Arizona State is in the First Four for the second consecutive season, but this time around, coach Bobby Hurley is bringing a much different team to Dayton, Ohio.
Last year's team relied heavily on the 3-point shot and didn't have enough easy offense to get past Syracuse in the First Four, losing 60-56. The Sun Devils are bigger and more balanced, and will try to advance Wednesday night with a game against St. John's, which was announced as the last at-large team into the field after starting the season 12-0.
The winner of the game between the Sun Devils (22-10) and Red Storm (21-12) will be the 11th seed in the West, taking on sixth-seeded Buffalo on Friday in Tulsa, Okla.
Catch the game tonight beginning at 9:10 p.m. ET / 6:10 p.m. PT on TSN1 and streaming on TSN.ca.
"The whole look of our team is completely different from last year ... and to get the chemistry and develop that, it's very gratifying to see how far we have taken the season," Hurley said on the Pac-12 Network.
St. John's is making its first NCAA appearance under Chris Mullin, the school legend who is in his fourth season as head coach, making steady improvement. St. John's last made the NCAA Tournament in 2015 and hasn't won a game in the tourney since 2000.
"It's a good step forward," Mullin said Sunday night.
"Historically, traditionally, this is where St. John's has always been. To get back to this point, I'm happy for my players first and foremost. ... Every year, we've gotten progressively better."
Arizona State was up and down this season but nonconference victories over Kansas, Mississippi State and Utah State -- combined with a second-place finish in the Pac-12 regular season -- helped the Sun Devils get into the NCAA field. They lost in overtime to red-hot Oregon in the conference tournament semifinals.
"We played a lot of big games this year against great competition," Hurley said.
"I thought we played at a really high level against Oregon, and Oregon is playing great basketball right now. I like the way our team played the last month. I always felt this team had a chance to get better as the year went along because we have so many young guys."
Physically-imposing freshman Luguentz Dort averages a team-high 16.4 points per game. Sophomore point guard Remy Martin is fast and fearless, averaging 13.4 points and 5.1 assists. San Diego State transfer Zylan Cheatham, a redshirt senior in his first season of eligibility at ASU, has some Dennis Rodman-like tendencies, averaging 11.8 points and 10.4 rebounds.
Cleveland State transfer Rob Edwards, another newcomer, is the team's primary 3-point threat.
St. John's has lost four of its past five games but all five starters average double-digit points. And any team that has guard Shamorie Ponds can't be counted out.
Ponds is averaging 19.5 points and 5.2 assists per game. He had a streak this season of nine consecutive Big East games with at least 20 points. He scored more than 25 points in 10 of his 32 games.
Guard Mustapha Heron averages 14.9 points and wing LJ Figueroa is at 14.3, but the Red Storm (minus-6.2 rebounding margin) will have to work to keep Cheatham and Arizona State (plus-4.8 margin) off the glass.
"This brings new life to everybody," Mullin said about the NCAA Tournament. "Everybody starts with a clean slate."
Arizona State, albeit as a First Four team, is making back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time since 1981.
"It's a privilege to play in the NCAA Tournament," Hurley said. "Our guys are really juiced to play on Wednesday."
NC Central aims to set up all-Durham battle with Duke
North Carolina Central knows this part of the NCAA Tournament quite well.
The Eagles are entered in the First Four in Dayton, Ohio, for the third year in a row. The opponent is North Dakota State for Wednesday night's game at University of Dayton Arena.
The Bison are accustomed to playing in the NCAA Tournament, so that part of it makes it intriguing when the teams meet for the right to take on No. 1 overall seed Duke.
Both NC Central and North Dakota State emerged from their conference tournaments as the fourth seeds, and have been in scramble mode to try to extend their seasons since the outset of March.
Catch coverage of the game tonight beginning at 6:40 p.m. ET / 9:40 p.m. PT on TSN1 and streaming on TSN.ca.
"We've come a long way," North Dakota State coach Dave Richman said. "We've stayed the course through the good and the bad."
NC Central (18-15) was a surprise winner of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament, knocking off top-seeded Norfolk State in Sunday's title game in Norfolk, Va.
The Eagles have shown a certain resolve in recent conference tournaments and hope to carry that into the NCAA Tournament.
"If you want something in life, you must fight for it," NC Central coach LeVelle Moton said. "It's nothing I can draw on the board."
The Eagles became the first MEAC team to win three championships in a row since the 1980s. They've shown the ability to rise to the occasion in March.
"This is what we do it for," Moton said of the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.
North Dakota State (18-15) won the Summit League tournament, defeating Omaha in the final, after heavily favored South Dakota State lost to No. 8 seed Western Illinois.
North Dakota State knows the NCAA Tournament routine well with its fourth appearance in 11 years. This is the third time in a six-season stretch for the Bison.
At this stage of the season, it's when special moments occur and the Bison would like some more.
"To help these young men to realize their dreams," Richman said. "That's what March is all about, a couple of possessions here and there. ... A bunch of guys stick together. We start 2-7 and it tests you in a low of ways."
The Bison are the last Summit League team to record an NCAA Tournament victory, upsetting Oklahoma in 2014.
North Dakota State is the first team from the Summit League to be sent to a First Four game, though Oakland played in this round in Dayton in 2005 when the league was known as the Mid-Continent Conference.
North Dakota State junior guard Vinnie Shahid was the tournament Most Valuable Player. He's a junior college transfer from Western Nebraska Community College.
"When Vinnie Shahid walked on campus, things changed," Richman said of the players attitude and enthusiasm.
NC Central has a major post presence with redshirt senior center Raasean Davis, who was the Most Outstanding Player of the MEAC tournament.
NC Central and North Dakota State have crossed paths before. That was in November 2007 when NC Central was making a transition to Division I. North Dakoka State won that game 104-51 in Fargo, N.D.
Wednesday's winner goes on to meet Zion Williamson and the mighty Blue Devils in the first round Friday night in Columbia, S.C. If it's NC Central, it will be an all-Durham N.C., matchup as both teams reside in that city.