Previewing the action in Dayton

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Tonight not only kicks off the 2011 NCAA Tournament, it kicks off the tournament’s new era.

Three teams have been added to the Madness, setting up the brand new “first round”* of the NCAA Tournament.

*(I heretofore pledge to only refer to “first round” in quotation marks since I am utterly opposed to calling the four play-in games the “first round”. Think of it as my way of peaceful protest. So when you see “first round” in a post I have written, read it as “First Four” or “play-in games”. Or me asking what you would like for your first drink. They all work.)

As much as I hate the naming decision, this has the potential to be a pretty cool event. Four games in two days at one location, all with a spot in the NCAA Tournament on the line. I’ll spare you my rant as to why there shouldn’t be any automatic bids participating — I pick my battles; the tournament could have been 96 teams — so that, at least for tonight, we can sit back, enjoy the basketball being played, and truly critique the “first round” of the NCAA Tournament.

Hey, things could be worse, right?

We could be forced to watch spring training baseball.

9:00 pm: UAB vs. Clemson: These are two teams with similar profiles. Both had quality RPIs. Both did an impressive job in the regular season of their respective conferences. But neither were able to land a marquee victory throughout the season.

I actually really like this UAB team. They are led by the best creator in college basketball in Aaron Johnson, who averages 12.0 ppg and 7.7 apg. But that is far from the only star power on the roster, as Cameron Moore, a 6’10” forward with three point range that averages 14.5 ppg and 9.4 rpg, and Jamarr Sanders, the team’s leading scorer.

Clemson is led by Demontez Stitt, the team’s leader in scoring and assists, and Jerai Grant, the team’s best rebounder and shot blocker. Clemson is a very good defensive team this season, but they do it more in the half court under Brad Brownell than they did in the full court attack Kemba.

6:30 pm: UNC-Asheville vs. Arkansas-Little Rock: UNC-Asheville is a team that is led by Matt Dickey and JP Primm. They like to press and force the tempo, trying to force their opponents into turnovers and easy baskets. UALR was just 7-9 in the Sun Belt, but with Solomon Bozeman, a South Florida transfer that did this, UALR should be able to hang.