It's finally here! The NCAA tournament officially kicks off tonight in Dayton!
The first two games of the newly christened "First Four" will take place this evening on TruTV. For those with Fios in the DC area it's Channel 183. For those with bunny ear antennas it is south, southwest.
You can also watch all the games of the NCAA tournament live here: NCAA March Madness on Demand
After the Jump, everything you need to know about tonight's matchups.
- Our old friends the Bulldogs of UNC-Asheville will open the 2011 NCAA tournament tonight at 6:30. If you don't remember, the Hoyas drubbed the inferior Bulldog mascoted-team 87-72 in our first game back from the Charleston classic, largely thanks in part to 32 points from Austin Freeman. The Bulldogs are led by high scoring guards Matt Dickey and J.P. Primm. They won the automatic birth from the Big South over fellow Georgetown opponent Coastal Carolina.
- This marks the Bulldogs 2nd NCAA appearance; the first coming in 2003 when they went 1-1, winning in the opening round over Texas Southern 92-84 in overtime before meeting the same fate of every 16 seed EVER and losing to Texas 82-61.
- They will meet the Trojans of Arkansas- Little Rock. The Trojans are a hot shooting Cinderella team that was 5th in the division of the Sunbelt conference, but caught fire and rode it all the way to the conference automatic bid. They are lead by the Sun Belt player of the year Solomon Boseman whose game winner with 1.5 seconds left sent them to the NCAAs for the 4th time in program history.
- They are 1-3 all-time, going 0-1 in their last two appearances in 1990 and 1989. They went 1-1 back in 1986 knocking off a #3 seeded Digger Phelps led ND team. This should be a very competitive game as both teams are guard oriented and shoot the three well.
- Kenpom gives UNC Asheville a 69% chance of winning.
- The winner gets the privileged of being destroyed by Pittsburgh.
#12 University of Alabama- Birmingham vs. #12 Clemson - 9:00pm - TruTV
- The first play-in game from the at-large selection ever to be played. While UAB was blasted on ESPN as undeserving of a seed, in reality Clemson is one that doesn't belong. UAB has and RPI of 31, one top 50 win, ten top 100 wins and only one loss to an over 100 RPI team. Clemson, in comparison has an RPI of 57, zero top 50 wins, nine top 100 wins and three losses to teams with RPIs over 100.
- UAB won Conference USA outright in the regular season but lost in the quarterfinals to East Carolina. Clemson finished 4th in the ACC. They blew out fellow ACC bubble team BC and dominated UNC for 35 minutes before throwing it all away and choking down the stretch.
- This will be Clemson's 11th NCAA tournament appearance and their 4th straight. However the Tigers have not made it out of their first round in their last four tries. But they have a new coach this year so he may be able to reverse the trend. Clemson has been to three Sweet Sixteens during their ten tournament appearances, and boast an overall tournament record of 8-10. Those eight wins occurred during four appearances. The last time they made it past the first round was 1997.
- UAB has a slightly richer NCAA history with 13 appearances but the same three Sweet Sixteens. They have an overall tournament record of 9-13. They last made the tournament in 2006, as part of a string of three straight NCAA appearances for the Blazers. The last time they went past the first round was 2005 and their last Sweet Sixteen appearance was in 2004. They have won at least one game in six out of their 13 appearances.
- Kenpom's numbers favor Clemson in this matchup. Clemson is 24th in his ratings compared to 56th for UAB. He has Clemson with a 66% chance of winning. Clemson wins games with their defense rating 9th there. UAB is a fairly average team ratings wise.
- The winner will face West Virginia in Tampa.
Put your in-game thoughts in the comments.