Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mid-Major Madness: Bracket Busters

When the announcement of the Bracket Buster weekend games was released a few weeks ago, most college basketball junkies immediately started scouring the list of 49 games to find the best ones. Obviously, there are several unnecessary games. 7-19 Towson at 9-17 Manhattan? Or 6-19 Illinois-Chicago at 7-18 Evansville? What about 6-19 Elon at 7-18 Gardner-Webb – and that’s just three of the relatively uninteresting games this coming weekend. However, there is also an abundance of quality contests – and not just the televised games. Nearly every "TV game" is a match-up of competitive teams, but there are also a few games outside of the viewing arena that should be followed closely.

Old Dominion at Northern Iowa (Friday, 7:00 PM, ESPN2): A huge game for potential at-large and bubble purposes. Old Dominion is tied for first in the CAA at 13-3, but the Monarchs could really use a win over the Panthers for their resume. Northern Iowa dropped what could be a crucial game last weekend, at Bradley, but bounced back to thump Creighton. The key match-up in this one will be ODU’s Gerald Lee vs. UNI’s Adam Koch. 

William & Mary at Iona (Friday, 9:00 PM, ESPNU): Another major contest for bubble purposes in the CAA, as William & Mary still has at-large life despite losing four of five in late January. A loss here could render those changes hopeless, though. Iona is a surprising second in the MAAC, but the Gaels are not within striking distance of Siena. 

Siena at Butler (Saturday, 11:00 AM, ESPN2): Easily the best game of the entire event, as both teams could easily reach the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Siena dropped a game to Niagara last Friday, but could cancel that out with a victory over the Bulldogs. Butler is one of the few undefeated teams left in their respective conferences, as the Bulldogs are 16-0. Look for the individual match-up between BU’s Gordon Hayward and Siena’s Edwin Ubiles. 

Morgan State at Murray State (Saturday, 12:00 PM, ESPNU): While neither of these two teams gets much recognition, this could be one of the more entertaining battles of the Bracket Busters. Both teams like to get up and down the floor, and there are plenty of scorers. Morgan State has a very nice inside-outside combo in Reggie Holmes and Kevin Thompson, while Murray State has four double-figure scorers, led by Tony Easley and B.J. Jenkins. 

Louisiana Tech at Northeastern (Saturday, 1:00 PM, ESPN2): Two teams that are going in opposite directions right now. Louisiana Tech has lost three of six to fall behind Utah State in the WAC race. On the other hand, Northeastern has won 16 of its last 18 and is tied with Old Dominion atop the CAA. Northeastern has a nice perimeter duo in Matt Janning and Chaisson Allen, while Tech counters with five players in double-figures, including Kyle Gibson. 

Nevada at Missouri State (Saturday, 3:00 PM, ESPN2): This is one of the few TV games that will not feature a team likely to go to the NCAA Tournament. Nevada has been somewhat of a disappointment, as the Wolf Pack are just fourth in the WAC after being picked as a co-favorite in the preseason. Missouri State is under .500 in the Missouri Valley, sitting in seventh place. However, the Bears are very difficult to beat on their homecourt, with only two defeats at home this season. 

Akron at VCU (Saturday, 4:00 PM, ESPNU): A couple of perennial conference title contenders over the past few years lock horns in a solid match-up. Akron is tied for first in the MAC, and the Zips have the pieces to throw a scare into a higher-seeded opponent. They’re well-balanced and deep. VCU doesn’t have the same type of team as it has the past couple of seasons, but Larry Sanders is a future NBA player and the Rams have plenty of shooters to surround him with on the perimeter. 

Charleston at George Mason (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPN2): This should be a competitive contest, with Charleston rolling lately but Mason tough to beat at home. The Cougars are leading the Southern Conference, and are known for beating North Carolina earlier this season. Andrew Goudelock is a big-time scorer at guard. George Mason has lost four of five to drop from the top of the CAA. Cam Long and Ryan Pearson form a nice duo.

Western Carolina at Kent State (Saturday, 8:00 PM, ESPNU): One of the worst of the television games, neither of these two teams is likely to be appearing in the NCAA Tournament this season. Western Carolina won at Louisville earlier this season, but the Catamounts have lost three of four to drop to second in the North division of the Southern. Kent State had won eight in a row before losing at Buffalo over the weekend, and is tied atop the MAC with Akron. 

New Mexico State at Pacific (Saturday, 10:00 PM, ESPNU): A west coast battle between a couple of teams looking to keep pace in their own conferences. New Mexico State is only one game back of Utah State in the WAC, although the Aggies have been inconsistent on the road this season. NMSU has plenty of offensive talent and can really score the ball. Pacific has lost two of four to slip behind UCSB in the Big West, but the Tigers have a solid forward in Sam Willard. 

Wichita State at Utah State (Saturday, 11:59 PM, ESPN2): Easily one of the best games of the event, both of these teams are potential at-large teams – although neither could really afford a loss here. Wichita State has lost two of four, including a bad road loss to hapless Evansville, a defeat that could destroy their at-large hopes. On the other side, Utah State is atop the WAC and is playing some of its best basketball of the season, winning 10 in a row, eight of which were by double-figures. The Aggies do have a conference showdown with Louisiana Tech on Wednesday, though. The key in this game will be Wichita State’s backcourt of Toure Murry and Clevin Hannah against USU’s duo of Tai Wesley and Jared Quayle.

Non-TV Games to Watch

Fairfield at Vermont (Saturday, 2:00 PM): Fairfield has been very competitive in the MAAC this season despite some personnel problems throughout the season, while Vermont is currently sitting in second in the America East. Look for Marquis Blakely and Anthony Johnson to tangle down low. 

Morehead State at Illinois State (Saturday, 5:05 PM): Two teams that were expected to contend for a league championship in the preseason, this could be a fun game to watch. Illinois State is still a tough squad, with Osiris Eldridge leading the way on the perimeter, while Morehead State has one of the best big men in the country in Kenneth Faried. 


  1. What about Rider at Hofstra? I think the matchup of Ryan Thompson against Charles Jenkins is pretty intriguing.

  2. Both teams are only 8-8 in their respective conferences, so I'm not too, too excited about the game. The individual match-up between Thompson and Jenkins is solid, but I don't see them guarding each other. I think Jenkins will go against Robinson or Youngblood, while Thompson will match-up with Nat Lester.

    Good find, though -- I kind of overlooked the game.

  3. You're right about the USU duo of Wesley and Quayle, but wrong that they're both forwards. Wesley is one of the top forwards in the WAC, but Quayle is the point guard. However, he rebounds like a big guy -- almost 6 rpg.

  4. Yeah, you're correct...I finished it up kind of quickly and didn't differentiate the positions.