Play-In Game Predictions: The First Four
I was opposed to the NCAA Tournament expansion to 68 teams. I figured if something isn't broke, don't fix it. And 64 teams sure wasn't broke. The NCAA Tournament is widely regarded as one of the most exciting sporting events of the year even as the quality of play at the college level has declined in past years. I thought, why make it 68 teams with four games that people aren't going to be nearly as invested in as the Thursday through Sunday and the first weekend of the tournament? Then VCU had to go and make the Final Four in 2011.
They were the first team that had to win five straight games to make the Final Four. Without the expansion to 68 teams, VCU wouldn't have made the Final Four. So, I'm in. I'm all for the four extra teams. Not that I take the play-in games as seriously as I take the 63 games that take place within the 64-team bracket.
Two of the four play-in games take place Tuesday night. Keep reading for a preview of each game:
(11) St. Mary's vs. (11) Middle Tennessee State, 9:10p.m. EDT
These are two extremely dangerous teams that Memphis will need to worry about this Thursday. Middle Tennessee State was expecting a much higher seed and St. Mary's has players remaining from its 2010 Sweet 16 team.
I'm taking Middle Tennessee State in this one. I think they have a chip on their shoulder with what they believed was a poor seed.
Middle Tennessee State 76, St. Mary's 65
(16) North Carolina A&T vs. (16) Liberty, 6:40p.m. EDT
The winner of this game has the pleasure of taking on the overall number 1-seed, Louisville, so chances are good this is each school's best chance at an NCAA Tournament win. Liberty is the tournament's only team with a losing record; they snuck into the tournament by getting hot during their conference tournament.
Expect that hot streak to continue and for Liberty to take out NC A&T in a tight game.
Liberty 64, NC A&T 61
Both games are being televised by truTV and can be streamed online or on the NCAA March Madness App.