History will be made on Wednesday evening in the First Four matchup between Bryant and Wright State, as each program is looking for its first NCAA Tournament win.
Bryant (22-9), the champions of the Northeast Conference, will take on Wright State (21-13), champions of the Horizon League, in Dayton, Ohio on Wednesday night with a trip to San Diego on the line. The winner of this 16-vs.-16 matchup will get the opportunity to take on South Region No. 1 seed Arizona on the west coast in the first round on Friday.
This also marks the first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance for Bryant while Wright State is making its fourth. The Raiders are 0-3 in the Big Dance with their last appearance happening in 2018.
Bryant blitzed through the Northeast Conference this season, going 16-2 in the regular season (one of those wins was by forfeit) and posting three more victories in the tournament. The Bulldogs went 4-7 against non-conference opponents. This included a blowout (111-44) road loss to fellow Big Dance participant Houston back on Dec. 3.
Wright State stumbled out to a 2-7 start before turning things around. The Raiders went 15-7 in Horizon League play, finishing a half-game behind regular-season co-champions Cleveland State and Purdue Fort Wayne. In the conference tournament, Wright State defeated Cleveland State in the semifinals and then rallied from 16 points down to Northern Kentucky to win the championship and automatic bid on a jumper by Trey Calvin with 10.5 seconds remaining.
The Raiders faced two Tournament teams earlier this season, first losing at Purdue 96-52 on Nov. 16 and to eventual MAC champion Akron 66-48 at home on Dec. 15.
First Four: No. 16 Bryant Bulldogs (22-9) vs. No. 16 Wright State Raiders (21-13)
Time: Wednesday, March 16 at 6:40 p.m. ET
Where: UD Arena (Dayton, Ohio)
Spread: Wright State -3.5
Keys for Bryant
These teams have similar scoring averages, but the Bulldogs can keep things in a comfortable spot by playing their signature up-tempo style of play. Quick transitions and taking advantage of those opportunities should lead to some good runs. Bryant's leading scorer, Peter Kiss, will lead the effort to move the ball quickly and convert quick buckets. Kiss has averaged 25.1 points per game, and if Bryant comes out victorious, he will be a big reason why.
Keys for Wright State
With Bryant wanting to play an up-tempo style, it makes much more sense for Wright State to stick to what works for them and restrict how many possessions Bryant gets. Wright State will play a more efficient style of game, allowing possessions to develop, which should slow the game down at times. With any luck, that will knock Bryant off a rhythm enough for Tanner Holden and Grant Basile to provide a more stable approach to scoring.
In the month of March, you want to take advantage of every possession you possibly can because one or two bad trips down the floor could ultimately send you home. And that is why Wright State's efficiency comes in to be the difference-maker in this particular matchup. Wright State is far more efficient with its possessions than Bryant, and that will lead the Wildcats to their first NCAA Tournament victory in program history.