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Posted at 9:14 AM ET, 02/16/2011

NCAA tournament 2011: What is the First Four?

By Eric Prisbell

[Note: If you are planning to run an NCAA tournament office pool or a pool among friends, please contact me via e-mail. I'd like to hear from you about your pool. I'm not quoting you or anything; I'm just interested in your thoughts about an idea I have.

Thank you for all of the e-mails. I think I have responded to just about everyone. But please keep 'em coming. This is an extremely busy week for me. I was in NYC yesterday for an interview. I'll be in Hartford tonight to cover Georgetown-Connecticut. I head back home Thursday for "Washington Post Live." And on Friday I hop on a plane to Iowa, where I'll cover George Mason-Northern Iowa on Saturday night.

Gene Smith, the chairman of the NCAA tournament selection committee, has a teleconference at 3 p.m. today. Usually, not much comes out of these, but Smith may talk about the parity across the country and provide some logistical insight about the "First Four," the four play-in games in Dayton.

On that note, there seems to be some confusion about the four play-in games, and understandably so. Remember, when the tournament included 65 teams there was only one play-in game and it featured two tournament champions from very small, lightly regard conferences. The winner was a No. 16 seed that was often routed by a No. 1 seed in the "real" first round of the tournament. This season, there will be 68 teams in the NCAA tournament. Therefore, there will be four play-in games. But here is the twist: Two of the games will feature four tournament champions from very small, lightly regarded conferences. Those winners will be No. 16 seeds that play No. 1 seeds in the "real" first round. The other two play-in games will feature the last four at-large teams. For example, the matchups could include Michigan State vs. Virginia Tech and Boston College vs. Colorado State. The winners of those games will either be No. 11 or No. 12 seeds (TBD) and will play No. 6 or No. 5 seeds in the "real" first round. Two of the play-in games will be played on Tuesday. The other two will be played on Wednesday. All four are in Dayton. And the full tournament starts, as usual, early Thursday afternoon.

Hope that makes sense. I want one of the at-large teams in the First Four to make the Final Four. That would be a great story.

By Eric Prisbell  | February 16, 2011; 9:14 AM ET
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