Dayton to host first four games

INDIANAPOLIS -- The University of Dayton will host all four first-round games of the newly expanded men's basketball tournament next March, the NCAA said Thursday.

Two games will match the tournament's lowest seeds, Nos. 65 through 68, with the winners advancing as No. 16 seeds to play a top seed. The other two games will match the last four of the 37 at-large qualifiers.

The 68-team field will be announced March 13, with first-round games taking place March 15-16.

The "First Four" format had been the last undecided question after the NCAA's much-debated decision to expand its marquee event. The NCAA announced in April that it would add three teams to the field, the first expansion since the tournament went from 64 teams to 65 in 2001.

Dayton, Ohio, has hosted the early "play-in" game every year since then.

Gene Smith, athletic director at Ohio State and the new chair of the Division I Men's Basketball Committee, cited the sizable crowds over the past decade in picking Dayton to host the inaugural First Four. The NCAA did not commit to holding the first four games in Dayton beyond 2011.

"We explored different options, including playing the first-round games at multiple sites as well as the possibility of playing all games on one day, but we came to the conclusion that Dayton is the best location to host all four games for the 2011 tournament," he said. "Moving forward, we will conduct a thorough evaluation, as we do with all rounds of the championship, with the student-athlete experience being our top priority."

According to the NCAA spokesperson David Worlock, the committee also took into consideration if Dayton were to be one of the last four at-large teams and determined it would be OK in that situation for the Flyers to be at home in the first round. The committee won't adjust the seed line to move Dayton out of the game if the Flyers fall to one of the last four teams. Dayton missed the NCAAs last season but won the NIT. Dayton is expected to be a possible NCAA team once again and could fall on the bubble and into the last four at-large spots with the increase from 34 to 37 at-large berths in 2011.

The NCAA decided against a larger expansion to 80 or even 96 teams. It settled on 68 and its new 14-year, $10.8 billion television package with CBS Sports and Turner Broadcasting not only ensures that every game will be televised but also gives the NCAA sole authority to expand again.

All four First Four games will be broadcast on Turner's truTV cable channel.

The at-large teams will be seeded where they would normally be placed in the bracket, meaning a first-round game between two No. 10 seeds would result in the winner advancing to play a No. 7 seed. There was concern that the winners will have an advantage in the second round, having already played and won, and committee members have acknowledged that some big-name teams could be ousted early.

Worlock said the NCAA's new deal with Turner and CBS allows for flexibility in scheduling, which means a decision on which of the four games -- the two 16-seed games and the two last at-large games -- will be played on Tuesday or Wednesday will be made on Selection Sunday. The committee and the television partners will then have to decide if they want to mix up the games or have the similar seeded teams play on the same night.

The decision to play Tuesday and Wednesday means the NCAA tournament will run from Tuesday through Sunday after Selection Sunday, giving the networks one day off -- Monday -- from college basketball.

Information from ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.