Previewing tonight’s First Four games

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Last night’s debut of the new first round of the NCAA Tournament was up and down.

The up was that the matchup between the two teams no one cared about, UNC-Asheville and Arkansas-Little Rock, featured a comeback from an 11 point deficit in the second half, a last second, game-tying three, and overtime. The down was the abomination of a performance that we got out of UAB.

Hopefully, tonight we get more of the former and less of the latter.

9:00 pm: USC vs. VCU: I’ll be honest — I am legitimately looking forward to this game.

I know, right? I’m a little bit shocked myself.

For starters, this will be USC’s first game with Kevin O’Neill back on the bench after he was suspended for the Pac-10 tournament following a drunken altercation with an Arizona booster. Before he was suspended, USC won six of their last seven games, including a win at Washington and against Arizona at home, the team that knocked them out of the Pac 10 tournament by only five without their head coach.

Keep in mind, USC has been a much better team since the arrival of Jio Fontan. They seem to have finally found their stride.

VCU, on the other hand, lost four of their last five games in the regular season before making a run to the conference tournament finals, which included a beat down of George Mason.

The key in this game is going to be Jamie Skeen. VCU isn’t terribly deep up front, and the Trojans have a very good front line, anchored by Nikola Vucevic and Alex Stephenson. Skeen is a Wake Forest transfer and an underrated big man. If he can hold his own in the paint and the Rams are hitting their threes, they could advance.

6:30 pm: UT-San Antonio vs. Alabama State: Another play-in game between conference champs. I’ll get into the absurdity of this at some point, but for now expect, at the least, another entertaining game. Alabama State is one of the hottest teams in the country, winning 11 of their last 12 games and beating Grambling (the only team to hand them a loss since January) a 17 point whooping in the SWAC title game. UTSA has won five in a row, beat Southland power Texas Southern in the semifinals of the conference tournament, and has one of the best all-around players in the country in Devin Gibson on their roster.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.