NCAA Game Analysis: First Four – Wednesday Night

Posted by Walker Carey on March 19th, 2014

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The First Round/Opening Round/Play-In Games/Mild Annoyance of the NCAA Tournament continues tonight, getting under way at 6:40 PM tonight on truTV (go ahead, try to remember where that channel is again). From 68 to 16 in the next six days… let’s analyze the next two games this evening.

#16 Cal Poly vs. #16 Texas Southern — Midwest Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 6:40 pm ET on truTV.

Losing Record, No Problem: Cal Poly is Dancing

Losing Record, No Problem: Cal Poly is Dancing

Battling for the right to face one-seed Wichita State in St. Louis on Friday are Big West Tournament champion, Cal Poly, and SWAC Tournament champion, Texas Southern. Cal Poly enters Wednesday evening’s action with an uninspiring 13-19 record, but it should be noted that five of those 19 setbacks came on the road against fellow NCAA Tournament teams (at Arizona, at Oregon, at Pittsburgh, at Stanford, and at Delaware). The team caught fire in the Big West Tournament and won three games in three days to punch its ticket to the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament. The Mustangs are led by senior forward Chris Eversley, who averages a team-best 13.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game. While the Mustangs are 327th in the country in scoring average, their defense is fairly stout, as the opposition only averages 63.4 points per contest – good for 36th nationally. Texas Southern is nearly the polar opposite of Cal Poly, as it has scored well all season but has failed to defend with any regularity. The well-traveled Aaric Murray (formerly of La Salle and West Virginia) leads the way for the similarly well-traveled Mike Davis (formerly of Indiana and UAB) and the Tigers. Murray averages 21.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game and will create a significant match-up problem for the Mustangs on the interior. Look for Murray to lead the way for Texas Southern, as it will advance to battle #1 seed Wichita State on Friday.

The RTC Certified Pick: Texas Southern

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Rushed Reactions: #12 NC State 74, #12 Xavier 59

Posted by Steve Smith on March 18th, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion@RTCMWregion@RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways in NC State’s First Four win.

TJ Warren Started Slowly But Came On Strong When It Mattered Most (credit: RNO)

TJ Warren Started Slowly But Came On Strong When It Mattered Most (credit: RNO)

  1. A balanced attack without T.J. Warren stealing the show. NC State was in control for seemingly the entire game, even when Xavier went on a several runs that threatened to challenge them. Once again, Ralston Turner, who finished the night with 17 points, stepped up when TJ Warren struggled early. And Tyler Lewis did his part to fill in for an ailing Anthony Barber, who played only eight first half minutes due to a fever and stomach illness. Lewis contributed seven points and eight assists, the final of which capped off the evening with a lob to Jordan Vandenburg for a dunk.
  2. NC State is not the same team without T.J. Warren on the floor. Even though several others stepped up for Mark Gottfried tonight, the team really struggled when Warren went out early in the first half with two fouls. After his return, NC State went on a quick 10-2 run to widen the lead to 22-14. When he was out again in the second half, Xavier went on another run, but upon his return he quickly scored on a fadeaway runner and on an emphatic one-handed dunk within the first minute. NC State’s fortunes for the rest of this NCAA Tournament will completely depend on how far Warren carries it — he’s that good.
  3. Xavier shot 14 percent from three-point range. Xavier came into this game shooting 35 percent from distance on the year as a team, but they missed several key open looks down the stretch that could have kept them afloat. With Warren doing his thing on the other end, the Musketeers needed to keep pace and all of the bricked threes simply wouldn’t allow for it. A reasonable nine-point margin quickly shot up to an unmanageable 17-point difference as a result of all those missed threes down the stretch.

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Rushed Reactions: #16 Albany 71, #16 Mount St. Mary’s 64

Posted by Steve Smith on March 18th, 2014

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Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCeastregion, @RTCMWregion, @RTCsouthregion and @RTCwestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Albany is All Smiles as the Danes Advance to the Round of 64 (AP/Skip Peterson)

Albany is All Smiles as the Danes Advance to the Round of 64 (AP/Skip Peterson)

