Tuesday Tournament Play-In Games Open Thread

UCLA, Cal, SDSU, Cal Poly SLO? Nope. Saint Mary's is the best college basketball team in California - Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

The first two games of the 2013 NCAA Tournament get underway tonight.

Well, maybe it's not quite March Madness. Not yet. The play-in round is more like March Mildly Perturbed. Nevertheless, there are two college basketball games (!!) on tonight and sports addicts, gambling degenerates, and fans and family of 4 schools will be watching.

Bonus points for anyone who can name those four schools playing tonight.

Okay, if you know that, then how about their mascots? Now, where they are located? If you made it this far with all the answers, then you absolutely have a serious problem. Luckily, your cure begins at 3:40 pm this afternoon! It also gives you a chance to locate truTV on your dial for Friday's game.

Game 1 - (16) North Carolina A&T vs (16) Liberty 3:40 PT on truTV.

The NCA&T Aggies, an abbreviation tailor-made for twitter, were 19-16 and 8-8 in the MEAC, and advanced to dance by winning their conference tourney. Despite this being their first winning season since 1997 and first tourney appearance since 1995, the Aggies have a pretty respectable basketball history. Located in Greensboro, they are surrounded by basketball giants, and they actually appeared in 7 straight NCAA's in the 80's.

The Liberty Flames were 15-20 and 6-10 in the Big South. There is a lot of talk about Liberty being the worst entry in the history of the tournament. Maybe so, but they are in and Kentucky isn't, which is proof that snapshots never tell the whole story. The Flames started 0-8 and are the second team in history to make the tourney with 20 losses. So what. They went 4-0 in their tournament and they are dancing tonight. And how can you ever root against a wholesome patriotic name like Liberty Flames, if you ignore that they hail from the less than patriotically named Lynchburg VA.

The two schools are a mere 115 miles apart and have travelled to Dayton to kick off the best sporting event in the country. The winner gets fed to the Tournament's top ranked lions for certain mauling when they meet Louisville on Thursday. And what tells you that the Tourney is so great is that every player on either team would die for that chance, and will then cherish it the rest of his life.

Game 2 - (11) Saint Mary's vs (11) Middle Tennessee 6:10 PT truTV

The second play-in game features two really legit teams, both of whom are seeded higher than Cal, who inexplicably still got a home game while these guys play on Tuesday. Good thing the committee doesn't get drug screened. Anyway, tonight's second game deserves to actually be picked in your office polls. The winner of this game goes to Detroit to play Memphis and has a very realistic shot at reaching the Sweet 16. Will Cinderella's evening begin tonight?

The St Mary's Gaels were an impressive 27-6 and 14-2 in the West Coast Conference, which made them the best team in California, but only the second best team in the WCC this year. Three of their losses, including their conference tourney final, were to Gonzaga. This is their third appearance in 4 years, and they made it to the Sweet 16 in 2010. Compare those results to Howland's last 4 years. Crazy, right? Hail to the hills of Moraga. You know you are getting good when the NCAA starts picking on you, and Coach Randy Bennett and the Geals were hit with sanctions this year for unethical recruiting and excessive practices that occurred 2009. Oh, those tiny cheating Catholic Lasallian schools!

The Middle Tennessee (yes, that names burns for a reason...they beat us by 20 in L.A. last season) Blue Raiders were a gaudy 28-5 and 19-1 in the Sun Belt Conference this year. The Blue Raiders are from Murfreesboro, which is actually a bit west of middle Tennessee, but let's not worry about geography. MTSU doesn't. Though they were upset in their conference tourney semis, they had already posted a strong 11-3 road record that impressed the committee enough to warrant an invite. Hopefully for them, the 5 hour drive to Dayton is sufficiently long for them to get their road warrior faces on.

Here's your first of a whole lot of NCAATournament open threads. Play ball. Digger is a wimp!

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