Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bracketbuster Dreaming

Tomorrow evening, the 2010 Televised Bracketbuster matchups will be announced. Ninety eight teams are in the Bracketbuster pool. In the past six years, on average fifteen teams who played in the Bracketbusters went onto to play in the NCAA tournament that season. No surprise that the 2006 Bracketbusters had the most teams make the NCAA Tournament, nineteen. And no surprise, that last year's Bracketbusters had the fewest teams make the NCAA Tournament, twelve.

My first taste of the Bracketbusters was back in 2006. Unfortunately that year, there were too many good home teams, so you had Hofstra hosting Siena, while George Mason, one of the few good road teams got to face Wichita State. I really believe that might have been the difference between George Mason making it and Hofstra not.

I remember that day vividly because it was the day of my 40th birthday party. In the afternoon, I watched Hofstra have a huge second half and storm past Siena 76-62. Adrian Uter had the best game of his Hofstra career 27 points and 4 blocks, one of which he literally ripped the ball away from one of the Saints players as he went for a layup. I also remember the game for Siena coach Fran McCaffrey AND his wife both getting tossed from the game. Of course I wrote about the game and the bizarre happenings.

Then I went home for my party and I remember sitting in front of the TV watching the Mason-Wichita State game. I was telling all my friends about George Mason and Wichita State and how both teams were very good. Little did I know that I was going to see a preview of a Sweet 16 matchup (and eventually one of the Final Four teams).

What will this year bring? Well based on the home and road teams and a little known statistic called RPI, here's what I think we'll see as the top five matchups;

1) Siena vs. Butler - This is the marquee matchup since both Northern Iowa and Butler are home teams and Northern Iowa has already defeated Siena this season (in a return matchup from last season's BracketBuster game). The Saints, who have won a first round NCAA Tournament game two years in a row, take on the nationally ranked Bulldogs, a team that has made the NCAA Tournament three years in a row. It's Ubiles, Franklin, Rossiter and Jackson vs. Hayward, Howard and Mack. Definitely a contrast in styles as the up tempo Saints face the half court ball movement of the Bulldogs. A potential classic.

2) Old Dominion vs. Northern Iowa - The first of what I believe will be at least two Colonial vs. Valley matchups. Though William and Mary might be a nice choice considering their Cinderella story, the ODU win at Georgetown makes the Monarchs the better choice here. Very similar teams- very defense oriented, very frontcourt oriented - the ODU law firm of Hassell, Finney and Lee vs. Egsleder and Koch. A slugfest in the fifties and should be a dandy

3) Wichita State vs. George Mason - It's back to the future here. A rematch of the 2006 Bracketbuster won by Mason (and the rematch in the Sweet 16 of 2006 also obviously won by Mason). Greg Marshall has done a terrific job with the Shockers while Jim Larranaga has done a marvelous job with a team that only has one senior. You could also very well see Wichita State vs. Kent State here, since the Golden Flashes are the best team in the MAC (and Mason's RPI is somewhat lower than Kent's)

4) William and Mary vs. Murray State - I think this could be a high scoring affair as the Tribe face a really an underrated Racers team that is 11-0 in the Ohio Valley. The Tribe are one of the major cinderella stories of the year with wins at Wake and Maryland (plus a nice win over Richmond too). Charleston might be here instead of W&M.

5) Louisana Tech vs VCU - Another Colonial team vs the best available WAC road team, Louisiana Tech. Should be a track meet between the Rams and the Bulldogs. You could also see Charleston vs. VCU here as well.

Other potential matchups - Charleston vs. Kent State, Western Carolina vs. Iona, Akron vs. Northeastern, Drake vs. Green Bay, Creighton vs. Drexel (there's a little bit of history with those teams as well).

I know it's a little Colonial heavy but if you look at the RPI (at least the ESPN version), the Colonial has three teams in the Top 65(Old Dominion, William and Mary, and VCU), plus George Mason is in first in the Colonial. And ESPN is all about name recognition. Hey, if I am wrong, I am wrong.

Well we'll know tomorrow at 6:30 PM what the matchups are. Should be interesting.

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