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Filed under Sports

More play-in games…good or bad?

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Nobody pays any attention to the measly play-in game in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Right?  If you don’t, you should start.  With a new deal in place to begin in the 2011 tournament, the NCAA has agreed to have four play-in games for teams that otherwise would not have been in the tournament. 

So what’s the big deal?  Now there will be four, lousy 16th seeded teams that will “play their way in” to the field of 64. They will probably get blown out in the first round by the #1 seed.    

While this might be the reaction of some fans, ultimately, more teams involved in the tournament mean more chances of an upset.

Remember back in 2006 when eleventh seeded George Mason made a historic run to the Final Four.  Their Cinderella story will be remembered for years to come, as it should.  After defeating a heavily favored sixth seeded Michigan State in the first round, they followed by defeating the 2005 National Champions University of North Carolina.

They went on to beat Wichita State (who pulled off a few upsets themselves) in the Sweet Sixteen, and first seed Connecticut in the Elite Eight.

More recently, the Butler Bulldogs reached the Championship game in 2010.  Flying under the radar the whole year, Butler finished the regular season with a 28-4 record, and was awarded with a fifth seed in the tournament.

Their first powerhouse opponent would be the first seed Syracuse Orange, who were one of the pre-tournament picks to win the big dance.  Syracuse was almost a 15-point favorite in their Sweet Sixteen matchup against a Butler team that barely squeaked out a win against thirteenth seed Murray State in the previous round. 

Butler went on to miraculously knock off Syracuse, Kansas State, and Michigan State to reach the Championship game against Duke. 

It was thought to be one of the most lopsided Championship game’s in the history of college basketball.  One of the most accomplished programs in the history of college basketball, Duke, was seeking their fourth title in 19 years.  Butler was a relatively unknown program from the Horizon League Conference with 10 or 12 no-name, homegrown players. 

In the end, Butler was a Gordon Hayward half court shot away from defeating the legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski and his Duke Blue Devils.

So what does all this mean?  It means anything can happen.  Upsets can (and will) happen.  These eight teams that will get a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament will have nothing to lose.  This March Madness will be unlike any we’ve seen before, but for all the right reasons.

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