Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Televised Bracketbusters Matchups Are In

So the listing of the eleven televised Bracketbusters are in;

Friday, Feb. 19

Old Dominion at Northern Iowa (ESPN2, 7 ET)
William & Mary at Iona (ESPNU, 9 ET)

Saturday, Feb. 20

Siena at Butler (ESPN2, 11 a.m. ET)
Morgan State at Murray State (ESPNU, Noon)
Louisiana Tech at Northeastern (ESPN2, 1 ET)
Nevada at Missouri State (ESPN2, 3 ET)
Akron at Virginia Commonwealth (ESPNU, 4 ET)
College of Charleston at George Mason (ESPN2, 8 ET)
Western Carolina at Kent State (ESPNU, 8 ET)
New Mexico State at Pacific (ESPNU, 10 ET)
Wichita State at Utah State (ESPN2, 11:59 ET)

If you want, you can read Andy Katz' "first take" on the Bracketbusters, which honestly, is nothing you don't know already. Lunardi 's take was better I thought and honest about some of the team's chances.

At first glance, if you read my "Bracketbuster Dreaming" article from Sunday, which I tried to preview the matchups, I got three things right. The Old Dominion - Northern Iowa and Siena-Butler matchups were really no brainers. The third I got right was that it was Colonial heavy. Five Colonial Conference teams made the televised matchups, most of any conference.

What I was first wrong about was that I said the CAA "has three teams in the Top 65" in ESPN Insider RPI. It's actually four teams in the Top 60 in the ESPN Insider RPI as I left out Northeastern at #56. My apologies Huskies fans (ODU is at 46, W&M is at 51, and VCU is at 60).

The second thing I was wrong about was the nine other matchups, though I had a lot of teams that were a part of the matchups.

At second glance, it looks like most of the games were based on Insider RPI matchup. To me there is at least one pairing that really doesn't make sense if based on RPI matchup, Akron #116 at VCU#60. Now mind you Akron was tied for first going into Monday night's action, and then the Zips went out and lost at home to Eastern Michigan. But based on style of play, I really thought Louisiana Tech (RPI 74) was a better matchup for the Rams than Northeastern (RPI 56) and I had Akron playing Northeastern in my preview. I would have swapped those teams.

Based on RPI William and Mary vs. Iona (85) is a little better than "The Mary" vs. Murray State (92), which is what I thought the game should be. Thought the Tribe playing a Racers team that's undefeated in the Ohio Valley might be more intriguing, but the Gaels have been great lately. Iona has won eight in a row and is in second place in the MAAC.

Plus there is one REALLY good thing about the Tribe vs. Gaels matchup. I am going to the game on February 19!

Third glance, the ODU vs. Northern Iowa game is really huge for both teams, not just ODU as Lunardi suggests in his article. The Panthers non conference SOS is a very low 254 as opposed to the Monarchs strong non conference SOS of 19 (both teams have similar overall SOS in the low 100's). Northern Iowa must get a win here to strengthen their at large bid chances should they fail to win the Conference Tournament. Their best non conference win is a home game vs. Siena, which mind you is certainly not bad, but there is nothing else close after that.

As for ODU, that road win vs. Georgetown is such a big win to have in the pocket. If they can knock off Northern Iowa, unless they completely fall apart in the CAA, they will have punched their ticket to the dance. And when you have the #2 and #3 scoring defenses in the country, you have the makings of a dandy matchup. And I believe this will be almost as good as the Siena-Butler game, despite what Katz thinks.

At fourth glance, Siena vs. Butler is still the best matchup of the Bracketbusters, though not by much over the ODU-NIU slugfest. It's going to be a question of wills. Which team can impose it's style on the other. Up tempo Siena vs. halfcourt Butler. The advantage may be to Butler who has played a stronger non conference schedule (#13) and has wins over Ohio State and Xavier, two probable NCAA tournament teams.

Siena doesn't have such a win and needs this game much more than Butler. Even if the Saints lose in the MAAC conference tournament, I think their success in the past two NCAA tournaments plus say 25-26 wins should be enough to get an at large. But I don't trust the No Clue At All. A Saints win at Hinkle Fieldhouse will punch their ticket to the dance for sure.

Wichita State (48 RPI) vs. Utah State (54 RPI) is a game that makes sense. As much as I am a history buff and the thought of a 2006 rematch between the Sweet 16 Shockers and the Final Four George Mason Patriots would have been grand PR, the fact is that Mason's low RPI (105) would not help Wichita State. Thus Utah State, one of really the best and most underrated mid major teams over the past several years, should give Wichita State a good test. A Shockers win helps the at large bid cause somewhat. Utah State needs to win the WAC conference tournament to get in.

The MAC's best hope is Kent State (RPI 69). The Golden Flashes seem to be on their way to another 20 win season and they get a very good test in the Catamounts (RPI 73), a team that won at Louisville (something UConn couldn't do Monday night).

Charleston (94 RPI) at Mason is definitely interesting, since it pairs two conference leaders. And it will be curious to see if the young Patriots decide to run with the Cougars. That could be a mistake for Mason, though they will be on their home court.

Nevada(66 RPI) vs. Missouri State (84 RPI) seems like a pairing that was done based on both teams past history. Both are in the middle of their conference standings and are not going anywhere unless they win their conference tourneys. Should be competitive though.

New Mexico State (82 RPI) is in a three way tie for first in the WAC and they travel to take on Pacific (95 RPI), first place in the Big West. This might be the most underrated matchup on Bracketbusters weekend as you have a major contrast in styles. The Tigers like a slow pace in the low 60's while New Mexico State scores in the high 70's (and gives up as many points as well).

The conference breakdown for the televised Bracketbusters - Colonial 5, WAC 4, MVC 3, MAAC 2, MAC 2, Southern 2, Ohio Valley 1, MEAC 1, Big West 1. The big surprise to me is the Valley only having three teams in televised games. But upon further review, the only other decent MVC team, Illinois State had a lower RPI than Mason (118) and the Redbirds were also a home team.

Just make sure you keep your dance card free February 19th and 20th. Lots of mid major hoop watching those two days. And if you can get to a live game, all the more fun.

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