The value of the NCAA play-in games

by Greg Swatek. 0 Comments

There is not much prestige to playing in one of the NCAA tournament play-in, or First Four, games, depending on the team you are talking about. From some perspectives, there is nothing better than these games.

For the schools from the power conferences, having to play in one of the games is synonymous with underachievement and opportunities lost. But for lesser-known schools from smaller conferences, like the Northeast Conference, the game represents a golden opportunity. It's a chance to put an NCAA tournament win on the résumé, which they might not have otherwise if they went right into the main draw and played one of the top seeds.

When Mount St. Mary's did it in 2008, beating then Coppin State in the then-singular play-in game,  it ranked among the school's biggest achievements athletically, perhaps the biggest. It was a huge deal in Emmitsburg and the surrounding areas in Frederick County.

It didn't matter that the Mountaineers were blown out by top-seed North Carolina in the next round. They not only got to play in the NCAA tournament, they got to say they won a game. How many other schools of their stature can say the same? How many other schools of their stature can say they played a prime-time game on national TV?

So, while most people don't exactly think of the play-in games as being Must-See TV, they are actually really important in some corners of the world. Keep that in mind the next time you or someone you know dismisses them as unimportant or unnecessary, out of hand.

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