The NCAA must’ve wanted to avoid more outrage.
It tried to please everyone by settling on its format for the 68-team tournament next year. The “First Four” will feature the lowest seeds and the last at-large qualifiers in games that will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday before the Big Dance begins.
This year, that might’ve meant games between Virginia Tech and Illinois, or Minnesota and Mississippi State. Perhaps Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Winthrop, along with Lehigh and East Tennessee State would’ve faced off in the others. Is that better? Worse? Hard to say. Only thing for certain is that it lets fans watch more games. (So it’s not all bad, no matter the matchups.)
Whether you love it, hate it, think it’s lame, or think the solution was the only logical thing to do, there’s only one thing to do: Get used to it.
“You’re not going to come up with the perfect model,” outgoing committee chair Dan Guerrero said. “You’re not going to come up with a model that is going to appease every constituency out there. But we felt that this model provided the opportunity to do something special for the tournament.”
Many coaches are satisfied with the solution (though Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg is not one of them), which has its pros and cons – Matt Norlander does an excellent breakdown of ’em.
The strangest move may be where the games will be broadcast: TruTV. Yes, TruTV, formerly known as Court TV, the place I turned to in college to solve my insomnia.
I suppose that’s one way to boost the tournament’s “reach” among average viewers, given that TruTV is in roughly 93 million households, while ESPN and ESPN2 are both in about 100 million. College hoops fans will seek out the “First Four” games on a different network, while I doubt TruTV viewers would’ve changed to ESPN, which is where the play-in game has been shown the last few years.
To recap: The Big Dance expands to 68 teams in 2011 and features four first-round games that will be shown on a non-sports network. Times do change.
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.
For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the NBCSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year.
On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.
Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.
Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.
In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.
As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.
(More to come from Chapel Hill…)
North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.
(H/T: The Cauldron)