  1. Back to back 21-2 runs don’t happen that often… Albany opened the game by going on a 21-2 tear, and it appeared as if they were about to put the game completely out of reach early. Mount St. Mary’s roared back with an equally impressive 21-2 run of their own to even things up, and the rest of the evening settled into a close back-and-forth contest the rest of the way.
  2. The difference in the game: tempo. Albany’s bench is shallow and only played 16 total minutes beyond the starters. Mount St. Mary’s likes to play a fast-paced game, but they were atrocious from the field in the first 10 minutes. They did a great job forcing Albany to pick up the tempo by pressing in the second half, and when they did, Albany made too many mistakes. Mount St. Mary’s seemed to go away from what got them there in the last 10 minutes, purposely slowing things down, which allowed Albany not only to stay fresh, but to take the advantage down the stretch.
  3. First round jitters. Both teams looked very sloppy at times, and this allowed for some streaky runs from both in the first half. Mount St. Mary’s started the game 0-of-11 from the field, including an ice-cold 0-of-6 from beyond the arc. Albany had 14 turnovers, but Mount St. Mary’s failed to capitalize on enough of those opportunities. Ultimately the poor three-point shooting in the first half by Mount St. Mary’s led to their demise. One bright light was Will Miller, who was 7-of-12 from three-point range and seemed to knock down shot after critical shot to change momentum when they needed it most.

Star of the GameD.J. Evans, Albany – Evans set the stage in the opening minutes with several key baskets and assists, and he always seemed to be there when Albany needed him the most. He had nine rebounds to go along with his team-leading 22 points, despite being just 5’9”. His ball-handling was instrumental to the Danes’ victory, as Mount St. Mary’s caused most of their turnovers when he was off the floor. He also had a critical rebound off a Mount St. Mary’s miss with 12 seconds remaining, and hit both free throws to ice the game.

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Is Tennessee the Most Dangerous “Play-in” Team Since VCU in 2011?

Posted by David Changas on March 18th, 2014

In 2011, the field for the NCAA Tournament was expanded from 64 to 68 teams, and the NCAA decided to call the first four games, played on the Tuesday and Wednesday following Selection Sunday, the “First Round” –thus creating the comical idea that some 60 teams receive byes into the second round. Everyone is wise to this, of course, and realizes the “First Four,” as the games are also named, are, in actuality, four “play-in” games. That year, upstart VCU snuck into one of the NCAA Tournament’s last four at-large spots, beat co-#11 seed USC in Dayton, and proceeded to win four more times in advancing to the school’s first Final Four. Since VCU’s historic run took place three seasons ago, it appears no team may be as well-equipped to duplicate the Rams’ feat as Tennessee this year. Prior to the season, the Volunteers were, in most places, considered a Top 25 team, and a shoo-in for the Big Dance. Things didn’t play out as expected, however, and Tennessee had to go 5-1 down the stretch – with the only loss coming to overall #1 seed Florida – to earn one of the last bids to the Tournament. Now that they’ve made the field, could this be the start of a run that could put all questions about Cuonzo Martin‘s job status to rest?

With Cuonzo Martin's job maybe in jeopardy, a VCU-esque run would go a long way to solving that issue. (AP)

With Cuonzo Martin’s job maybe in jeopardy, a VCU-esque run would go a long way to solving that issue. (AP)

Based upon Tennessee’s recent play, which saw the Vols destroy its last four regular season opponents and South Carolina in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament by an average of 23 points, and gave #1 Florida a great test before falling short, there is evidence to suggest it may be. The Volunteers are experienced, starting three seniors and two juniors, and talented, with two first-team all-SEC performers in guard Jordan McRae (18.6 PPG) and Jarnell Stokes (14.7 PPG, 10.3 RPG) — one of two SEC players to average a double-double this season. They also have another rebounding stalwart in fifth-year senior Jeronne Maymon, who missed the 2012-13 campaign as a result of microfracture surgery. Maymon has struggled to regain his form, but he has shown signs lately of regaining some of his old skill set. The bulk Tennessee has on the inside with Stokes and Maymon presents a significant challenge for each of its opponents.

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NCAA Game Analysis: First Four – Tuesday Night

Posted by Bennet Hayes & Walker Carey on March 18th, 2014

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The First Round/Opening Round/Play-In Games/Mild Annoyance of the NCAA Tournament begins tonight, getting under way at 6:40 PM tonight on truTV (go ahead, try to remember where that channel is again). From 68 to 16 in the next six days… let’s analyze the first two games this evening.

#16 Albany vs. #16 Mount St. Mary’s — South Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 6:40 pm ET on truTV.

