UCLA Is 5th Play-in Team To Make Sweet 16 Over Past 10 NCAA Tournaments

Brett Wilhelm/NCAA Photos via Getty Images. Pictured: Johnny Juzang #3

One of the First Four teams always gets hot.

This year, that’s UCLA.

Every year since 2011 — when the NCAA Tournament expanded to include four play-in games — a First Four team has advanced to at least the Round of 32. And before the Bruins, at least four play-in teams had advanced to the Sweet 16, with the 11-seeded VCU Rams rolling all the way from the First Four to the Final Four in 2011.

Let’s take a closer look at the First Four teams that have made deep March Madness runs before UCLA.

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2011: No. 11 VCU

Advanced to: Final Four

VCU solidified the massive appeal of the First Four.

Coached by Shaka Smart, the Rams defeated USC, 59-46, in that opening matchup before going on a historic run. VCU then defeated No. 6 Georgetown by 20 points, No. 3 Purdue by 18, No. 10 Florida State in overtime, and No. 1 Kansas by 10 to reach its first Final Four.

2013: No. 13 La Salle

Advanced to: Sweet 16

John Giannini’s Explorers earned a 80-71 win over Boise State after being eliminated in their first game of the Atlantic 10 tournament by Butler. They followed that up with a 63-61 upset of No. 4 Kansas State and another two-point win over No. 12 Mississippi. La Salle finally succumbed to No. 8 Wichita State, 72-58, as the Shockers made a run to the Final Four.

Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: Tyrone Garland #21, Ramon Galloway #55 and Tyreek Duren #3 of the 2013 La Salle team

2014: No. 11 Tennessee

Advanced to: Sweet 16

The Volunteers knocked off 78-65 in a great opening-round overtime game, before blitzing No. 6 UMass 86-67. Tennessee continued its First Four magic by defeating 14-seeded Mercer to reach the Sweet 16, where Cuonzo Martin’s team fell to Michigan.

2018: No. 11 Syracuse

Advanced to: Sweet 16

The First Four is tailor-made for a team like Syracuse with a great coach in Jim Boeheim. The Orange survived a close game with Arizona State before upsetting 6-seed TCU. Syracuse then shocked 3-seed Michigan State before putting forth a valiant effort in a 69-65 loss to 2-seeded Duke.

In 2019?  The magical streak ended, with no First Four team advancing past the Round of 64. The closest possibility was 11-seeded Belmont, which narrowly lost, 79-77, to Maryland after defeating Temple, 81-70.

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