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Saturday, March 22, 2014

NCAA Tournament: Tennessee keeps Play-in game relevant

Good morning all, and happy NCAA Tournament. While it appears a virtually certainty that no one will win Warren Buffet's billion dollars, I hope none of my readers' brackets are busted yet.

Today I'd like to talk about the play-in games to the NCAA tournament, also known as the first round by the mainstream media. Previously I have gone to great lengths to discredit the whole play-in round, saying its impact on the tournament is by and large minimal.

Yet since the inception of the play-in round, the teams that comprise that component of the NCAAs have continued to prove me wrong. It started several years ago when little known VCU (a cinderella team to no one anymore) made it all the way to the final four. Fast forward to today, when the University of Tennessee has once again proved a play-in team can make it to the round of 32.

The Volutneers opponent in the round of 64, the University of Massachusetts, may have been wrongly seeded. The Minutemen were awarded the sixth seed in the Midwest Region despite finishing behind both St. Joe's and George Washington in the A-10 (both St. Joe's and GW, coincidentally, were seeded lower than the Minutemen)

Adding more fuel to the fire were comments made by Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who implied the A-10 wasn't even good enough to have 6 teams in the dance. With only Dayton advancing to the round of 32, he may have been onto something. It's just too bad his Blue Devils won't be playing this weekend either.

But I digress. Tennessee not only beat UMass, but they throttled them 86-67, shooting over 53% from the field. The Volunteers may have all they can handle when they play the Mercer Bears(the team that ended up defeating Duke) tomorrow afternoon, but they have a better than average shot of making the Sweet Sixteen. Their key to victory will more than likely be to do something Duke could not, that is stop Mercer's pick and roll.

Regardless of the outcome tomorrow, one thing is for certain: it is no longer passe to call the play-in round irrelevant.