What You Need To Know About Tonight's NCAA Play-In Games

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The NCAA Tournament begins tonight!Well, not really. The NCAA insists on calling tonight’s matchups the “First Round,” but it isn’t. These are play-in games, for the right to get into the actual first round that starts on Thursday.

The powers that be may hate the term “play in” but they aren’t fooling anyone.

No one (not even CBS) is making these games a part of their bracket pools. They’re played in Dayton, where no other tourney games will be played. And they’re airing on TruTV, a network you’re probably not even aware that you get. (Hint: It used to be Court TV.)

Still, it’s a win-or-go-home scenario in March and for the first time it will involve major conference at-large teams, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t tune in anyway.

Game 1 is Arkansas-Little Rock vs. UNC-Asheville for the Southeast’s 16 seed at 6:30 ET. Then at 9:00, Clemson and UAB face off for the right to prove Jay Bilas wrong. (The winner also gets the 12 seed in the East region.) These were basically the last two at-large teams to be selected, so now is their chance to proved to everyone that they belong. (There will be two more games tomorrow, also on TruTV.)

Most fans will have no rooting interest as these games aren’t part of the regular tournament and there is nothing riding on it for gamblers or office workers, but that’s probably the best reason of all to watch. Like the Harvard-Princeton game this weekend, it’s just two schools playing for the right to keep playing. Isn’t that what sports are all about?

P.S. Don’t forget to join our BI Bracket Challenge! >

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