Even if tonight's action in Dayton may not quite seem like it, the NCAA Tournament has finally arrived!
The inaugural "First Four," the NCAA's marketing term for the revamped eight-team First Round, Opening Round, play-in games, or whatever you want to call it, begins at the University of Dayton Arena at 6:30 p.m. ET, though the first tip won't be until 10 minutes later. CBS's Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg will be joined by Turner's Steve Kerr on the call. While those three will be back together at the Final Four in Houston, Nantz and Kellogg will be headed to Charlotte for the first weekend (gee, that's a shock) and Kerr will join Turner's Marv Albert in Tulsa on Friday and Sunday.
|UNC Asheville Bulldogs vs. Ark.-Little Rock Trojans
|6:30 p.m. ET
|UAB Blazers vs. Clemson Tigers
|approx. 9 p.m. ET
Tonight's first game features two automatic qualifiers that surprisingly won their conference tournament. UNC Asheville was the three seed in the Big South, and they upset that conference's regular season champion Coastal Carolina to make it this far. However, given the Chanticleers' personnel issues down the stretch, the Bulldogs' triumph in Conway wasn't really a giant surprise. Their opponent, UALR, won the Sun Belt crown by topping defending champ North Texas with a very late Solomon Bozeman buzzer-beater. The Trojans were the 5th seeded team in that league's West Division, so that just about assured they'd be sent to the Opening Round. The winner of this one gets Pittsburgh, the top seed in the Southeast, in Washington Thursday. That game will start at approximately 3 p.m. ET.
The nightcap features two of the more controversial at-large picks playing for the right to play West Virginia during the East Coast lunch hour on Thursday in Tampa. Neither Clemson or UAB has an RPI top 50 win to its credit, but the Tigers have been playing well of late, while the Blazers...well, let's put it this way, Mike Davis' team follows the path of last year's UTEP team, another C-USA team picked as an at-large despite not really having anything of note on its selection profile. However, after all of the complaints about their respective selections, expect the Tigers and Blazers to put on a show tonight to show they belong.
I've been feeling under the weather since last night, so I may not be online much this evening, but you can discuss the game here even without me around. Enjoy and be glad that the Madness of March is well and truly here!