The Sports Report: Why do No. 11 seeds play in a First Four game?

UC Irvine guard Max Hazzard celebrates after making a 3--point basket against Cal State Fullerton du
UC Irvine guard Max Hazzard.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

Howdy everyone, my name is Houston Mitchell, proprietor of this here newsletter. Clayton Kershaw won’t start on opening day for the Dodgers. Is Sandy Koufax available?

March Madness, Day 2

I got a lot of emails after Monday’s newsletter asking me why two of the play-in games in the NCAA men’s tournament are for No. 11 seeds. Shouldn’t they all be for No. 16 seeds? Here’s the explanation:

It is based on how the tournament selection committee fills out the bracket. The first two things the committee does is select the 36 at-large teams (the other 32 teams receive automatic bids), then seed every team from 1 to 68.


Once the 68 teams are all seeded, seeds 65 through 68 get placed in the First Four. Seeds 65 through 68 are the lowest-seeded automatic-bid teams — ones that get in thanks to winning a conference tournament.

The selection committee then takes the four lowest-seeded teams from the teams receiving an at-large bid. An at-large bid team is one that didn’t get an automatic berth but is in because of how they played during the season. Those teams happen to be seeded 11th, because they are considered better than some of the teams that got automatic bids, and the tournament committee wanted to give a bit of a penalty to the lowest-seeded teams from both groups (at large and automatic berth).

It’s a fancy way of saying that the four lowest-seeded automatic-bid teams and the four lowest-seeded at-large teams play in the First Four.



If you are stuck on how to fill out your bracket, you can always copy Bill Plaschke. He goes through the tournament, tells you what upsets to look for and who to pick for the Final Four. He also tells you who will win. Spoiler alert: It’s not Duke. You can check it out here.


UC Irvine is one of only two California teams in the tournament, which is pretty incredible. They are the only team from the Southland in the tournament. Also pretty incredible.

“It did occur to me a few weeks ago that we might be the best team in the state,” said coach Russell Turner. “Not wanting to brag about it, but maybe we should make a big belt that I can wear around until someone can take it from us.”


A look at the First Four and the first-round TV schedule:

Today -- First Four, Dayton, Ohio

No. 16 Prairie View A&M vs. No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson, 3:40 p.m. -- truTV


No. 11 Temple vs. No. 11 Belmont, 6:10 p.m. -- truTV

Wednesday -- First Four, Dayton, Ohio

No. 16 North Carolina Central vs. No. 16 North Dakota State, 3:40 p.m. -- truTV

No. 11 St. John’s vs. No. 11 Arizona State, 6:10 p.m. -- truTV

Thursday -- First Round

No. 10 Minnesota vs. No. 7 Louisville (Des Moines), 9:15 a.m. -- CBS

No. 14 Yale vs. No. 3 LSU (Jacksonville, Fla.), 9:40 a.m. -- truTV

No. 12 New Mexico State vs. No. 5 Auburn (Salt Lake City), 10:30 a.m. -- TNT


No. 13 Vermont vs. No. 4 Florida State (Hartford, Conn.), 11 a.m. -- TBS

No. 15 Bradley vs. No. 2 Michigan State (Des Moines), 11:45 a.m. -- CBS

No. 11 Temple/Belmont vs. No. 6 Maryland (Jacksonville), 12:10 p.m. -- truTV

No. 13 Northeastern vs. No. 4 Kansas (Salt Lake City), 1 p.m. -- TNT

No. 12 Murray State vs. No. 5 Marquette (Hartford), 1:30 p.m. -- TBS

No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Nevada (Des Moines), 3:50 p.m. -- TNT

No. 15 Abilene Christian vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jacksonville), 4:10 p.m. -- CBS

No. 11 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 6 Villanova (Hartford), 4:20 p.m. -- TBS

No. 16 Prairie View A&M/Fairleigh Dickinson vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (Salt Lake City), 4:27 p.m. -- truTV

