As most college basketball fans know at this point, the NCAA Tournament was expanded to a field of 68 teams, opposed the usual 65. This new format includes three extra play-in games, making a total of four. The new format also causes, for the first time, play-in games to be truly relevant in the scheme of the entire tournament, as they are not all competing just for 16 seeds.
(16) UNC-Asheville (19-13) vs. (16) Arkansas-Little Rock (19-16)
Dayton, Ohio – 6:30 PM, March 15
At first glance anyone would question how two teams from mid majors with under 20 wins even got in the tournament, but both teams are excited to be dancing. The Bulldogs of UNC-Ashville come in to tonight’s match up having won only one tournament game back in 2003. On the other side, the Trojans of Arkansas-Little Rock haven’t appeared in the tournament in over twenty years. The Bulldogs come in to this game on a six game winning streak and are the favorite to win by far. The victor of this game would play the (1) Pittsburgh Panthers in Washington D.C. on Thursday.
(12) Clemson (21-11) vs. (12) UAB (22-8)
Dayton, Ohio – 9:00 PM, March 15
There was much debate over UAB’s selection in to the NCAA Tournament; Clemson on the other hand was a lock with a 21 win season from the ACC. The Tigers of Clemson come in to the tournament rebounding from a loss last Saturday to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament as do the Blazers of UAB, losing in the Conference USA tournament. Although Clemson is the favorite look for an upset in this game. Clemson tends to play poorly away from home (3-7), whereas the UAB is much better (9-5). Whoever comes out the victor in this game will play (5) West Virginia in Tampa Bay, Florida on Thursday.
(16) Texas-San Antonio (19-13) vs. (16) Alabama State (17-17)
Dayton, Ohio – 6:30 PM, March 16
It seems unfair to the teams left out that a .500 Alabama State team from the SWAC got in to a play-in game, but they are only one game away from getting in to Round 1 of the tournament. In Alabama State’s defense, the Hornets were devastated by injuries early in the season, starting 1-8, but since have turned things around, winning 11 of their last 12. The Roadrunners of Texas-San Antonio have also been a hot team as of late, winning five games including the Southland Conference Tournament. These teams are very closely matched, and have similar records home and away, however, look for the senior leadership of Alabama State to give them the edge in this one. The winner will advance to play the (1) Ohio State Buckeyes in the next round in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday.
(11) VCU (23-11) vs. (11) USC (19-14)
Dayton, Ohio – 9:00 PM, March 16
Most college basketball fans remember VCU as the school that knocked off Duke in the first round of the 2007 NCAA tournament. None of the players from that team are around for this one, but the VCU program has been here before. On the other side, USC is a team that has had its ups and downs all year, at one point defeating #20 Texas, but then losing to Bradley. In this matchup the Trojans have a clear size advantage down low. Rebounding and points in the paint will be key in this game, both favoring USC. The winning team will move on to play the (6) Georgetown Hoyas in Chicago, Illinois on Friday.