Sam Prescott And Mount St. Mary's Will Look To Continue Their Improbable  March Run In Dayton On Tuesday Night

Sam Prescott And Mount St. Mary’s Will Look To Continue Their Improbable March Run In Dayton On Tuesday Night

It may be too late to fill in that blank space under Florida in the brackets floating around the office, but Mount St. Mary’s and Albany will battle Tuesday night for a space in the official field of 64. The First Four foes took a similar path to Dayton: Both bumbled through 9-7 league seasons, earned the #4 seed in the conference tournament, then won three games (including one over the regular season champion) to advance into the field of 68. It was the same route for the Great Danes and Mountaineers, but they drove different vehicles along the way. Albany relied on a stout defense – particular against the two-point shot – and timely three-point shooting to claim the America East crown, while Mount St. Mary’s sprinted through a NEC Tournament final where the Mounts averaged 1.28 points per possession in a 17-point win at #1 seed Robert Morris. If Mount St. Mary’s (32nd nationally in possessions/game) can maintain that quick tempo against the Great Danes, they have to like their odds of advancing, but Albany (313th in possessions/game) will be doing everything possible to play a game featuring 65 possessions or fewer. KenPom gives the Great Danes a slight edge to seize victory in the NCAA Tournament opener, but we’ll put our faith in Mount St. Mary’s to move on to face Florida. Not only did the Mountaineers emerge from a tougher conference, but their up-tempo attack should allow them to fully capitalize on the adrenaline rush that the national spotlight will surely provide.

The RTC Certified Pick: Mount St. Mary’s

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The First Four Doesn’t Need to Leave Dayton, But Maybe It Should

Posted by Chris Johnson on August 20th, 2013

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

The first thing I think of when reading, writing or listening to anything having to do with the “First Four” is the NCAA’s frustrating semantical insistence that it be referred to as the “First Round.” Technically speaking, it is the first group of games qualified NCAA Tournament teams play, but to imply First Four teams and the other 64 all enter the Tournament needing to survive a “first round” – whether by playing games or not, which is what everyone except First Four teams do – is a confusing mischaracterization casual fans and writers alike could do without. We know what the real first round is, so let’s give it its proper nominal recognition. Sorry, First Four teams, but you can’t merely waltz into a spot in the first round of the NCAA Tournament; you need to earn your way there by winning your – gasp! – play-in game.

VCU

Until the NCAA resolves that issue, I will have trouble looking past any non-branding-related First Four storylines. Today, I’m making an exception. Numerous reports from Dayton Friday brought word that the NCAA rejected the city’s proposal to extend its First Four hosting rights beyond 2015. Dayton, as you probably already know, has hosted the event since its inception, including back when it only involved two teams and was called, whether formally or not, the one and only play-in game. Twelve years later, the NCAA appears to be exploring alternatives. Or maybe it just has commitment issues. The Dayton Business Journal got NCAA spokesperson David Worlock on the record:

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NCAA Game Analysis: First Four – Wednesday Night

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 20th, 2013

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In last night’s opening round games, North Carolina A&T and St. Mary’s both advanced to the Round of 64, and two more games tonight will round out the field. Once again, tonight’s games will get under way at 6:40 PM tonight on truTV — here’s our analysis of tonight’s two games.

#16 LIU Brooklyn vs. #16 James Madison — East Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 6:40 PM ET on truTV.

LIU-Brooklyn

LIU Brooklyn Will Depend on Its Transition Attack

Night two of the First Four begins with a game that will feature two vastly different style of basketball. LIU Brooklyn loves to play fast but unlike most up-tempo teams, the Blackbirds do not force many turnovers to fuel a transition attack. LIU shoots the ball very well, led by senior forward Jamal Olasewere and junior point guard Jason Brickman (a 46% three-point shooter). Olasewere operates primarily inside the arc but also isn’t afraid to step out and take an occasional triple. Brickman is a terrific assist man, averaging over eight dimes per game. He’s ranked #16 in assist rate nationally but is vulnerable to coughing it up as well, averaging four turnovers a night. Still, his 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio is fantastic. James Madison has to focus on these players defensively along with C.J. Garner, who averages 16 PPG for a team that scores nearly 80 PPG on average. LIU’s offensive statistics are impressive but Jack Perri’s team doesn’t take defense, ahem, very seriously. The problem for James Madison is that it doesn’t shoot the ball particularly well to begin with, so it will have to slow the game down (easier than speeding it up) and limit LIU’s possessions. JMU is led by strong senior forward Rayshawn Goins who, at 6’6” and 266 lbs, is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Goins against Olasewere could be the key match-up in this game. Neither team has a lot of size but Olasewere is giving up about 40 pounds to the burly Duke. In the end, we feel LIU has enough offensive firepower despite its defensive issues to advance and play Indiana on Friday.

The RTC Certified Pick: LIU Brooklyn.

