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2021 NCAA Tournament Viewing Guide: The First Four

Typically, this round takes place over two nights and at the University of Dayton Arena. In 2021, it’s two venues over one night.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri Valley Conference Tournament-Drake vs Loyola
The Drake Bulldogs, the final at-large team in the field of 68, meets an old foe in the First Four tonight.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Chronological Schedule

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Tip Time (ET) Site Region Matchup Channel with March Madness Live Link
Tip Time (ET) Site Region Matchup Channel with March Madness Live Link
5:10 p.m. Assembly Hall East 16. Mount St. Mary's vs. 16. Texas Southern TruTV
6:27 p.m. Mackey West 11. Wichita State vs. 11. Drake TBS
8:40 p.m. Assembly Hall West 16. Appalachian State vs. 16. Norfolk State TruTV
9:57 p.m. Mackey East 11. UCLA vs. 11. Michigan State TBS

Note that both of tonight’s early games have windows that extend for three-and-a-half hours. This is a preview of the adjusted scheduling you’ll see over the next four days, thanks to CoVID and the limited number of localized venues.

Both 16-seed automatic bid games are at Indiana’s Assembly Hall, while the two at-large contests will take place at Purdue’s Mackey Arena. Tonight’s four winners advance to the East and West Region brackets, which play on Saturday and Monday. This is another change from recent seasons that’s due to, again, the unique circumstances of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

16. Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (12-10, 9-7 NEC Automatic) vs. 16. Texas Southern Tigers (16-8, 10-3 SWAC Automatic)

5:10 p.m. ET on TruTV (March Madness Live game link) at Assembly Hall (Brad Nessler, Steve Lavin, and Avery Johnson with Evan Washburn reporting)

While the Mountaineers last won an NCAA game in 2017 and the Tigers did so one season later, neither team has ever claimed a Tournament win outside of this round.

11. Wichita State Shockers (16-5, 11-2 American At-Large)
vs. 11. Drake Bulldogs (25-4, 15-3 MVC At-Large)

6:27 p.m. ET on TBS (March Madness Live game link) at Mackey Arena (Brian Anderson and Jim Jackson with Allie LaForce reporting)

In their last trip to the NCAAs, the Shockers, then coached by Gregg Marshall, fell in an 81-75 13-over-4 upset to, uh, Marshall. The 2016 Wichita State entrant won in this round and then claimed an 11-over-6 upset of Arizona before falling to Miami in the second round. As for the Bulldogs, their last NCAA appearance came in 2008 when they were part of one of the more remarkable days in March Madness history. Assigned to one of two 4/5 seed pods in Tampa, Drake lost a 101-99 overtime thriller to Western Kentucky. By the end of the day, the Bulldogs, UConn (to San Diego), Vanderbilt (to Siena), and Clemson (to Villanova)—the higher-seeded teams—had all fallen.

Adding to the spice level of this game, their history as Missouri Valley rivals ended when Wichita State departed for the American Athletic Conference after the 2016-17 season. The Shockers have won the last 11 meetings in the series, with Drake’s last win being a 93-86 triple-OT home triumph way back on January 28, 2011. Hopefully, this game will be just as good.

16. Appalachian State Mountaineers (17-11, 7-8 Sun Belt Automatic) vs. 16. Norfolk State Spartans (16-7, 8-4 MEAC Automatic)

8:40 p.m. ET on TruTV (March Madness Live game link) at Assembly Hall (Brad Nessler, Steve Lavin, and Avery Johnson with Evan Washburn reporting)

Like clockwork, the Mountaineers qualify for the field every 21 years. They’re still looking for a first win; however, having lost to LSU in a 3/6 second-round game in 1979 (back when there were byes) and to Ohio State in a 3/14 contest in 2000. On the other hand, the Spartans have a .500 all-time NCAA Tournament record thanks to a 15-over-2 upset win over Missouri, followed by a loss to seventh-seeded Florida in their lone previous appearance—in 2012.

11. UCLA Bruins (17-9, 13-6 Pac-12 At-Large) vs.
11. Michigan State Spartans (15-12, 9-11 Big Ten At-Large)

9:57 p.m. ET on TBS (March Madness Live game link) at Mackey Arena (Brian Anderson and Jim Jackson with Allie LaForce reporting)

Two of the more storied programs in college basketball history meet in the nightcap. In the Spartans’ current NCAA streak, which began in 1998, their visit has been limited to just one Tournament game five times (2002, 2004, 2006, 2011, and 2016). That 2011 loss came as a 10 seed to seventh-seeded ... UCLA. Speaking of the Bruins, this is their fiftieth (50th) appearance, though their first under Mick Cronin. However, this is UCLA’s second consecutive tournament that’s required an extra game. The Bruins fell to St. Bonaventure 65-58 in the 2018 First Four. That was the final game of Steve Alford’s tenure in Westwood.