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NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament - First Four

Jourdan Smith #11 of the Grambling State Tigers celebrates against the Montana State Bobcats during the First Four round of the 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament held at the University of Dayton Arena on March 20, 2024, in Dayton, Ohio. | Source: Ben Solomon / Getty

It’s a rarity, but it happened again on Wednesday night: Another HBCU men’s basketball team won a game in the annual NCAA Tournament.

This time, the Grambling State University Tigers completed an impressive second-half comeback with an overtime victory over the Montana State University Bobcats in a “First Four” contest in Dayton, Ohio.

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Jourdan Smith‘s emphatic put-bank dunk in overtime proved to be the dagger basket to seal the game as Grambling won 86-81. The Tigers advanced in the tournament’s Midwest Region for the right to play against the  #1 seed Purdue University in the Boilermakers’ home state of Indiana.

Wednesday night’s game initially looked like it might be getting away from the Tigers, who faced an early deficit before storming back and tying the game to force overtime.

It was an unlikely win for an unlikely team that began the season just 2-10 because of a challenging nonconference schedule (more commonly known as “payout games”).

But where does Grambling’s win over Montana State rank among the other HBCU teams’ NCAA victories?

Grambling v Montana State

Head coach Donte’ Jackson of the Grambling State Tigers reacts against the Montana State Bobcats during the second half in the First Four game of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at the University of Dayton Arena on March 20, 2024, in Dayton, Ohio. | Source: Michael Hickey / Getty

HBCU teams participate in the NCAA Tournament every year just out of the virtue that they belong to two athletic conferences — the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) — comprised of nothing but historically Black colleges and universities. But whether they win is another story, as they’re typically matched against one of the top four teams in the 68-team field.

But in recent years, with the advent of the “First Four” — an expansion from the previous 64-team field that includes 16-seed underdogs competing against one another (hence, SWAC’s own Grambling vs. Montana State) — has evened the playing field, if you will, allowing more opportunities for HBCUs to win a game.

In fact, the last seven NCAA Tournament games that HBCU teams have won have all come during the First Four, including Wednesday night.

Howard University fell short Tuesday night against Wagner College in the other set of First Four games, which made it uncertain whether an HBCU would be able to pull out a win this year. Amazingly, Grambling came through.

But where does Grambling’s win rank among the 15 games that HBCU basketball teams have won in the NCAA Tournament over the years? That’s a matter of opinion.

Let’s take a brief look back at the past to commemorate all of the landmark wins that Black college basketball teams have won in the NCAA Tournament, per

Neither HBCU teams in last year’s NCAA Tournament won a game, but the year before in 2022 was a different story.

That was when 16-seed Texas Southern University beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 76-67.

A year earlier in 2021, both HBCU teams in the NCAA Tournament won their first games.

The SWAC’s own Texas Southern, seeded 16 again, edged Mt. St. Mary’s University 60-52.

Meanwhile, the MEAC’s Norfolk State University beat Appalachian State University in a thriller, 54-53.

In 2018, HBCUs squared off each other in the First Four when Texas Southern routed North Carolina Central University, 64-46.

In 2015, Hampton University beat Manhattan College, 74-64.

In 2013, North Carolina A&T State University edged Liberty University, 72-72.

In 2012, Norfolk State was seeded 15 — typically the best seed HBCUs can get — and secured a 1-point victory over the 2-seeded University of Missouri with a historic win.

Before what would turn out to be an eight-year NCAA Tournament drought for HBCUs seeking wins, Florida A&M University beat Lehigh University in 2004, 72-57.

SLUG: SP/LEHIGH DATE: 3/16/2004 Neg#: Photog:Preston Keres/T

The ball and the game were out of reach for Austen Rowland and the Lehigh Mountain Hawks during their NCAA opening-round game against Florida A&M University on March 16, 2004. | Source: The Washington Post / Getty

In 2001, in what just may be the single greatest win by an HBCU team in the NCAA Tournament, Hampton University — seeded 15th and coming off a season in which they won 25 games — beat a 2-seed Iowa State University team led by future NBA star Jamaal Tinsley.

The Pirates won 58-57 on the back of senior forward Tarvis Williams, who led the nation averaging nearly five blocked shots per game. The win yielded an iconic photograph of then-Hampton coach Steve Merfeld kicking his legs while being lifted in the air by forward Cleveland Davis.

Hampton Coach Steve Merfeld, 2001 NCAA Tournament

Source: Robert Beck / Getty

In 1997, 15-seed Coppin State University beat 2-seed University of South Carolina, 78-65.


In 1993, 13-seed Southern University convincingly beat 4-seed Georgia Tech University, which boasted multiple future NBA players on its roster.

In 1984, Alcorn State University trounced Houston Baptist University, 79-60.

One year earlier, in 1983, Alcorn State also beat Xavier University, 81-75.

In 1980, Alcorn State, seeded eighth, beat South Alabama University, 70-62, to make the first-ever NCAA Tournament victory by an HBCU team.

Will Grambling be adding to this list when the Tigers play against Purdue and their star 7’4 center Zack Eady? They play Friday in Indianapolis.


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The post Grambling State Joins Growing List Of HBCU Basketball Teams To Win NCAA Tournament Game appeared first on NewsOne.

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