#13 Boise State vs. #13 La Salle – West Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) – 9:10 PM ET on TruTV

Jeff Elorriaga Will Be Bombing Away Tonight

Jeff Elorriaga Will Be Bombing Away Tonight

These two underdogs will have the attention of the nation all to themselves as they fight to be included in the bulk of the bracket. And this game is definitely one to keep an eye on, as it may be one of the more entertaining contests you’ll see on this first weekend of play. Both teams are guard-dominated, both teams shoot the three regularly and with great proficiency, and both teams will get out in transition when they have the opportunities. For La Salle, the backcourt trio of Ramon Galloway, Tyreek Duren and Tyrone Garland combine to average 44.9 points and 9.1 assists between them and shoot a collective 37.4% from deep. Meanwhile, Boise’s trio of Anthony Drmic, Derrick Marks and Jeff Elorriaga combine to average 43.9 points, 8.4 assists and a collective 41.8% clip from behind the arc. Those guys go a long way toward cancelling each other out, in which case the game may come down to the frontcourts, where the Broncos have the advantage. While the Explorers are largely ineffective in controlling the glass, Boise is the third-best team in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage. Forwards Ryan Watkins and Kenny Buckner are particularly good in that area but it is a full-team effort, as even the guards chip in to clean the glass. In a game where both teams have perimeter players to put the ball in the hoop, the dirty work up front may turn out to be the difference.

The RTC Certified Pick: Boise State

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Where 2012-13 Happens: Reason #14 We Love College Basketball

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2012

And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. Enjoy!

#14 – Where Comeback Tuesday Night Happens


We also encourage you to re-visit the entire archive of this feature from the 2008-092009-10, 2010-11, and 2011-12 seasons.

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ATB: And Then There Were 64 — First Four Breakdown

Posted by EJacoby on March 15th, 2012

The First Round Lede. Debate all you want about the structure of the new NCAA Tournament (since last year) – the First Four format is the new norm, and it must be appreciated because of the momentum it can give to the teams that win these play-in games. Of course, last year VCU began its run to the Final Four from the First Four. Over the past two nights, we saw a couple of really interesting games and a couple of blowouts. We’ll analyze the best moments for you here, as well as preview what’s next to come for the four winners. Here’s your First Round wrap-up…

Your Watercooler Moment. BYU Mounts An Enormous Second Half Comeback

Noah Hartsock Brought Intensity to BYU's Second Half Comeback (AP Photo/S. Peterson)

At the 4:00 mark of the first half of their game against Iona, the BYU Cougars trailed 55-31. Not a single soul watching this game on Tuesday night was thinking about a BYU comeback, and even the announcing crew on truTV was discussing how Iona could pose a serious threat to Marquette in the next round. But Dave Rose was not having it; the BYU coach made the necessary adjustments that included putting his defense into a 2-3 zone that it had hardly used during the season. The result was a complete shift in momentum, and the Cougars continued to convert on the offensive end while holding the Gaels to nothing offensively. Just 16 minutes later, at the 8:00 mark of the second half, Iona’s lead had vanished. BYU controlled the game from there and pulled away with a 78-72 victory, a seemingly impossible result after watching the events of the first half. The upperclassmen forward combo of Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies was terrific, combining for 41 points and 20 rebounds against the undersized Iona front line. The Cougars will take this momentum into Friday night when they take on Marquette in the Round of 64.

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NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: First Four – Wednesday Night

Posted by EJacoby on March 14th, 2012

The ‘First Four’ play-in games continue on Wednesday night, hoping to repeat what was an incredible first night of games on Tuesday. We saw two of the greatest comebacks in NCAA Tournament history — in back-to-back games — on the opening night of the Big Dance! Both of tonight’s games are from the Midwest Region. Here’s what to watch for, including the primetime First Round matchup in the nightcap.

#16 Lamar vs. #16 Vermont – Midwest Region First Round ( at Dayton, OH) – 6:30 PM ET on truTV

The early game on Wednesday night pits two of the last-ranked teams on this year’s NCAA Tournament S-Curve, and the winner gets rewarded with a date against #1 seed North Carolina on Friday. There is actually an intriguing storyline in this matchup, as Lamar is coached by Pat Knight, Bob Knight’s son, who recently delivered an infamous press conference after his team lost to Stephen F. Austin on February 22. In the presser (see above), Knight lashes out at his players, throwing his seniors under the bus for their despicable performance. Crazy enough, the Cardinals got Knight’s message loud and clear and have not lost since the rant, winning six straight games by an average of 14.6 points per game. The Southland Conference champions now match up with Vermont, trying to keep the post-presser streak alive. The Catamounts, though, have won 14 of their last 15 games and play solid defense with a defensive efficiency and field-goal percentage nearing the top 50 in the country. Their job will be to stop Mike James, Lamar’s top scoring guard (17.1 PPG), who once put up 52 points in a game last season. Both teams lack size, and whomever ends up winning the battle on the boards could have the advantage in this one. Vermont’s leading scorer is a freshman who comes off the bench, Four McGlynn, at just 12 points per game. In a toss up game, we’ll go with Lamar to continue its terrific story of  post-rant resiliency.

