The University at Buffalo men’s basketball team opens the NCAA Tournament at approximately 4 p.m. Friday in Tulsa, Okla., but the sixth-seed Bulls will find out their opponent Wednesday night.
The Bulls (31-3) will face either St. John’s or Arizona State. The Red Storm and the Sun Devils play in a First Four game at 9:10 p.m. Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio (Tru TV). The winner will earn the No. 11 seed and will face the Bulls at BOK Center on Friday in Tulsa, Okla.
Here’s five things to know about the First Four matchup Wednesday in Dayton:
1. UB is familiar with Arizona State’s coach – former Bulls coach Bobby Hurley. Hurley coached UB in 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, and led the Bulls to their first Mid-American Conference tournament championship in men’s basketball and their first NCAA Tournament berth in 2015. Hurley was 42–20 and 25–11 in the MAC at UB.
Hurley brought current UB coach Nate Oats to Buffalo as an assistant in 2013. Hurley left UB to become the coach at Arizona State in April 2015. Oats was promoted to UB’s head coach less than a week after Hurley’s departure.
Hurley is also familiar with the NCAA Tournament, as a player and as a coach. Hurley was a point guard at Duke from 1989 to 1993, and helped the Blue Devils win national titles in 1991 and 1992.
2. UB is familiar with St. John’s coach Chris Mullin. Mullin is in his fourth season as coach of the Red Storm, where he played college basketball from 1981 to 1985, and led St. John’s to the 1985 Final Four.
Mullin was a guard/forward who played for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and the Indiana Pacers from 1985 to 2001, and is a College Basketball Hall of Fame and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee. The Warriors retired his jersey in 2012.
“Lefty,” UB forward Nick Perkins said of Mullin. “One of the best shooters of all time, one of the best 3-point shooters of all time. I know he’s a really good basketball player, I do know that.”
3. How Arizona State got to the NCAA Tournament. The Sun Devils are one of three Pac-12 teams in the field, along with Oregon and Washington. Arizona State (22-10) lost to Oregon, 79-75, on Friday in the Pac-12 semifinals, and entered Sunday on the tournament bubble.
The Sun Devils play in the First Four for the second time in as many NCAA Tournaments. Syracuse beat Arizona State, 60-56, in the 2018 First Four in Dayton.
4. How St. John’s got to the NCAA Tournament. St. John’s (21-12) earned a tournament berth despite losing five of its last eight games, including an 86-54 loss to Marquette in the Big East quarterfinals. St. John’s however, had two regular-season wins against Marquette.
Bernard Muir, the NCAA selection committee chair, said Sunday on the CBS selection show that St. John’s was the last team the committee added to the 68-team tournament.
5. What is the First Four? The First Four is a series of four play-in games for the NCAA Tournament. The winner of each game enters the 64-team field.
The First Four began in the 2011 tournament, 11 years after the NCAA expanded the men’s tournament field to 65 teams. The NCAA added a play-in game in 2001, and expanded to four play-in games in Dayton, Ohio, starting with the 2011 tournament – hence “the First Four.”
This year’s First Four games are: Prairie View-Fairleigh Dickinson and Temple-Belmont on Tuesday, and St. John’s-Arizona State and North Carolina Central-North Dakota on Wednesday.
St. Bonaventure beat UCLA in last year's First Four.