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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NCAA Tournament Gets Hybridized

Posted by jstevrtc on July 11th, 2010

The First Four starts it, the Final Four ends it.

We’ll have a more in-depth discussion on this later this evening, but the new format for the 68-team NCAA Tournament has just been announced.  This article by ESPN’s Andy Katz describes how the NCAA is going with what people call the “hybrid model.”  The last four at-large teams will play each other for the right to get into the main draw, and the last four automatic bid teams will do the same. They’re calling it the “First Four,” or the new official first round.  The seed line will be determined independently for each game, meaning that two teams may be playing for the right to snag a 11-seed and play a six, and another First Four game might have two teams battling for a 12-seed to play a five, and so on.

There will now be no speculating as to who the last four at large teams into the Big Dance are — you’ll know who they are by their presence in one of the Tuesday/Wednesday games.  Unfortunately, there won’t be any “mixing” of the automatic qualifiers and the final at-large teams.  As aforementioned, the at-larges will play each other and the automatic qualifiers will play each other, so you won’t get that small-conference tournament winner relishing their chance to knock off a BCS-conference team who’s among the last four at-larges.  And, interestingly, after several years of seemingly downplaying the importance of a team’s RPI, it’s certainly important now, because that is the instrument that will be used to determine the lowest-rated automatic qualifiers.

The NCAA goes with the hybrid model. We're still evaluating this...

The First Four games will be broadcast on Tru TV, so you better check your cable lineup to make sure you get it.  Also, according to Katz, there was no early indication that the games would be moved from Dayton, the traditional site of all previous play-in games, though we expect that’s where the discussion will move to, now.

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ATB: Play-In Game and NIT Edition

Posted by rtmsf on March 17th, 2010

Welcome to the Real Dance, BluffersArkansas-Pine Bluff 61, Winthrop 44.  Well, we’re off to a great start so far this year.  With tonight’s convincing win over Winthrop, UAPB becomes the 64th entrant into the bracket, and those who fret about completeness (“I can’t make my picks yet!!”) are able to finally concentrate.  For a team that started the season 0-11 as it traveled all over the country taking regular beatings, a win tonight and another roadie to Jacksonville to face Duke on Friday feels like just desserts.  Allen Smith had 14/5 and Tavaris Washington contributed 8/13/5 assts as the Golden Lions broke open a close game at the half to slowly pull away in the second.  Even though it is only the PiG, this is the first win by a SWAC team in the NCAA Tournament since Southern University pulled the trick as a #15 in 1993.

Allen Smith Moves On to Play Duke (DDN/L. Powell)

Argument for the Play-In-Game.  In watching some of this game tonight in front of 8,000+ fans at the UD Arena in Dayton, while switching over to some of the more interesting NIT games tonight, we once again come back to the idea of expansion and how the NCAA might look into integrating ideas into the existing system using something that approximates logic and reason.  Obviously, the preferred scenario is no additional expansion, but it’s also the least likely.  We’re never going back to a perfectly symmetrical sixty-four team bracket now that we’re at 65, so let’s consider the next best alternative.  The Tuesday night PiG is widely mocked among bracketeers around the country, but as you can see by clicking through the link above, people in Dayton attend and enjoy the game.  We’ve said for the better part of a decade, though, that having a single game hanging out on a thread like that is weird and feels a little funny — it’s like finding a box of raisins in the paper towels section at the grocery store.  We think that the fix for this is to have four play-in games, which means 68 teams would be invited to the NCAA Tournament.  Each region would have one PiG, and all four of them would be played in the 7pm and 9pm time slots on Tuesday night, with winners moving on to the Friday games around the country.  Dayton could host two games and another great basketball city such as Salt Lake or Memphis could host the other two.  Here’s the rub, though.  Rather than making the four PiGs a situation where the worst eight teams (#16 seeds) are slotted into them, make it so that the games utilize the unyielding buzz and conversation about the bubble that dominates the entire previous weekend.  You achieve this by slotting the last eight at-large teams into these four play-in games.  This year, that would have meant the following scenario:

  • Utah State vs. Mississippi State
  • UTEP vs. Illinois
  • Minnesota vs. Arizona State
  • Florida vs. Virginia Tech

How ridiculously fun would that be to watch on Tuesday night?– no offense to tonight’s competitors, but it’s no contest!  Bubble teams, this is the chance for you to make your case against a similarly situated team — it’s win or go home.  The UAPBs and Winthrops of the world would already be in the round of 64 (aka the first round) as #16 seed auto-bids.  The winner of these four PiGs comprised solely of the eight lowest at-larges could be slotted as #12 or #13 seeds regardless of who wins.  Can someone tell us what’s wrong with this idea?

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