said. “Every time you turn the corner, you smile at something else. We had a guy playing bagpipes at the hotel today, so what else could you ask for?”

The winner moves on as the 16th seed to face top-seeded Alabama in the first round at Birmingham on Thursday.

MORE THAN ONE WAY: Mississipp­i State and Pitt should be an intriguing matchup because their strengths are so different.

Mississipp­i State (21-12) is the worst 3-point shooting team in college basketball. Expect the Bulldogs, just 8-10 in the SEC, to try to get to the rim and try to clamp down on Pitt with excellent perimeter defense.

The Panthers (22-11) can make the midrange and long jumpers but don’t play as well inside, and they aren’t as good defensivel­y.

“One of the things that’s difficult is that we can’t simulate their size and their strength and athleticis­m in what we’re doing in practice,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “So we really have to be totally dialed in to the little things that add up to the big things.”

MOVING ON: For bracketeer­s looking for a Cinderella to come out of Dayton, it could happen.

At least one First Four team has gone on to win another game in the tournament every year except 2019.

In 2011, No. 11 seed VCU got on a roll and went all the way to the Final Four.

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