No. 15 Montana vs. No. 2 Michigan (Des Moines), 6:20 p.m. -- TNT

No. 10 Seton Hall vs. No. 7 Wofford (Jacksonville), 6:40 p.m. -- CBS

No. 14 Old Dominion vs. No. 3 Purdue (Hartford), 6:50 p.m. -- TBS

No. 9 Baylor vs. No. 8 Syracuse (Salt Lake City), 6:57 p.m. -- truTV

Friday -- First Round

No. 10 Iowa vs. No. 7 Cincinnati (Columbus, Ohio), 9:15 a.m. -- CBS

No. 9 Oklahoma vs. No. 8 Ole Miss (Columbia, S.C.), 9:40 a.m. -- truTV

No. 14 Northern Kentucky vs. No. 3 Texas Tech (Tulsa, Okla.) 10:30 a.m. -- TNT

No. 13 UC Irvine vs. No. 4 Kansas State (San Jose), 11 a.m. -- TBS

No. 15 Colgate vs. No. 2 Tennessee (Columbus), 11:45 a.m. -- CBS

No. 16 Gardner-Webb vs. No. 1 Virginia (Columbia), 12:10 p.m. -- truTV

No. 11 St. John’s/Arizona State vs. No. 6 Buffalo (Tulsa), 1 p.m. -- TNT

No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 5 Wisconsin (San Jose), 1:30 p.m. ET -- TBS

No. 9 Washington vs. No. 8 Utah State (Columbus), 3:50 p.m. -- TNT

No. 16 North Carolina Central/North Dakota State vs. No. 1 Duke (Columbia), 4:10 p.m. -- CBS

No. 14 Georgia State vs. No. 3 Houston (Tulsa), 4:20 p.m. -- TBS

No. 12 Liberty vs. No. 5 Mississippi State (San Jose), 4:27 p.m. -- truTV

No. 16 Iona vs. No. 1 North Carolina (Columbus), 6:20 p.m. -- TNT

No. 9 UCF vs. No. 8 VCU (Columbia), 6:40 p.m. -- CBS

No. 11 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Iowa State (Tulsa), 6:50 p.m. -- TBS

No. 13 Saint Louis vs. No. 4 Virginia Tech (San Jose), 6:57 p.m. -- truTV


There’s also a women’s tournament too. ESPN got into some hot water Monday when they released the bracket too early, spoiling not only their bracket announcement show but also several watch parties at universities. When the dust settled, UCLA was seeded sixth and will face 11th-seeded Tennessee in the first round Saturday at 10 a.m. PT in College Park, Md. The game will be shown on ESPN 2.

You can see the entire women’s bracket by clicking here.


To the surprise of virtually no one, Clayton Kershaw will not start on opening day for the Dodgers.

“When he’s ready to pitch for us is when he’ll pitch for us,” was the ominous-sounding quote from manager Dave Roberts.

Ross Stripling will be added to the rotation to replace Kershaw. The last time the Dodgers took the field on opening day without Kershaw was 2010. That’s also the last time the Dodgers finished under .500.

You can read more about this and other Dodgers news in our Dodgers newsletter. Sign up for it here.


Lou Williams hit a contested 28-foot three-pointer on Sunday to lift the Clippers over the Brooklyn Nets, 119-116. But that really shouldn’t come as a shock.

Williams is tied with Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard, Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Minnesota’s Derrick Rose for the most field goals made in the final minute of regulation or overtime in go-ahead situations (five). Williams also is second in fourth-quarter scoring (7.9 points per game), trailing only LeBron James and James Harden (8.4).

Broderick Turner takes a closer look at Williams and what he has meant to the team. Click here to read it.

Odds and Ends

Lakers need to play it smart and bench LeBron James for remainder of season…. Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma knows his reputation and is working to change it…. Angels reward reliever Luke Bard, and his brother Daniel is pleased…. MMA rankings: Junior Dos Santos moves up in the heavyweight division…. Maple Leafs’ struggles a cause for concern in Toronto…. Rams to sign former Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles to one-year deal

Today’s local major sports schedule (all times Pacific)

Lakers at Milwaukee, 5 p.m., Spectrum Sportsnet, 710 ESPN

Indiana vs. Clippers, 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

Dodgers vs. Cleveland, 7 p.m., Sportsnet LA

Angels vs. Colorado, 6 p.m., FSW, KLAA 830

Born on this date

1914: College football player Jay Berwanger (first Heisman Trophy winner)

1927: Baseball player Richie Ashburn

And finally

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me here. If you want to subscribe, click here.

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