Monday, January 30, 2006


BracketBuster matchups

ESPN released the matchups for this year's edition of BracketBuster Saturday earlier today. The sad thing is this year's edition conflicts with the Olympics, one of my other obsessions. Here's what I think of each one. I'll rate them on a one to five star scale based on their potential impact on Selection Sunday.

Bucknell at Northern Iowa (4 stars) The winner of this game has a chance at increasing its seed number. This is more important for the Bison at this point as the Missouri Valley is a far, far stronger league than the Patriot League. Bucknell is slipping into the double-digit seed range because of their schedule, but make no mistake they have a good chance of taking out their hosts.

George Mason at Wichita State (5 stars) This gets five-stars since both teams are legit bubble teams. (You can argue that Bucknell and UNI are just about locks at this point.) The Shockers need a name win badly at this point. They've failed in their attempts against the rest of the lead pack in the Valley. Mason could further separate themselves from the rest of the Colonial crowd with a win against Wilmington Saturday.

Missouri State at Milwaukee (3 stars) Bears aren't as hot as they once were, winning at the MECCA would be a definite feather in their cap. A win over Missouri State may not help Milwaukee out much in terms of seeding. Panthers face a problem similar to Bucknell's: their league's overall lack of strength is going to cause their seed number to drop as major conference teams pick up more quality wins.

Louisiana Tech at Southern Illinois (5 stars) Wow, did the Valley teams luck out in terms of getting home games. I'm looking forward to this one, since I've yet to see La Tech play this season. I want to see how they measure up against a true mid-major standard bearer. It's also the first of a two game mini WAC-Valley challenge. This game could help the seeding of both teams, particularly La Tech. This would be close to a name non-conference win for them.

Buffalo at Iona (2 stars) I'm curious to see two New York state-based schools play each other, but the Bulls have tiny at-large hopes (and so do the Gaels, despite their decent RPI).

Fresno State at Creighton (1 star) The second WAC-Valley mini-challenge game. Bulldogs are ineligible for the postseason. Jays look safe for a bid. Meh.

Akron at Nevada (5 stars) I haven't seen the Zips play this year. Wolf Pack need another quality win to stay in the at-large conversation.

Butler at Kent State (1 star) Bulldogs aren't an at-large possibility, while the Golden Flashes are in the thick of the MAC race. This game won't affect the at-large pool much.

Marist at Old Dominion (1 star) Once upon a time, in the monarchy of Norfolk, the ODU basketball team had at-large hopes. A couple of inopportune CAA losses later, those are gone. Beating the Red Foxes won't change that.

Northwestern State at Utah State (5 stars) This should be exciting. I've seen both of these teams play a couple of times this year on the tube and they're fun to watch. The Aggies have better at-large hopes than the Demons, but they're both playing for higher seeding if they manage to win their leagues.

Samford at Ohio (4 stars) Ohio lost too many close "name" games to keep themselves in the at-large pool; however both the Bobcats and Bulldogs will cause fits in Round One of the NCAAs if they win their leagues. These are two very good teams.

Albany at VCU (2 stars) An interesting game between two teams with no at-large hopes. The good news for both the Great Danes and Rams is that they both have serious auto bid hopes.

Northern Arizona at Western Kentucky (4 stars) How is this game at the bottom of the list? The surprising Big Sky leaders travel to Diddle Arena to face the Hilltoppers. Again, two teams with little in the way of at-large hopes, but who have great auto bid hopes and are jockeying for seeding.

I'll save and recap these on February 18.

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