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Leading into the Madness
March 12, 2008 - Neil Rudel
This is college basketball's best week, maybe even better than the NCAA Tournament, because everybody is playing so hard just to get into the Dance.
OK, so you haven't filled out your bracket yet.
Realistically, the Butlers and the George Masons and the Northeast Conference representative are not going to win the NCAA title, though Butler and Mason are mid-majors capable of winning a couple of games.
That's what makes the play-in week so special -- because this is the moment the players will remember the rest of their lives, not getting beaten, probably badly, in one of the NCAA's two rounds.
When St. Francis danced in 1991, it not only had to beat Fairleigh-Dickinson to win the NEC, it had to beat Fordham in a play-in game, too.
Ironically, even though the league is weaker now than it was then, the NEC has since usually avoided the play-in game.
The Red Flash drew a No. 15 seed and were sent West and sent packing by Arizona, 89-72. St. Francis played hard and hung around longer than expected, but it was almost anti-climatic from the packed houses they played in front of in Loretto in the NEC final and against Fordham leading into the NCAAs.