The RTC Certified Pick: Lamar

#12 California vs. #12 South Florida - Midwest Region First Round ( at Dayton, OH) – 9:00 PM ET on truTV Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Who’s Going Where

Posted by Connor Pelton on March 13th, 2012

Here’s a look at each Pac-12 team’s postseason capsule, by order of each team’s tip-off. Enjoy!

Oregon

Who, When, Where: vs. LSU (18-14) in Eugene, Oregon, NIT First Round, 3/13, 6:30 PM PDT, ESPN

First Up: What the Tigers lack in scoring they make up in rebounds and points in the paint. LSU averages 37 RPG and they are led by big men Justin Hamilton and Storm Warren. What makes the Tigers dangerous is their ability to adapt to a certain style. They will play at the pace you want the game at, and then beat you with your own style.

Best Case Scenario: With the way Oregon has been playing of late (Pac-12 Tournament notwithstanding), the Ducks can easily make a run in this tournament. With players like Devoe Joseph and Garrett Sim that are able to create and knock down their own shots, Oregon should be able to beat LSU in the first round. After that things get much more tough, but I can’t see the Ducks losing a “best case scenario” game until they would likely meet either Seton Hall or Arizona in the championship.

Worst Case Scenario: Even if the Ducks do not play well against the Tigers, home-court advantage should pull them through to the next round. However, they would likely have to travel to Dayton in the second round, and the Flyers pose matchup problems all over the court for Oregon. Expect an Oregon-Dayton matchup to be much like last Thursday’s Colorado-Oregon game. The Flyers stingy defense and potent offense should build a large lead early on against the Ducks, and while Oregon battles to cut the deficit to three with four minutes left, it is never able to come all the way back after a long road trip and an emotinal comeback drians all of its energy.

Devoe Joseph's offensive prowess has the Ducks dreaming of a trip to Madison Square Garden. (credit:Jayne Kamin)

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NCAA Game Analysis: First Four – Tuesday Night

Posted by KDoyle on March 13th, 2012

No matter whether you feel the First Round of the NCAA Tournament is legitimate or not (and we know at least one person writing Amicus briefs to the Supreme Court on this very issue), it all gets under way at 6:40 PM tonight. From 68 to 16 in the next six days… let’s analyze the first two games this evening.

#16 Western Kentucky vs. #16 Mississippi Valley State — South Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 6:40 pm ET on truTV.

It's Still the Big Dance to Big Red

It is hard to believe that the NCAA Tournament officially tips off tonight — it seems like the 24 hours of college basketball marathon on ESPN was just last week — as Western Kentucky will do battle against Mississippi Valley State in the First Round. Things looked bleak for both squads midway through the year as MVSU entered conference play with a 1-11 record, while Western Kentucky stood at 5-14 just six games into league play. In fairness to the Delta Devils, however, they did play one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the nation with virtually all of their contests being so-called “guarantee games.” As for the Hilltoppers, they fired Ken McDonald halfway through the season, and have looked like an entirely different team since. Mississippi Valley is 20-1 since SWAC play began, while Western Kentucky is 10-7 since Ray Harper took over the helm in Bowling Green. Hailing from the weakest conference in America, the Delta Devils will enter the game as slight underdogs, even though they have a much more impressive overall record than their opponent. Western Kentucky is led by freshman Derrick Gordon (11.8 PPG, 6.7 RPG), but junior transfer Teeng Akol — formerly of Oklahoma State — has provided the Hilltoppers with a formidable presence in the frontcourt as of late; Akol scored a career high 23 points in the Sun Belt championship game. Meanwhile for MVSU, it has a balanced approach as five players on the squad average nine points or better. Terrence Joyner is their sharpshooter as he connects on just over two triples a game, while Paul Crosby (13.3 PPG, 7.4 RBG) mans the paint. Despite Sean Woods‘ team losing only one game since the New Year, Western Kentucky is the more talented team and is playing with a real chip on its shoulder.

The RTC Certified Pick: Western Kentucky

#14 BYU vs. #14 Iona — West Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) — 9:10 pm ET on truTV. Read the rest of this entry »

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